Congrats, you just got a slow cooker (aka CrockPot). Maybe it was a wedding gift or your birthday present, or maybe you finally caved and got one on sale at Target. Regardless of how you got it, you now have one of the most versatile and useful cooking tools any kitchen could have!
We might be biased (okay, we’re definitely biased) but slow cookers make cooking tasty meals more convenient and hands-free. This gives you the time to prep more food, handle a busy schedule, or take care of other things around the house while still cooking.
For our first-timers, here are some tips and tricks to know about your slow cooker to get the most out of it!
Checking your size
If this is your first slow cooker, you likely have a standard 6 qt. Those are typically the standard size slow cooker. Size doesn’t matter when it comes to the flavor of your meals, but they do matter in terms of scaling your recipes. If you’ve got 7-8 qt cookers, scale up just a tad on any online recipes unless otherwise specified. Most are made for 6-7 qt cookers in mind. If your cooker is a little smaller, you might be okay with making recipes as written. You just want to be cognizant of overfilling your cooker! Even if you’re living alone and cooking for a party of 1, CrockPockets® can help you maximize your slow cooker. You can meal prep two meals or a meal and a size and have leftovers.
Never cook meats from frozen
We have to put this safety tip in here. Always thaw raw meat before tossing it into the slow cooker! Why? Slow cookers operate at low temperatures. Most of them won’t get meats up to that 160 degree or higher temperature meat needs to be for complete cooking. This can be a tricky tip to remember, especially if you’re used to an InstantPot or air fryer that can handle frozen meats. Be sure to thaw your meat in the fridge the night before or in water for 30ish minutes before cooking.
Know your cooking times
As we just mentioned, slow cookers are designed to cook food at a low temperature for an extended time. This means that you can't just throw everything in and expect it to be done in 20 minutes. It's important to know the cooking times for different types of food, so you can plan your meals accordingly. For example, chicken may take 4-6 hours to cook on low, while beef may take 8-10 hours. Most slow cookers have high settings and a Keep Warm setting whenever the cook time has elapsed. Just plan ahead! No one wants to come home from work and then have to wait around for a few hours to eat.
Prep your ingredients beforehand
This tip can go for anything, but it’s especially handy if you want to chuck and cook. If you’re meal prepping, go ahead and do “ingredient prep” whenever you’re home from grocery shopping. Dice those onions, season your meat, and (if you really want to get fancy) pre-portion any liquids you might need. Put those ingredients near each other in the fridge. Think of ingredient prepping like your own DIY Hello Fresh without paying more $$ for shipping!
Don't lift the lid
We get it; your slow cooker meal is going to smell delicious. But whatever you do, avoid the temptation to constantly lift the lid! Lifting the lid releases heat, which means taking more time to cook. You want to hold those flavors in as long as possible. Also, check your recipe to know when to add things like pastas into your slow cooker. Timing is key.
Experiment with recipes
Slow cookers can be used for darn near anything! Soups, stews, roasts, pasta dishes, casseroles, game-day snacks — there are endless possibilities! Find your favorite traditional meals online and add “slow cooker” to the end of your search. There’s likely already a slow cooker alternative that’s just as good (if not better) than your favorite meals! And have FUN! Slow cookers are very forgiving appliances that give people the freedom to experiment with all sorts of flavors. Thanks to their slow-and-low cooking, your meals have less chance of getting tough or overcooked as they would normally.
Clean your slow cooker properly
A lot of people have had slow cookers for decades! That’s because slow cookers are made to last. Proper cleaning and maintenance of your slow cooker are essential to ensure its longevity and prevent any contamination. Always unplug your slow cooker before cleaning and wait until it cools down completely. Use warm, soapy water to clean the pot and lid, and dry them thoroughly before storing.
If you want to make cleanup even easier, grab a set of dishwasher-safe CrockPockets! The silicone inserts mean that you not only maximize what you can cook in your slow cooker but you can also make cleanup a breeze. Toss them in the dishwasher when done or wash them with warm soapy water. The silicone means there’s less of a risk of food globs getting caked on.
Happy slow cooking!