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Crockpot Cooking Tips & Tricks

Posted By Tipnut On September 18, 2008 @ 9:33 am In Cooking Tips | 27 Comments

Stew

  • If you don’t like the taste or texture of the meat from simmering in its juices, set it on a layer of vegetables (like potatoes, onions or carrots) or set it on foil balls high enough to keep it out of the juices.
  • Line with a foil liner or a roasting bag before adding ingredients. Not very environmentally friendly since the liner is tossed after each use.
  • Apply a bit of non-stick spray around the inside before adding food items. Will help prevent food sticking.
  • Make sure to fill half way with ingredients to keep the dish from burning…don’t fill it too full though, you want it no more than 2/3 full or the dish will need to simmer longer to prevent it from being undercooked. If you can, have both a smaller and larger size crockpot on hand to accommodate various quantities and recipes.
  • Carefully remove the lid by lifting it straight up then over. This will help prevent much of the condensation running back into the dish which just dilutes the sauce consistency and flavor.
  • Unless the recipe instructs you to do so, do not lift the lid to stir or peek at the dish. This lowers the temperature inside and the meal won’t be ready within the alloted time.
  • Prevent hard/raw carrots and potatoes by layering them on the bottom first then adding the rest of the ingredients. Cut them in about 1″ chunks or so, this helps them cook faster.
  • Use fresh vegetables rather than canned or frozen since they’ll retain their flavor and texture better (as well as add flavor to the meat). If you do use canned or frozen vegetables, add them toward the end, just long enough to heat them through. This way they won’t be tasteless mush.
  • For more flavor, first brown any meat, onions, garlic and some of the flavorful veggies (like onions and green peppers).
  • Trim off as much of the fat on the meat as you can as well as remove the skin from chicken, this helps prevent much of the fat melting into the sauce.
  • Use thawed meat rather than frozen (unless recipe instructs otherwise). The dish will need longer heating time otherwise and will affect the rest of the ingredients.
  • Choose cuts of meat that will fit easily inside. If the cut is too big and you cram it in, it won’t heat through as well and will likely need longer time (affecting the rest of the ingredients as well). Trim off excess meat and freeze to use later in soups or stews.
  • Choose cheap cuts of meat where possible since the meat turns out quite tender when cooked slow, this is a great opportunity to economize.
  • If the sauce or gravy is too thin, remove lid the last 1/2 hour and turn up the heat to try to thicken it. You can also try adding potato flakes to thicken the sauce.
  • Dry herbs and spices can lose their flavor when simmering so long, if possible–try adding them the last two hours before the meal is ready to help keep the flavor. Use fresh herbs when possible, these can be added first thing since they’ll hold their flavor better when simmering for hours.
  • For better pasta and rice, prepare these separately about an hour before the meal is ready. Once they’re barely done, throw them in with the meal to simmer in the sauce.
  • You can cut time in half by using High instead of Low heat, but follow directions whenever possible since the results might differ otherwise (meat may not be as tender, etc.).
  • If your appliance doesn’t come with a timer, you can buy an appliance timer for just a few bucks (check Amazon for “Appliance Timer”, some are quite low in price). This is really nice to have since you can start things later in the morning, in the middle of the night or set it to turn off in case you’re late getting home from work.

Cleaning Helpers

*First published January 15, 2008 and moved to this page for better organization

General Care:

  • To prevent damage to the ceramic piece, allow to completely cool before adding water to clean. If you’re in a hurry and need it done right away, make sure to use warm/hot water instead of cool water to protect it from cracking.
  • Use a nylon scrubber to prevent being damaged with scratches.
  • When you’re done, make sure to rinse well with warm water to remove all traces of soap. Dry completely before storing away. This helps to prevent a soap film from developing as well as prevents water stains from building.

Heavy-Duty Grime Busters:

  • Fill with warm water and a squirt of liquid dish detergent. Allow to soak for about an hour before scrubbing it clean. You can soak overnight if it is especially crusty.
  • Fill with warm water then add 2 or 3 denture tablets. Let soak overnight.
  • Make a paste of 50/50 cream of tartar and vinegar [1] to apply to stain.
  • Fill 1/4 full with vinegar, then add warm water to cover the stain line. Let soak overnight with temperature on low. In the morning scrub with a nylon scrubber and hot soapy water. This method is also helpful for removing sauce stains (tomato based sauces can discolor the crock, this helps remove them).
  • Soak in warm water and baking soda before scrubbing for easier cleanup.
  • Make a paste from baking soda and water, apply to stain and let set for a few hours. Spritz with water then scrub the paste to remove the spots. This also help remove sauce stains.

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[1] 50/50 cream of tartar and vinegar: http://tipnut.com/cookware-cleaning-stain-removal-tips/

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