3 clever tips for your slow cooker
You bought a slow cooker (a.k.a. crock pot) a while back, and it’s sitting on a shelf collecting dust? Or perhaps you take it out once and a while but only to prepare the same two recipes? The following tips will help you see your slow cooker in a different light. Get ready for some culinary inspiration!
Know which recipes are best suited for your slower cooker
A slow cooker is used to simmer foods, in a moist environment and at a lower temperature than other cooking methods. So let’s forget about those crunchy foods or those that call for a crispy or flaky crust : your oven or frying pan are better suited for those! The perfect meals for slow cookers are those prepared in sauces, gravies or broths (think Beef Stroganoff or spaghetti sauce) and those that call for tougher cuts of meat (a classic blade roast or pulled pork). Why does cooking meat slowly at low temperatures make it more tender? Because it causes the fat and connective tissue in the meat to melt and become tender.
Get inspired by visiting the Ricardo website : type slow cooker in the search bar and you will find all the classic comfort foods as well as some more exotic ideas. The more you use your slow cooker, the more you will acquire the confidence that will enable you to adapt the recipes to your personal style and taste.
Cooking legumes like a pro
The larger legumes (beans, chickpeas, soybeans), require soaking for a minimum of 6 hours and a boiling process of at least 1 hour to render them digestible. In a slow cooker, the cooking process might be longer but it will require no supervision on your part. No need to stay in the kitchen all day! Plus, depending on the size of your slow cooker, you can prepare large quantities of legumes and freeze them for further use in your recipes, just as you would canned legumes. Here’s my technique :
- Rinse legumes and place in large pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes and strain, discarding the cooking water.
- Place the drained legumes in the slow cooker and cover with a large quantity of fresh water. Cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours : After 6 hours of cooking, check every 30 minutes.
- Drain and freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, place in plastic freezer bag. (When they’re not frozen in one solid block, it makes it easier to select the desired quantity for your recipes).
Note : Do not skip the first step of pre-boiling legumes before transferring them to the slow cooker. Dehydrated beans/legumes contain a toxic compound that is neutralized in boiling water, and a slow cooker does not typically reach the required temperature.
A super simple broth
To get the most of your roasted chicken dinner (or the pre-cooked store-bought BBQ chicken), keep the bones! They make the best broth that can be used to enhance the flavour of other dishes such as soups, chowders, sauces, stews, etc. Simply place the bones in the slow cooker, add an onion and a bay leaf, fill 2/3 of the slow cooker with water and let cook on LOW for 8 hours. Pass through a sieve or cheese cloth and that’s it…a super simple savoury broth.
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