#6 Kitchen Essentials – The Crock Pot and 8 Tips for It’s Use

 The Crock Pot and 8 Tips for it’s use

In a world of indifference, it is refreshing to find a company that not only makes a great product, but stands behind it and provides excellent customer service. The Crock Pot is such a company. When the plastic handle on my Crock Pot broke, after many years of service, I attempted to get a replacement part. I wrote to the company requesting the part and was told they did not have the part available but would instead send me a complete new lid at no cost to me. I’m not saying this will happen every time but any company that treats me with extreme courtesy gets my vote!

There are a number of makes of the slow cooker but for my money why choose? The original Crock Pot is still at the forefront of technology and does produce a superior product, with the price of food today why chance a mistake, stick with proven product.

The ubiquitous slow cooker, aka the Crock Pot has for years been the target of disdain by many cooks. Pasty looking meat dishes, stews and unimaginative recipes often left the palate disappointed. Originally designed to slow cook more inexpensive cuts of meat for the thrifty housewife, its multiple uses today make it a great cooker. With a few tricks you can turn this versatile kitchen instrument into a dependable tool in your culinary arsenal.

Tip #1. Any low and slow recipe for your oven can be achieved in the Crock Pot, first experiment with the heat settings on the pot to get a better idea just how hot each setting will be. While the liquids won’t reach a boil on low in the Crock Pot they may when set on high, and become hot enough to thicken a sauce with a roux. Always check the temperature before serving you do need to reach 165 degrees for safe cooking. Don’t stir! constant opening of the lid cools the product and adds to the cooking time.

Tip #2. Most often traditional recipes call for browning the meat first in the pot before lowering the heat and cooking. It does add to the eye appeal of the finished dish, but more importantly proper browning does seal in the juices to produce a moister more flavorful dish. For this reason when cooking most meats in the Crock Pot it is a good idea to brown the meat in a frying pan before placing into the pot to cook. Dusting the meat with seasoned flour before the browning will also help to thicken the sauce through out the cooking process. Deglazing the pan and adding the carmelized pieces to the pot adds an extra layer of flavor.

Tip #3. Know exactly the product and process of cooking you are trying to achieve. A pot roast is a dry heat so it will be necessary to siphon off the liquid through out the cooking process and adding the aromatic vegetables first five the meat a natural rack to cook on. Stews however need a good amount of liquid to cook. Chicken will fall apart after a long time cooking so in those recipes you will want to use boneless pieces or large boned pieces like breasts and thighs. Vegetables will cook best with a smaller dice, such as with potatoes larger cuts may not cook properly.

Tip #4. Spice it up! The use of herbs and spices will bring out the flavors, but over an extended cooking time the flavors will lessen their impact. Use fresh herbs to add at the last moment or to sprinkle over the dish at serving. For best results use about 1/2 the amount of spice in the beginning and taste and add if necessary at the end of the cooking cycle. Watch out for chili and garlic powders as they can often gain strength over a long cooking time. Tomato, vinegar and citrus are all meat tenderizers and add at the beginning of the cooking process but taste near the end to see if more is needed to add flavor.

Tip #5. Watch your dairy. Most dairy products breakdown with heat and time so don’t add them until the last 15 – 30 minutes.

Tip #6. Don’t over fill the pot. Most pots will tell you the instruction manual not to fill it more than 2/3’s full. By the same token don’t under fill the best measure is to have the pot between 1/2 – 2/3’s full for best results.

Tip #7. Follow the directions. When baking things like cakes and breads make sure to check to see if you need to add water.

Tip #8. If you are trying to convert a recipe to the Crock Pot remember that liquids stay in the pot so don’t add so much at the beginning of a recipe.

Keep these tips in mind and most of all “have fun in the kitchen”.

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