Low and slow: the ultimate guide to slow cooking

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    Irish stout braised short ribs Easy Food

    Slow cookers are having a real moment, and why not? They’re useful, versatile, and really help you plan in advance. Here’s the Easy Food guide to using your slow cooker to the best of its abilities!

    Safety first
    1. Thaw meat, poultry and frozen vegetables before cooking.
    2. Transfer cooked food from the slow cooker bowl to a different container before refrigerating.
    3. Don’t reheat slow-cooked meals in the slow cooker.
    Top tips for great slow cooking
    • Before using your slow cooker for the first time, read the user’s manual for special instructions.
    • Most slow cookers should be preheated before placing the ingredients in unless specifically stated in the user’s manual. To preheat, place the empty crock in the heating unit and put the cover on. Turn to high and preheat for 15-20 minutes.
    • Fill the crock at least half but no more than two-thirds full for the most efficient cooking.
    • Do not lift the lid during cooking unless specifically told to do so by the recipe. Each time the lid is lifted, heat escapes and 20 minutes will need to be added to the cooking time. If the recipe says to stir the ingredients, replace the cover as quickly as possible.
    • If you don’t have time for the recipe to be cooked on low for as long as required, the slow cooker can be turned to high and the cooking time reduced. Convert by using a ratio of two hours of low cooking as equal to one hour of high. It is still best to cook the cheaper, tougher cuts of meat on low for a long time to produce a more tender result.
    • Most slow cooker recipes will give a range of cooking time because each slow cooker is different. You’ll need to get used to how yours works to figure out where your cooker will fall within the range.
    • Too much liquid? Remove the lid and increase the heat to high for the last 30 minutes, or add some cornflour blended with liquid to thicken the sauce
    • Chop vegetables into equal sizes to help them cook evenly.
    • Sauté onions, mushrooms and garlic before adding them to the slow cooker.
    • Drain tinned beans before adding them.
    • Seasonings can lose their strength during the long cooking process so it is best to taste the food when ready and add more if necessary.
    • Dairy products like milk, cream, yoghurt and sour cream should be added in the last 15 minutes of cooking time so that they don’t split.
    Best cuts of meat for slow cooking
    • Beef – Chuck steak, skirt, stewing beef, round steak
    • Lamb  Shanks, neck, shoulder
    • Chicken – bone-in cuts, whole chicken
    • Pork – Leg, shanks, shoulder, loin chops, ribs
    braised_lamb_shanks_colcannon Easy Food
    Braised lamb shanks with colcannon

     

    When to add ingredients to your slow cooker:

    Ingredient

    When to add

    Onions, potatoes, carrots and squash

    Beginning

    Peas and corn

    Last 30 minutes

    Spinach and leafy greens

    Last 15 minutes

    Tinned beans

    Last 15 minutes

    Milk, cream and sour cream

    Last 15 minutes

    Fresh herbs

    Just before serving

    Cooked pasta or grains

    Last 30 minutes

    Fish

    Last 15 minutes

     

    How to convert recipes for a slow cooker:

    Slow cooker conversion times

    If a dish usually cooks in the oven or stovetop for…

    Then cook in the slow cooker on high for…

    Or cook in the slow cooker on low for…

    15-30 minutes

    1½-2½ hours

    4-6 hours

    30-45 minutes

    2-3 hours

    6-8 hours

    45 minutes-3 hours

    4-6 hours

    8-12 hours

     

    What is the difference between low and high settings?

    The high and low settings refer to how long it takes to reach the simmer point, so 7-8 hours on LOW or 3-4 hours on HIGH. Most dishes can be prepared on either setting, so times are as follows…

    High

    Low

    3 hours

    7 hours

    4 hours

    8 hours

    5 hours

    9 hours

    6 hours

    10 hours

    7 hours

    11 hours

    8 hours

    12 hours

     

    Now you know how to get the most out of your slow-cooker, you’re ready to try our mouth-watering slow-cooker meals.