Monday, June 27, 2011

Helpful Hints

Here are a few helpful tips to guide you through the next 101 days of things you can do with a slow cooker.

1. To make clean-up easier, spray the inside of slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray before adding ingredients.

2. To test the cooking temperature of a slow cooker, fill it 3/4 full of water, cover, and turn on high heat for 4 hours. With an instant heat thermometer, test water temperature immediately after lid is removed. Temperature should be at least 180 degrees. If the temperature is lower, we recommend replacing the slow cooker. If it is higher, check all recipes for doness after 3 hours of cooking time.

3. As a general rule, lifting the lid off the slow cooker lengthens the cooking time by 30 minutes to an hour.

4. Stirring is generally not necessary until time to serve.

5. Your slow cooker should be at least 1/2 full to ensure proper cooking.

6. Recipes that contain raw poultry or beef should cook a minimum of 3 hours on high heat. Combinations of raw meat and fresh vegetables should cook at least 4 hours on high heat.

7. Adapting favorite oven recipes to a slow cooker:

Conventional Oven
Baking Time

Slow Cooker
High Cooking Time

Slow Cooker
Low Cooking Time

15-30 mins. 1 1/2-2 hours 4-6 hours
35-40 mins. 3-4 hours 6-10 hours
50 mins.-3 hours 4-6 hours 8-18 hours
8. One hour on high heat is equal to 2 1/2 hours on low heat. (High heat = 275-300 degrees; low heat = 200 degrees. Heat varies from brand to brand).
9. If your stoneware is removable, never place it on a stovetop burner.
10. At clean-up, cool the stoneware liner somewhat before adding water; this will prevent cracking.
11. Ground beef should be browned and drained before adding to slow cooker.
12. Fresh milk, cream, sour cream, and cream cheese should be added during the last hour of cooking to prevent curdling. Evaporated milk does not curdle and can be substituted for fresh milk in most recipes.
13. Long-grain converted rice is recommended for rice dishes.
14. Root vegetables (onions, carrots, potatoes, turnips) take longer to cook than meat. Place vegetables on bottom and around sides of slow cooker so they get the most direct heat.
15. Tough, inexpensive meat cuts work well. The moist, gentle heat slowly tenderizes these cuts as they cook.
16. Don’t add more liquid than a recipe calls for, as liquid is retained.
17. If there’s too much liquid at the end of cooking time and you want to thicken it, stir in some instant mashed potato flakes, instant tapioca, flour, or cornstarch.
18. If you start with a frozen cut of meat, add 2 hours to your cooking time on high heat or 4-6 hours on low heat.
19. For recipes that call for minced garlic, prepared jarred garlic may be substituted.
20. Fresh chopped onion can be used in place of dried minced onion. One medium fresh onion equals 1/2 cup dried.
21. Recipes can be assembled and stored in the refrigerator the night before (unless they call for uncooked pasta). In the morning, place cold stoneware in cold electrical base. DO NOT PREHEAT ELECTRICAL BASE. Once stoneware is in place, turn to preferred heat setting.
22. To remove scratches from stoneware, use Bon Ami or vinegar and baking soda. Baking soda also works well to clean the electrical base. DO NOT SUBMERGE ELECTRICAL BASE IN WATER.
Happy slow cooking!

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