By Yasmin Sabir
If a recipe calls for cooking the dish covered in the oven or on the stovetop at a long low simmer, it's probably great for a slow cooker, explains Diane Phillips, author of Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever. More good choices: your favorite beef stew, pot roast, chili, or anything using a tougher cut of meat such as pork shoulder, beef chuck, brisket or lamb shoulder. But, really, you can slow cook any recipe by following these five steps.
1. Layer ingredients. Root vegetables like carrots, turnips, potatoes and parsnips take longer to cook than meat because they are harder, so put them in the bottom of the slow cooker, then put the meat on top, advises Simon Quellen Field, author of Culinary Reactions: The Everyday Chemistry of Cooking.
2. Change the cooking time. Recipes that cook for 2 to 4 hours in the oven or stovetop will cook in the slow cooker on high for 4 to 6 hours or low for 7 to 9 hours. All slow cookers are slightly different, so check the progress regularly.
3. Go light on spice. Start with a moderate amount of seasoning and add extra flavor (fresh herbs, salt or spices) after cooking has finished, suggests Michele Scicolone, author of The French Slow Cooker. Hot spices like cayenne, curries and some chili powders can become more intense during slow cooking, while fresh herbs, such as basil, chives or parsley, can become flavorless. Adjusting the flavors at the end means the finished dish will be just as you like it. Make sure to cook any added dry spices for 5 minutes before serving.
4. Use less liquid. Liquid doesn't evaporate in a slow cooker the way it does on the stovetop or in the oven, so start with less. A half-cup of liquid-such as stock, wine or water-should be enough to create steam and start everything cooking, according to Scicolone. For soups and some stews, however, the slow cooker should be two-thirds full. Add all of the dry ingredients first, then add enough liquid to reach the correct level.
5. Reduce the liquid. Field recommends leaving the lid off for the last half-hour of cooking so excess liquid can evaporate. If the end result still has too much liquid, Scicolone suggests spooning it into a small saucepan and whisking in a slurry (2 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 Tbsp cooking liquid). Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer the mixture until thickened. Add the thickened mixture back to the slow cooker before serving.
Photo: © iStock
Article originally appeared on WomansDay.com.
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