Make every slow-cooked meal a recipe for success
At the end of a long day, there’s nothing better than coming home and having a warm dinner waiting for you. Slow cookers are timesavers and can be a much-needed helping hand in the kitchen. But they’re not set-it-and-forget-it-appliances.
If your crockpot is collecting dust because of a botched attempt, these tips from our dietitians can help you avoid these common slow-cooker mistakes to make your one-pot meals absolutely delicious.
Mistake #1: Your sauce curdles
How to fix: Put meat and veg in the slow cooker first and then pour liquids over them. The exception is milk, cream or sour cream; these should be added during the last hour because they break down during extended cooking. Or you can substitute low sodium condensed soup for the dairy.
Mistake #2: Your dish ends up watery
Remember that liquids don’t “boil away” as in conventional cooking; in fact you end up with more liquid than you start with.
How to fix: Use about half the recommended amount of liquid in a regular recipe — one cup of liquid is usually enough for any recipe (unless it contains rice or pasta). For soups, it is not necessary to add large amounts of water — instead put the recipe ingredients in the cooker and add just enough water to cover. For milk-based soups use one or two cups of water initially and add the milk during the last hour of cooking.
Mistake #3: Your pasta or rice is mushy
How to fix: Cook pasta on the stovetop until it’s just slightly tender, before adding to the slow cooker. If a recipe calls for cooked rice, add ¼ cup extra liquid per ¼ cup of raw rice and use long grain converted rice for best results.
Mistake #4: Your vegetables are too crunchy
How to fix: Vegetables take longer to cook than meat, so try slicing or chopping them into smaller pieces.
Mistake #5: You’ve over seasoned the dish
How to fix: For best results use leaf or whole herbs and spices but use half the amount recommended in a regular recipe, as flavours are more intense in the slow cooker. If you’re using ground herbs and spices, add them during the last hour of cooking.
Cooking time tips
Most uncooked meat and veg combinations require at least 8 hours on low.
- If conventional (oven) recipe says 15 to 30 minutes, cook in slow cooker on low 4 to 6 hours, or on high 1 ½ to 2 hours
- If conventional (oven) recipe says 35 to 45 minutes, cook in slow cooker on low 6 to 10 hours, or on high 3 to 4 hours
- If conventional (oven) recipe says 50 minutes to 3 hours, cook in slow cooker on low 8 to 18 hours, or on high 4 to 6 hours
For easy meal prep without a recipe, simply cook a whole chicken or other meat in your slow cooker and when you get home all you have to do is make a nice quick salad and potatoes or rice—having the meat already cooked cuts down on prep time significantly. Bottom line, your schedule is busy. Rather than resorting to fast food on the fly, use a slow cooker to have a home cooked meal ready when you walk in the front door!