Tips for Cooking with a Crockpot

This time of year, crockpot cooking can provide a convenient and comforting way to create a delicious meal. Here are a few handy tips to help you create a fabulous crockpot meal.

General cooking tips

Here’s something I’m guilty of, lifting the lid and stirring often. Not necessary with a crockpot. If cooking on the low setting, the more you lift the lid, the more heat seeps out of the crockpot and the longer the cook time. Keep the lid on unless the recipe specifically calls for stirring periodically.

I like to put the crockpot on high for an hour or two and then turn it to low for the last few hours. This helps get the heat up fairly quickly.

If your recipe calls for milk or other daily products, like sour cream, add that in the last 30 minutes of cooking.

Seafood only needs to be included during the last hour of cooking time, unless your recipe says otherwise. Crushed or ground spices should also be added towards the end of the cooking time because they can lose flavor over time. Whole spices generally fair better over a 6-8 hour period.  I’ve made this mistake many times. I get so excited to add ground spices that I do it right from the start. I’ve learned to be more patient, which is not easy for me.

Pasta and rice cook requirements are quite different for crock-pot cooking. For the best results with pasta, cook in boiling water until just tender, and then add the pasta to the main dish during the last thirty minutes of cooking time.

When I make a good, hearty roast in the crockpot, I always cut the carrots, celery and potatoes less than an inch thick and place in the bottom of the crockpot. Remember, vegetables like these will take longer than the meat to cook, so they should be closer to the heat source.

Unless your recipe states otherwise, softer veggies like mushrooms or tomatoes should be added during the last hour of cooking to avoid overcooking.

When cooking meat in the crockpot, like a pork chop or steak, I like to brown it in a skillet first. Searing the meat adds a nice flavor to the overall taste, but it’s typically not a requirement.

I like to brown all ground beef or turkey before adding it to the crockpot. Not all recipes require this, but I generally cook it first. If you don’t brown the meat in a skillet, be sure and follow the recipe suggestions and cook for at least 8 hours on low.

When cooking poultry or any meat, remove the skin and any excess fat to help keep it from cooking too fast.

Crock-pots can be used to make desserts and baked goods as well. You should be sure not to over beat breads and cakes; and always follow the recommended recipe guidelines. Never add water to the crock-pot unless it specifically says to do so. Always allow cakes and breads to sit and cool for five to seven minutes before taking them out of the pan.

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Do you have a fabulous crock-pot recipe? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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