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Slow Cooking: 5 Crock Pot Dos and Don'ts

Discover the art of slow cooking with these Dos and Don’ts of Crock Pot meals.
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Discover the art of slow cooking with these Dos and Don’ts of Crock Pot meals.

Slow cooking at low temperatures has been around for a long time, from pit-roasted whole pigs in Samoa to sand-pit clambakes in New England. Starting in the 1970s, the popular and versatile countertop slow cooker, or “Crock Pot,” warmed its way into our hearts. And for good reason.

This slow, contained method of cooking also allows you to retain maximum nutrients in what is essentially a closed system. Minimal evaporation occurs, so the wholesome goodness of your ingredients remains largely intact. And talk about convenience — just prep a few items, toss them in together, push a button, and your delicious dinner cooks itself.

Did you know?

The best meats for slow cooking are also the least expensive cuts.

Here a few things to keep in mind as you select and utilize your slow cooker:

1. Size

The heating pattern requires that the container be at least half to two-thirds full, so be sure to choose the right volume cooker for your needs. If you’re mostly cooking for two, then a smaller version will do; if you’ve got a big family to feed, or like a lot of leftovers, then a six- or seven-quart model is the way to go.

2. Features 

Possibilities run from a simple single-dial heating control to an array of digital options. Consider how you will use your cooker: will you be making just simple family meals while you’re at home? Will you be taking generous offerings to pot-lucks or the in-laws? Will you need your crock to cook and then hold while you’re at work? All these will affect what features you want.

3. Meat

The best meats for this cooking method are also the cheapest. Clod roasts, stew meat, shoulder cuts, rump cuts—all have connective tissue that breaks down during slow cooking and adds flavor and tenderness. Just be sure they’re covered with the liquid. And for both flavor and safety, it’s best to sear meats before adding to pot.

4. Liquids 

Heating liquids before adding them to the pot will cut down on cooking time by about half an hour, plus it helps the flavors merge fully

5. Leave It Closed

The condensation that forms inside the lid helps return moisture and heat to the dish. If you need to open the lid, keep it brief.

There are tons of cookbooks that can guide you as you explore the wonderful world of slow cooking. Browse a few, pick up a couple recipes off the internet, and enjoy the extra time and terrific comfort food that this modern convenience provides.

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