Whether you already own a slow cooker, or you are thinking about buying one, you likely have lots of questions on how to make the most out of this versatile appliance.
Don’t be like me – it stayed unloved in the back of a kitchen cupboard for years before I finally integrated it into my cooking routine!
The good news is, a slow cooker is easy to use. Once you understand some of the basics, and have used it a few times, you’ll wonder how you ever cooked without it.
I get quite a few questions about using a slow cooker, from friends, and here on the blog.
In fact, once upon a time, I had a load of my own!
So, if you have any questions, no matter how silly they may seem, please do go ahead and ask! You can contact me via the comments below.
To start off with I’m going to answer the common questions I get asked
1. How Do I Cook Vegetables In A Slow Cooker?
Vegetables can be cooked in a slow cooker but to ensure that they come out evenly cooked cut them into small chunks.
2. How Much Liquid Do I Need?
Liquid doesn’t boil away in a slow cooker like it does in a pot. The liquid that is released whilst cooking will remain in the slow cooker, this is very handy for making gravies as well as ensuring your food doesn’t dry out. Sometimes when I’m in a hurry I only put a joint of meat in my slow cooker, pop it on low and leave it to do it’s stuff – I put no liquid at all in it.
3. Will My Food Boil Dry?
Your food shouldn’t burn or boil dry. The food is cooking so slowly that is can be left for a long period of time.
4. What Is The Best Meat To Use In A Slow Cooker?
A slow cooker really lends itself to all kinds of stews and casseroles. Even the toughest of meats will come out succulent and tender after they have been left to gently slow cook throughout the day.
Some meats will literally fall apart as you remove it from the pot. What makes cooking by slow cooker such an economical option are that the cheapest meats are the best kind to use!
There’s little point in using expensive cuts like sirloin steak or pork fillet, they will come out lovely and soft but will lack the flavour of the tougher meats such as brisket, knuckle, shank and chuck steak.
Whole joints of meat also work really well for Sunday Roasts. For more details on cooking meat in a slow cooker scroll further down where I talk about it some more.
A slow cooker is ideal for all kinds of lifestyles. Whether you are a large family, or you live alone, there is a slow cooker for you. The meals created not only taste great, they are also simple to prepare and a fantastic time saver.
Although making a meal in a slow cooker is relatively straightforward, when I first got mine, I had a load of questions that I felt a bit silly to ask.
Read on for the answers to all the questions I needed to ask – I now confidently use my slow cooker a few times a week, and produce some very nutritious and tasty meals!
5. What Size Slow Cooker Should I Buy?
Most manufacturers will advise in the product description what the capacity and recommended servings is. As a rough rule;
- 1 or 2 people – 1.5 litres
- 3 to 4 people – 3.5 litres
- 5 and above – 6.5 litres
These tend to be the 3 standard sizes of slow cookers, but some manufacturer’s make the capacity in different sizes. Check our Best Slow Cooker Guide for further details on our recommended models.
6. Is A Slow Cooker Expensive To Run?
I thought it would cost a lot as it is running for so long. However, after a quick search it would seem that they use around the same amount of electricity as an electric light bulb.
7. Do I Need To Heat It Before Putting Any Ingredients In?
I never preheat mine, I just put my ingredients straight in. Do check with the user guide for your model though and see what the manufacturer recommends.
8. What Setting Should I Use?
Most slow cookers have 3 settings (high, medium and low) and all have at least 2 (high and low). Usually the high setting will cook twice as fast as the low setting. If you need to convert a slow cooker recipe from one setting to another use this conversion table from Morphy Richards.
9. Can I Lift The Lid During Cooking?
The temptation is high to have a sneaky peak at how the recipe is getting along, give it a quick stir, and maybe a finger dip taste. Try to resist the temptation as lifting the lid during cooking, even for a short while, will allow heat to escape and mean you have to add an extra 15 to 20 minutes to the cooking time.
10. Do I Need To Chop Meat Up Before Putting It In?
Whole joints can be cooked in the slow cooker pot if you want to. We have put beef, pork and gammon joints in ours as well as whole roast chickens. Just make sure they can fit in the slow cooker pot before you buy it!
11. Do I Need To Sear Meat Before Putting It In The Slow Cooker?
It really comes down to personal choice whether you sear your meat first. If you don’t have the time (or the inclination!) then you can place it straight in. The meats I always like to brown off first are sausages and meatballs.
Morphy Richards do a great Sear and Stew model that allows you to brown the meat in the slow cooker pot on top of the hob without needing to use a different pan.
12. Is It Safe To Leave My Slow Cooker On (Even When I’m Out?!)
Yes it is. I really worried the first time I left it on and left the house. Thoughts of returning home to a burning house worried me for most of the day! But slow cookers are perfectly safe and are designed to be left on for long periods of time. If it helps ease your mind, when you first use the slow cooker, do it on a day when you are going to be home.
13. Can I Use Frozen Ingredients In My Slow Cooker?
No, it’s not recommended and not something I would like to risk. As the heat in a slow cooker doesn’t get evenly distributed it might not efficiently heat up the ingredients to the necessary temperature.
14. Can I Fill The Slow Cooker Pot All The Way To The Top?
No, you shouldn’t. You need to allow room at the top. Don’t fill more than two-thirds full.
15. What Order Should I Put The Ingredients In?
Vegetables usually take longer to cook than meat so place these in first at the bottom and lay the meat pieces on top.
16. Can I Add Herbs And Spices?
You certainly can, but don’t add fresh herbs until the end or they will lose a lot of their taste. Ground and dried herbs and spices can be added at the start.
17. Can I Bake Things In My Slow Cooker?
Yes you can! You can cook cookies, brownies, sponges and many different desserts.
18. Can I Adapt A Conventional Recipe And Make It In A Slow Cooker?
Yes, most recipes can be successfully adapted. As slow cookers retain liquid, you will need to reduce the amount of liquid, at least by half. Food52.com recommends for every hour a recipe needs to be cooked at 350F (180C/Gas Mark 4) it will require 6 to 8 hours on low or 4 to 6 hours on high.
19. Are There Any Ingredients I Shouldn’t Include In The Slow Cooker?
As mentioned above all foods must be thoroughly defrosted. Some foods aren’t suitable for cooking for long periods of time, these cream and seafood which can be added towards the end of the cooking time if required.