Slow-Cooker Tips

Every appliance in your kitchen will have certain little tricks or things to keep in mind when being used. From bread makers to toaster ovens to crock pots, every appliance has a learning curve.

Here are some tips for using a slow cooker, regardless of which company produced the unit. Some things are universal.

* Most slow cooker recipes are designed for 5 to 6 quart crocks. Keep this in mind when deciding on which recipes to use so that you are prepared for both servings and storage of leftovers.

* When applying a slow cooker liner, open the bag and place it inside the slow cooker’s crock.  fit the liner snugly against the bottom and sides of the crock. Pull top edge of the liner over the rim all the way around. In the event he liner is a tad small, wrap the edges up, then twist the top around (allowing  lots of air to escape) and allow the lid to hold it in place. This is a tricky technique and should be handled with care – any time you open the bag, the escaping steam will be highly concentrated and scaldingly hot.

* Always be careful when removing the lid from a hot slow cooker to allow the steam to escape. Lift at a tilt and keep your hands and face away from the escaping steam to avoid being burned.

* When a dish is cooking, leave the lid alone unless instructed by the recipe. Each peek into the pot or quick stir allows significant heat to escape and adds about 20 minutes to your cooking time.

* If you are using a liner, and you do have to open the lid once cooking has begun to give the dish a stir, remember to stir gently. Shifting the liner, or potentially tearing it with rough handling, is not a helpful action.

* When using a liner, never try to lift food out of the crock by the liner. Always remove food to storage containers. When liner is empty, remove and place in waste receptical.

* Fill your slow cooker 1/2 to 3/4 full for best results. This ensures the liquid will not cook away and food stay moist and tender. Adjust the recipe as needed to fit your slow cooker.

* Always remove leftovers from your slow cooker and the liner (if you use one) and store or freeze in a separate container. Liners are not intended for food storage and should be properly disposed of. Cooked foods should not be allowed to stand at room temperatures (above 65F) for longer than about an hour.

Hopefully you will find some of this information useful in your own kitchen. I have run afoul of several of these things, hence writing them up as a warning to others. That steam is a real scorcher!

–Ann Cathey

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