Do you have a favorite family recipe but don’t have time to stand over the stovetop to make it? Try these easy tips for how to turn almost any recipe into a slow cooker recipe and take back valuable time in the kitchen!
I’ll say it a million times: the slow cooker is my favorite kitchen appliance. I know it’s not for everyone, but for me – throwing my ingredients in the slow cooker in the morning (or even better, the night before) and having my dinner ready and waiting on me when I get home from work is seriously the best.
I’d make almost anything in the slow cooker if I could. And with these three rules of thumb, you can slow-cook (almost) all your family faves in no time.
1. Stop Guessing.
Who has time to do test after test hoping a recipe turns out? Or worse yet, come home to a hungry family only to find the recipe failed…again. Instead, find a similar slow cooker recipe to use as your guide. Note the amount and weight of meat it calls for, as well as the cooking time, heat setting and amount of liquid you add to the pot.
2. Timing is Key.
Slow cookers generally cook about 190º on low and 300º on high. So, when determining how long to cook your slow cooker meal, try using this basic formula:
1 hour of simmering on the stove or baking at 350º = 8-10 hours on low or 4-6 hours on high in a slow cooker
That’s how long it takes for meat to reach food-safe temperatures. So reduce cook times accordingly: if your pork tenderloin roasts in the oven for 30 minutes, reduce slow-cooking time to 4-5 hours.
3. Tweak Ingredient Amounts.
Because slow cookers trap stream when cooking, you might need to reduce the liquid measurements in your new recipe.
For example, if your original recipe calls for 6 to 8 cups of water, start with 4 or 5 cups. You don’t want to leave out the liquid altogether, even if the base recipe doesn’t call for any. Start with 1/2 cup of water or broth so you can create some steam in the cooker.
Other Things to Keep in Mind…
Some types of meat do require pre-cooking before adding them to your slow cooker. Small, bite-sized pieces of meat, like sausage or hamburger crumbles will need to be browned on the stovetop first. Otherwise, your dish may end up overly fatty or taste funny.
However, large cuts of meat such as big shoulder roasts, pork roasts or chuck roasts, and so forth do not need to be cooked ahead of time. I do often sear these first with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper for some extra flavor and to hold in the juices, but it’s usually not required.
Cooking vegetables in your slow-cooker can be a little tricky since some of them tend to get mushy after just a few hours of cooking (gross). Harder vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, onions, or winter squash can be added at the beginning of cooking and will do well. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower can handle a few hours of cooker. More delicate vegetables like peas, corn, or greens should be added during your last half hour of cooking.