Most of us have a slow cooker and if you are like me you got it to create more meals and save money in the food budget. Once you start cooking more meals with the appliance, you will realize just how useful it can be. Follow these easy tips for making meals in the slow cooker.
Use Less Meat and More Vegetables
The great thing about slow cookers is that they allow you to have a flavorful dish with even minimal ingredients. If you are trying to save money, consider starting with cuts like pork shoulder, chicken thighs and beef brisket. This are cheaper cuts of meat that pack a lot of flavor. Use less of the meat than you normally would, then fill up the rest of the crockpot with more vegetables. So much flavor can be extracted from the meat that is flavors the entire dish and you don’t feel like you are missing out.
Trim the Fat From Your Meat Beforehand
Speaking of preparing meat in the slow cooker, you don’t need to keep the fat on just for juice and moisture. There will be enough moisture without it, so it is a good idea to trim the fat before putting meat into the slow cooker. If you fail to do this, you will end up with too much moisture, most of which is oil from the meat. This can really affect the flavor and consistency of your dish. Trimming the fat also helps to make it a little healthier.
Don’t Overcrowd the Slow Cooker
A common mistake made by people cooking meals in the slow cooker for the first time is adding too much to it. Just because it is a certain size, doesn’t mean you need to fill it up to the top. Try to keep all of the contents, including meat, vegetables, grains, and water, to no more than ½ or ¾ of the way to the top of the slow cooker. If you go beyond this, you might have difficulty getting your food to turn out right.
Brown Your Meat First
When you brown your meat on the stove, it helps to boost the flavor and give you the best results. While this isn’t required for a fully-cooked and tasty dish in the slow cooker, it is often recommended. If you don’t mind taking a little extra time to brown your meat before putting it in the slow cooker, you will be glad you did.
Avoid Loading it With Frozen Food
Unless you are putting a frozen slow cooker meal that is pre-packaged and meant for this purpose, avoid putting in frozen food. Frozen food can create a bacteria-ridden environment if it contains raw meat, so avoid doing this as much as possible. Frozen fruits and vegetables might be okay, though using fresh is always better. Let your meat thaw out before putting it in the slow cooker.
With these simple tips, you will be able to use your slow cooker to make healthy, delicious meals in a breeze. For an easier cleanup process, use slow cooker bags so you don’t have to wash the appliance when you’re done cooking; all you do is throw the bag away.