Add sour cream or heavy cream during the last hour of cooking time and then increase the heat to high to prevent the dairy products from curdling. Cornstarch can also be added during the last hour of cooking to thicken juices (again, turn heat to high).
To Cook Dried Beans:
- The most convenient way to cook a dried bean recipe is to put all the ingredients in the slow cooker, and then cook on the high heat setting until the beans are tender.
- Another method is to cook the beans for 2 to 3 hours on the high heat setting, and then reduce the temperature to the low heat setting for an additional 8 to 10 hours. This is a little less convenient because someone has to be available after a couple of hours to reduce the heat setting.
- A more traditional method for cooking dried beans is to first place the beans and water in the slow cooker, then cover and cook on the high heat setting for 2 hours. After the 2 hours, turn off the slow cooker, and let beans stand for 8 to 24 hours. At that time, add the remaining ingredients and cook on the low heat setting for 8 to 12 hours, or until the meal is done. This method is good for baked bean recipes, because it allows the flavors to blend – and offers more of an oven-baked taste.
Efficiency – A properly working slow cooker uses about as much electricity and resources as a light bulb – making it more economical than using your stove!
Filling the Slow Cooker Too Full – Never overfill a slow cooker. Make sure the lid fits on firmly, or the cooker will lose heat and the liquid will evaporate.
How Much Liquid(s) Should be Used? – Reduce the liquid in a recipe that you would normally use. Unless you are making soup, do not add more than 1 cup of liquid.
Cooking Frozen Foods – Using foods that are completely frozen in the slow cooker may extend the cooking time. For best results, use completely thawed foods, or partially thaw them in the microwave before adding to the slow cooker. It is also safer to use thawed meats because they will heat to a safe temperature more quickly.
Slow Cooking Safety – The slow cooker is designed to be left alone. However, you should always take some general precautions:
- Make sure the pot is not touching walls or other items on your counter. The outside of the crock may get hot.
- Always inspect the plug and cord before plugging in. Make sure it is firmly plugged in.
- Always inspect the inside of your slow cooker before adding foods. Do not use it if you find any cracks or breaks.
Using Seasonings and Spices – Just like with regular cooking, you should add spices and seasonings during the final stages of cooking for the most flavorful results.
How to Check the Cooking Temperatures of Your Slow-Cooker
- Fill your slow cooker with 2 quarts of water.
- Heat on low for 8 hours or desired cooking time.
- Quickly check the water temperature with an accurate thermometer
- The temperature of the water should be 185°F. Higher temperatures may mean that foods will become overdone. Lower temperatures may mean that foods might not cook safely.
When Using a Slow Cooker – A slow cooker should be at least half full when using it so it does not over heat the ingredients. If using less than half of the cookers capacity, adjust your cooking times accordingly.
What Utensils Should I Use? Do not use metal utensils for stirring or lifting food in your slow cooker, as they can damage the interior. Always use rubber, plastic, or wooden utensils for the best results.
What is the Best Way to Cook Vegetables? – Place the vegetables in the bottom of the slow cooker and place the meat on top of the vegetables (fresh vegetables like carrots and potatoes take the longest to cook). Frozen vegetables may be placed on top of the meat as they usually do not take as long.