Warm Meals For Cold Nights: 8 Tips For Using Your Slow Cooker
Winter is going to be here for a while; it's something we have to get used to. While the temperatures hover below freezing and you don't have to think about outdoor decorations until spring, this is your chance to chase away the winter with your slow cooker by creating warm food for cold nights. Here are 8 tips for using your slow cooker this winter.
Slow cookers are great for less expensive cuts of meat because they tend to be tough and tenderize as they cook over long periods. However, they can sometimes be fatty. On a grill or in a pan, the fat drains away, but it has nowhere to go in a slow cooker so cutting off the excess fat before cooking helps you avoid serving greasy meals.
Be careful about how much liquid you add to your recipe. Because the lid is on the whole time, the liquid doesn't evaporate. Being liberal with your liquids could yield something a little soupier than you'd like. At the end of cooking, if your dish is too dry, you can add liquid.
The convenience of slow cooking is that you don't have to do anything to your food for hours. That means you won't be stirring to make sure everything is cooking evenly. Remember that everything on the bottom gets the most heat so you should put dense food (like root vegetables) in first, followed by meat. Add tender vegetables and pasta in the last hour of cooking so they don't get mushy.
Because you'll be leaving your food for hours at a time, you need to make sure your food cooks evenly. Cut up all your vegetables and meat into the same size pieces. This helps everything cook evenly without stirring.
Don't Stuff It
Fill your slow cooker no more than ¾ full. If your cooker is packed, your ingredients won't cook evenly or properly.
Resist the urge to lift the lid and check on your meal. Every time you lift the lid, the slow cooker loses heat and you may need to add another 20 minutes of cooking time. Remember that your meal practically cooks itself so if you put the cooker on the low setting all day while you're perking up your home decor, it will be ready when you are.
Temperature Danger Zone
Bacteria can grow in food the fastest when it's at a temperature between 40°F and 140°F. This is called the temperature danger zone. Most slow cookers' lowest setting is 200°F, but you want to be careful with the temperatures of the food you add. Frozen food can drag the temperature of warm food down and make it dangerous to consume. Your slow cooker can end up being your best friend this winter. If you cook everything properly, there is no end to the warm comfort food it will churn out for your cold winter nights this year.
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