Slow cooked meals have many advantages in the hectic world we live in. You can make them in state-of-the-art appliances that conserve energy. The slow cooking process uses time and low heat to extract flavor from meats and vegetables. With 10 minutes of prep in the morning and a programmable slow cooker, you can have a ready-to-serve dinner waiting for you when you get home.
If you're watching your wallet, you may be eating fewer porterhouse and rib eye steaks than you used to. Less expensive cuts of meat have less marbling, the speckling of fat that makes meat tender and juicy, but they can still be part of a memorable and satisfying meal. Tougher meats, like chuck, cooked the slow way to release their flavor and soften tough muscle fibers can be as sweetly flavorful as steak. If you've been relying on your outdoor grill to prepare meat, it may surprise you to learn that older, tougher cuts have more flavor, both in the muscle and the fat. Not only that, some of the connective tissues in tougher meat release collagen that helps make sauces more satisfying. Those sauces baste the meat as it cooks, and the result is a succulent mouthful that falls off the bone, moist and full of flavor.
The following tips will help you make the best use of your slow cooker the first time and every time you use it:
- If you want to ensure a fast cleanup, coat your slow cooker insert with cooking spray.
- Brown meats in a skillet before adding them to the pot; meats don't brown in a slow cooker.
- Never try to cook frozen ingredients in a slow cooker. Observe good food safety, and thaw all foods in the refrigerator before cooking.
- Slow cooked meals retain more moisture than their uncovered, stovetop counterparts, so pay close attention to the liquid measurements in recipes. When converting stovetop recipes for use in a slow cooker, cut back on the water. If you need to, you can always add it later.
- Remove food from the slow cooker immediately. Allowing foods to cool in the pot encourages bacterial growth.
On the next page, we'll indulge in some mac and cheese comfort food.