- Buy roasts and other large cuts of meat that will fit in your slow cooker, or plan to trim them to fit.
- Remove skin from poultry and trim excess fat from other meats before cooking.
- Fresh root vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, and onions, should be placed in the bottom of the pot, under the meat, for faster cooking (these vegetables tend to cook more slowly than meat).
- When thickening sauces near the end of cooking time, turn the heat setting to HIGH to speed the process. Taste the liquid first, though; if it lacks flavor, it may be best to reduce it by simmering several minutes uncovered.
- Do taste and season. Since slow cookers sometimes dilute flavors over a long period, be creative with your seasonings. Seasoned salt, garlic powder, seasoned pepper, and complementary herbs and spices are best added near the end of cooking.
- Colors tend to fade in slow cooked foods, but garnishes such as chopped fresh parsley, chives, tomatoes, red peppers, cheese, or sour cream can add quite a bit of visual appeal.
Many people cook frozen foods in a slow cooker, and others like to use it to reheat foods. However, most food experts do not recommend these practices, as foods need to reach a temperature of 140° F within 1½ hours, in order to prevent bacterial growth. Even if the foods do eventually reach a safe temperature and cook thoroughly, bacteria in the food can produce toxins that won’t be destroyed by the heat – and, that can make you sick. Many people have experienced food poisoning and don’t even know it. They may have some digestive discomfort, or feel ill for a day or two, and then recover. Unfortunately, a person in a high-risk group (elderly, persons with compromised immune systems, small children, and pregnant women) can suffer serious consequences from food poisoning.
More than 5,000 people die each year in the U.S. as a result of food poisoning. If you decide to cook frozen foods, or reheat foods in your slow cooker, do so at your own risk.