Slow cooker tips

slow cooker stew
Mumsnetters feel strongly about slow cookers, whether it's fervent ardour ("It is a must") or disdain ("You get it for a wedding and leave it in a cupboard for 15 years to rot"). Here's the (s)lowdown from Mumsnet Talk

 

 

Common concerns about slow cookers

  • I've never roasted a whole chicken or piece of meat in a slow cooker. I've been a bit scared to in case it went wrong and would be an expensive mistake. tsarchasm
  • I would like to be convinced by it, but can't get past the thought that it would result in death by casserole. ja9
  • It's difficult if (like me) you like to fiddle and stir your cooking. You must not touch it or lift off the lid. tsarchasm
  • No chance of a fire, they are on a thermostat. Janbo25
  • Somebody told me that it uses as much energy as a lightbulb, so I think it must be very cheap to use. janeite

Slow cooker hints and tips

  • It's always better to part cook/fry the food before putting it in the slow cooker and then allowing it to very slowly stew after that. abetadad
  • I find the liquid seems to double! So now I use less liquid but check on it every now and again. allthoseeggsaremine
  • If you're using a normal recipe you may find the slow cooker produces too much liquid, which will make it a bit bland. I also put in more seasoning (eg garlic, rosemary) than if I were doing it in the oven. elinordashwood
  • I do a bolognaise-type mixture in mine - leave it on low all day so the mince is really tender - serve the children at 5pm-ish, then chuck lots of tabasco/chilli and a tin of kidney beans in and DH and I can eat a couple of hours later. lucycat
  • I put the whole raw chicken in the slow cooker, put the lid on and switch it on. I don't add anything at all. I don't add liquid; there's plenty in the bottom when you take it out anyway, and you don't want it wet. You could add any of the usual garlic/lemon/herbs type things, I suppose. But when I do it, it's to strip all the meat off the bones easily to use in curry/enchiladas/etc, not to eat 'as is' - it can be a bit bland on its own. badgermonkey
  • I do lots of casseroles in mine. Just adapt the time, and put a bit less liquid in. girlandboy
  • The great thing about doing beef in the slow cooker is that you can use a cheaper cut like brisket and it will be very tender, but you won't be able to carve it as you would an oven-roasted joint so it doesn't look as impressive. Chicken tastes great too but you don't get the crispy skin so it looks a bit insipid compared to oven-roasted. ladyglencorapalliser

Do you save time using a slow cooker?

  • It's not really a time saver, more a time re-distributor (you have to find time in the morning to prepare instead). But you do get lovely tender meat in it as a result. rubberduck
  • I don't mind making it earlier when one child is in school and the other is happily getting on with something if it means avoiding cooking in the witching hour between coming home from school and eating. ledodgy
  • I chop everything in the evening. Brown meat. Stick pot in fridge overnight. Next morning heat up the liquid I am adding, add to the pot and switch on. Leave on all day. Dinner ready. yorkiegirl
  • Always, always cook at least double and freeze some. CountessDracula
  • Mine smalll cooker is a small one that will fit in my fridge so I can redistribute effort to when I have time - in the evening when kids are in bed. Put all the ingredients in (as long as you cover the veg with liquid it doesn't mind being chopped in advance) and then in the morning all I have to do is put the pot into the machine and turn it on. If you're worried about extremes of temperature (which can affect ceramic slow cookers) maybe take it out of fridge first thing, then turn it on when back from school run? prufrock

To brown or not to brown?

  • frying chickenI don't bother with browning the meat, but I do cook carrots/onions/hard veg before adding them as the temperature never gets high enough to soften them properly. I put very little liquid in to start with tbh and find my casseroles are thick enough from the vegetable or pulse fibre anyway (sounds ghastly!). I might put a bit of hot water in later to loosen it if it is really over thick, but don't forget, nothing burns or sticks because of the low temperatures. If you want to put cream, creme fraiche or whatever in, then you can do it for your own nefarious purposes, but I don't bother. catinthehat1
  • The reason you should pre-brown meat before going in the slow cooker is to get it heated up. Not solely for flavour reasons (although that is an added benefit!). pestomonster
  • It works with or without flour, but without flour then of course it doesn't thicken. If NOT using flour, there is no need to seal the meat first, but do give it plenty of time to cook through. clumsymum
  • I use a lot more flour than usual so that it thickens well. Slow cookers seem to produce more watery results. CountessDracula

But aren't slow cookers just for casseroles?

  • Do go to the library and dig out a couple of slow cooking recipe books. I always used mine just for stews, but then found a book that explained how to cook LOADS of stuff in it, including fish, egg custards, and even your fruit cake (takes hours though). clumsymum
  • Got a great slow cooker recipe? Share it on Mumsnet recipes
  • My favourite in the slow cooker has to be puddings. Sponge puddings are the biz! Just follow an ordinary recipe, put the mixture in a separate dish with foil on the top. Sit the dish on a jam jar lid and put boiling water in the crockpot (about a third of the way up the second dish). Cook for 3-4 hours. You don't have to top the water up as you would if you were steaming it on the hob. girlandboy
  • Bolognese, chilli, casseroles, spare ribs, curries, pot roasts, gammon to use cold for sandwiches. Oh, and loads of soup and thick broths to dunk crusty bread. rubyrubyruby
  • To make stock I put it all in last thing at night - chicken carcass, onion, carrots, tomotoes, garlic - and switched it on this morning. The stock was ready by about 6pm, for the next stage of soup-making. scootergrrrl
  • Here is the rice pudding recipe from my slow cooker recipe book. It is really lovely: 1.5l milk, 40g butter, 150g pudding rice, 150g sugar. Combine them and put in slow cooker overnight. If it is to go with a Sunday roast I usually tip it into a dish and pop it in the oven once the roast comes out and it browns a bit on top while we're having the main course. soundbites
  • In mine at the moment, I've got split pea and bacon soup with home-made chicken stock - made in the slow cooker - from yesterday's chicken. How Nigella am I? Scootergrrrl
  • My slow cooker really comes into its own during the Mulled Wine Season. Short preparation time, and it never boils! scienceteacher

slow cooker reviewsI'm sold. So which is the best one to buy?

  • See Mumsnet's slow cooker reviews for reviews of all the most popular slow cookers - including our Best Rated.
  • "It's the only one I've owned where the 'low' heat setting is actually low enough to leave food cooking overnight without burning."
  • "I have one of these, and find it invaluable as a single working mum to 3 children."

And where do I start?

Looking for a little inspiration on where to start? Here's a selection of the most popular slow cooker recipes on Mumsnet

slow cooker mumsnet cookbookSlow cooking in the Mumsnet Cookbook

There's a whole chapter devoted to slow cooker recipes in Top Bananas! the first Mumsnet cookbook, which was published this year.

Choose from 12 hour pulled pork or Keep-it-simple kleftiko or go for Virtuous chilli or No-stirring risotto among others.

To order your copy of Top Bananas! buy it now on Amazon.  

 

 

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Last updated: 23-Sep-2014 at 11:29 AM