Slow Cooker Basics

slow cookerSave money when you use your slow cooker or crockpot. You can have dinner on the table, ready for you, and spend just a few dollars a meal for the privilege.

Most people who want to save money, really want to save money, rely heavily on at least one slow cooker to help them prepare low cost meals. Others may have given up a slow cooker or crockpot prematurely, because they had a bad experience, such as with an overcooked, an undercooked, or a tasteless meal. Usually this is because they simply weren’t aware of some slow cooker basics.

Slow cookers should be one-half to three-quarters full for the best results. Any less or more may yield less than perfect results. Slow cookers come in many different sizes, and recipes can be doubled as needed.

Opening the lid extends the cooking time and lets valuable moisture out of your meal. If you can, avoid lifting the lid of your slow cooker. I do confess that I sometimes lift the lift to give one stir to certain meals. If you do lift the lid, do it quickly. The general rule is to add an extra 20 minutes of cooking time each time the slow cooker is opened before the meal is done cooking.

You can season a dish after it comes out of the crockpot. In fact, some seasonings get stronger or change when they are slow cooked. Always taste your dish before serving it and consider adding salt, seasoned salt, pepper, lemon juice, soy sauce, freshly ground pepper, fresh herbs or other seasonings to your taste.

When adapting a traditional meal for use in a slow cooker, it is usually necessary to reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe, usually by half. You may have to do a little trial and error with your recipe before it comes out perfectly.

Milk, cream and other dairy products may need to be added toward the end of your cooking time. Otherwise they may curdle. Cheese is usually not a problem.

Choose inexpensive cuts of meat. They will come out tender and moist. Higher quality meat tends to fall apart in a slow cooker.  When cooking chicken, skinless chicken works best.

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About Mary Ann Romans

Mary Ann Romans is a freelance writer, online content manager, wife and mother of three children. She lives in Pennsylvania in the middle of the woods but close enough to Target and Home Depot. The author of many magazine, newspaper and online articles, Mary Ann enjoys writing about almost any subject. "Writing gives me the opportunity to both learn interesting information, and to interact with wonderful people." Mary Ann has written more than 5,000 blogs for Families.com since she started back in December 2006. Contact her at maromans AT verizon.net or visit her personal blog http://homeinawoods.wordpress.com

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