Slow cookers are cheap to buy, economical to use and they're great for making the most of budget ingredients. They offer a healthier, low-carb method of cooking and require the minimum amount of effort.
Some tips to use a slow cooker
1. Save time & effort
One of the main attractions for many is the ease of a slow-cooker so when you're looking for recipes, avoid those that suggest a lot of pre-preparation. For many dishes, particularly soups and stews, you really can just throw all the ingredients in.
2. Get ahead
If you're short on time in the morning, prepare everything you need for your slow-cooked meal the night before, put it into the slow-cooker dish, cover and store in the fridge overnight.
3. Save money
Slow cookers are great for cooking cheaper cuts of meat. You can also use less meat as slow-cooking really extracts a meaty flavor that permeates the whole dish. Bulk up with vegetables instead. (avoid starchy ones)
4. Go easy on the liquid
Because your slow cooker will have a tightly sealed lid, the liquid won't evaporate so if you're adapting a standard recipe, it's best to reduce the liquid by roughly a third. The liquid should just cover the meat and vegetables. Don't overfill your slow cooker or it may start leaking out the top and food won't cook as well. Half to two thirds full is ideal and certainly no more than three quarters.
5. Slow is good
Use the 'Low' setting as much as you can, finding most dishes really benefit from a slow, gentle heat to really bring out the flavors. This also means you won't need to worry if you're heading out for the day, it'll take care of itself.
6. Leave it alone
Slow cookers are designed to do their own thing so you don't need to keep checking the contents. Every time you take the lid off it will release some of the heat, so if you keep doing this you'll have to increase the cooking time.
7. When to add food
Ideally, you want to choose recipes where most, if not all, of the ingredients, can be added at the beginning leaving you free to do other things.
8. How long should I cook it for?
If a dish usually takes:
- 15 - 30 mins, cook it for 1 - 2 hours on High or 4 - 6 hours on Low
- 30 mins - 1 hour, cook it for 2 - 3 hours on High or 5 - 7 hours on Low
- 1 - 2 hours, cook it for 3 - 4 hours on High or 6 - 8 hours on Low
- 2 - 4 hours, cook it for 4 - 6 hours on High or 8 - 12 hours on Low