While you may prefer slow cookers for hassle-free cooking, they may not be your first choice when it comes to making flavorful dishes. And you are not the only one who thinks this way. Many people believe that the ease in slow cooking comes with a disadvantage, i.e., giving up on flavor and quality. However, nothing could be more wrong.
Most people fail to get flavorful dishes from slow cookers because they do not make some required modifications in their cooking style and techniques when they switch to slow cookers from the usual pots. Cooking on a low flame for a prolonged period is significantly different from the normal kind of cooking in the kitchen, and there are certain things you must avoid to get the right flavor and aroma from your foods.
Below is a list of some common mistakes people make while cooking with slow cookers:
1. Using the Wrong Sized Slow Cooker
Most recipes call for specified amounts of ingredients that are then supposed to fill the slow cooker to a certain extent. But if a recipe makes use of a large-sized slow cooker and you use a small-sized one or vice versa, your food won’t turn out appetizing. This is because when the cooker is underfilled, the excessive heat can cause the food to be overcooked, and when the cooker is overfilled, the food will remain undercooked.
Apart from using the same sized slow cooker as a recipe calls for, you can also follow a generic rule for slow cookers, which is that the slow cooker should be filled somewhere between half and two-thirds of its total capacity.
2. Adding Dairy Products Early On
One of the surest ways of spoiling your meal is to toss your dairy products in the slow cooker with the other ingredients. Dairy products start curdling and ruin the dish’s flavor when added to the cooker early on in the cooking process. What you can do instead is to wait until the last 15-30 minutes of cooking and then add in the yogurt, cheese, or any other dairy product you want to add.
3. Opening the Lid Again and Again
Slow cookers rely on steam and heat built slowly inside them to cook the food over a long period. When you remove the lid, all of that heat and steam escapes into the air, and it takes about 30 mins for the heat to form again. Thus, the cooking process is prolonged even more. The best thing is to let the food cook without disturbing it and only remove the lid towards the end when you may need to add some ingredients.
4. Adding Fresh Herbs and Spices
Slow cookers work very well with dry herbs and spices. Since they cook the food over a long time, it allows the dry herbs and spices to release all their flavor and aroma. However, if you add fresh herbs and spices with the food items to a slow cooker, they lose their flavor, and the food turns out bland. But there is a way you can use fresh herbs in your recipes with even slow cookers. In the last half hour, you can remove the lid from the cooker and add in your spices and then replace the lid. The result will be a dish rich with flavor.
5. Using Chicken with Skin
One thing you must do is to remove the skin from the chicken that will go into a slow cooker. While you may hope for a nice, crispy chicken crust, what you will get is a rubbery, yucky mess. Therefore, it is best to use skinless chicken for slow cooker meals.
6. Using Too Much Alcohol
When you cook on a high flame, any amount of alcohol you add into a pot will evaporate, leaving your food with a nice flavor. In slow cookers, however, no liquid can escape from the container, and thus, the alcohol stays inside too long and gives a strong alcoholic taste to your food. You should either skip using alcohol, add only a dash of alcohol, or use alcohol to deglaze your meat before you put it in the cooker.
7. Not Browning Meat First
While we understand you opted for a slow cooker to make cooking hassle-free, browning your meat before putting it in the cooker does so much to improve the meat’s flavor and texture that you won’t mind the extra effort. This is certainly a step that can be skipped, but we would like you to decide after trying it once.
8. Layering Incorrectly
Food items cannot be just tossed inside a slow cooker. They need to go in at the right time (fresh herbs and dairy go at the end) and be layered properly. Heat is not distributed evenly throughout the cooker, which means food items should be placed inside with consideration. When you layer your food correctly, it will prevent undercooking and overcooking.
9. Using Too Much Liquid
The most common mistake made by people accustomed to cooking on high flames is to use too much liquid in slow cookers. Most food items cook with lesser liquid in a slow cooker than in a pot on the stove. Since water doesn’t evaporate in slow cookers, additional liquid content dilutes the dish’s flavor. Vegetables and meat give off water, too, so it is important not to use too much liquid in a cooker.
10. Not Using a Slow Cooker Liner
While this tip does not have much to do with cooking, it can make cleaning a lot easier for you. Slow cookers take just as long to clean as they do to cook something. They have to be left soaking in water for hours and need to be cleaned with scrubbing even then. However, this can all change if you use a slow cooker liner. They make cleaning a breeze and allow you to use the cooker again soon after cooking a dish.
What Is the Difference Between a Slow Cooker and a Crockpot?
Slow cooker users are often confused between slow cookers and crockpots and find themselves wondering what the difference between a slow cooker and a crockpot is. Crockpot is a brand that came into the market in the 1970s. It makes slow cookers that have a stoneware pot surrounded by a heating element. In comparison, most slow cookers are mostly metal pots that sit on a heated surface.
Cooking in slow cookers does not mean sacrificing the flavor, aroma, or quality of the food. Food can turn out just as great as when cooked in a pot, and there is the additional benefit of not having to stand beside the stove. Avoid the common mistakes listed above and enjoy the delicious meals cooked in your slow cooker.