5 Golden Rules to Slow Cookers
We do not always have to be sprinting, whether we are talking about our training or, in this case, our cooking. Going slow has its benefits but that is only if you truly follow the rules behind “going slow.” The same applies with cooking, low and slow works wonders for the end result that is if you follow the rules. Luckily for us, the culinary gods have developed a product ages ago that has simplified the process. What do you think they called it? You guessed it, The Slow Cooker. They did not have a team of marketing gurus working on that name clearly. These have saved Nelson and myself time, money and energy on a weekly basis.
Times are tough and days are long, wouldn't you want to come home from training to a warm, full meal ready and waiting for you? Well meet your new best friend, Mr. Slow cooker. Shockingly though it is not as simple as “dump everything in it and turn it on.” If you throw raw pasta, raw chicken, water and scattering of vegetables in and turn it on you won’t have the best chicken soup. It is not magic. Though there are a few simple rules to follow and by doing so you can become a culinary wizard. Also you’d be surprised at how many things you can actually cook in it. Soups, roasts and even bread. Enough with the praise though, let me get to what you all are drooling over, the meat and potatoes of this article.
Rule No.1 Spray and pray
Have you ever used a slow cooker and had to try and clean it afterwards? It can be a major pain in the cooker. A very simple step to avoid sticking and ensure easy cooking is to spray the inside with cooking spray such as Pam before using it. Do not worry about it adding any fat. The luxury of slow cookers is that they eliminate the need for cooking oil.
Rule No.2 Know Your Training Partners
When looking through recipes or when playing Iron Chef Apartment knowing what vegetables you are going to use will affect the end result. Not obviously in the sense that “if I put onions in it, there will be onion flavors.” I am talking about truly knowing the vegetables. Knowing how a vegetable will hold up to cooking is crucial. Onions, carrots, potatoes, turnips etc are a lot heartier than say, peas or fresh beans. With that knowledge those heartier vegetables can be added in the beginning, save the softer and more delicate ingredients for the last hour of cooking. The same goes with pasta. Add raw pasta within the last 30 minutes rather than in the beginning. Pasta cooked for 6 hours probably won’t be the most enjoyable pasta you have ever had.
Rule No.3 A Layer Within a Layer Within a Layer.
Vegetables and meat cook in different amounts of time, go figure. With that knowledge you need to load up your slow cooker with the proper layer sequence. Vegetables first, then meat and finally top with seasoning and liquid. That is because the heat comes from the bottom of the slow cooker, thus the bottom will be the hottest part of the pot. You utilize that heat differences in layers to give everything an even cooking time though each individually have a different. This isn’t as hard as understanding Inception, but it matters, this is not a dream…or is it?
Rule No.4 Mastering Your Meat
Browning on meat is important for flavor (read why in this article, its called the Maillard Reaction.) The last thing you want to eat is gray steamed meat. Browning occurs in meat at high temperatures via direct heat method (Example: pan searing.) Slow cookers do not possess that capacity to do this. So it is important to brown your meat before adding it into the slow cooker. Do not worry about cooking it fully, the slow cooker can handle that part, just get a pan ripping hot, add a little oil and develop some color on that meat before adding it in to the little hot tub of flavor.
Rule No.5 Don’t Drown
Slow cooker recipes usually call for small amounts of liquid. Our curious nature will sometimes make us say “oh I can add a little more salt because recipes are usually wrong.” I agree with that, recipes are more so guidelines than set in stone commandments. BUT with slow cooker recipes do not change the amount of liquid because you are worried it might be too dry, or you for some reason think it will improve the flavor. Liquid will not evaporate while cooking in a slow cooker. You want the liquid to just cover the food within, never more than that.
Buy a slow cooker, follow these rules and live a happier life because happiness starts in the stomach. Like this article? For more fun food reviews, techniques, guides and interviews head over to Grappler Gourmet and follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@GrapplerGourmet). Eat well, train hard. Oss.