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Slow Cookers- questions about hygiene and taste

(27 Posts)
barefootcook Fri 12-Apr-13 06:20:01

My sister has put me off getting a slow cooker as she thinks everything ends up tasting the same. Is this true? And if so, what can be done to avoid it? Also, I am concerned about the hygiene involved in using slow cookers. Does bacteria have a chance to grow in the early stages of cooking? Any solutions to these problems would be great. Thanks.

I have cooked a beef stew and it was lovely. No different in taste than if I had cooked it on the hob or in the oven. Except it cooked all day while I got on with other things. I dont think I would cook veg in with a joint or a whole chicken, they would come out greasy. I mainly use mine for large joints and cook the rest seperately.

I regularly cook large hams in it and we havent got sick yet. By the end of the cooking time the meat is piping hot throughout. If you are worried perhaps invest in a meat thermometer.

SavoyCabbage Fri 12-Apr-13 06:44:13

Does she mean all your meals will taste the same as each other?

CreatureRetorts Fri 12-Apr-13 06:49:43

You bring stuff to a simmer then add to a slow cooker. I have never had food poisoning from slow cooker meals.

If you cooked something on a hob or oven on low it would be the same.

No my stuff doesn't taste the same - I use different ingredients for each dish.

tigerlilygrr Fri 12-Apr-13 06:54:42

I am not great with my SC and I know what your sister means. I find:
-all joints etc are brilliant, lovely chicken, lamb etc that just falls off the bone. IMO SCs are worth it just for this
-curries are good but the faff of chopping, slicing etc, plus browning in a pan if you choose to do it, means you don't save time, it just redistributes your effort to the morning not the evening
-stews, in my experience, are dreadful... Veg takes ages and everything comes out brown and tasting the same. I know not everyone finds this but I would try and borrow one for a practice first if I mainly wanted to do stews

No issues with bacteria though ... As per another thread I always cook chicken on high and cook the meat, then let it stand, not the other way round.

50shadesofbrown Fri 12-Apr-13 06:57:19

I regularly use a slow cooker in the winter. The taste depends mostly on what ingredients you use! Gets up to a decent simmer so surely safe?

BTW re the 'greasiness' if you put vegetables in, 2 options - cut all the fat off the meat before cooking, or - prepare & cool well ahead of time. Allow to go completely cold & the fat will rise to the top, put in fridge if possible to allow it to solidify, then skim it off. Bring back up to temperature & serve. My mum, & now I, have used this method many times to cook stews from cheap fatty pieces of lamb - end result is a really lean stew with well developed flavour, never had food poisoning. Obviously you need to plan ahead for this one - but that's the point with a slow cooker.

50shadesofbrown Fri 12-Apr-13 07:09:03

Just read x post - try leaving the vegetables out till nearly ready. For a stew that evening: put meat chunks trimmed of all fat, thick sliced onion, carrots & potatoes, any herbs & spices you want to use & some water or stock, tinned tomatoes etc in the pan, enough to cover. You can brown the meat & onion first but I never bother. Set to cook for a few hours. About 1 hour before you want to eat, add any green vegetables, wine if you want. Make sure they have at least 20 mins cooking AFTER it comes back up to simmer.

Turnipvontrapp Fri 12-Apr-13 07:14:11

Have never cooked a joint in mine, only stews. What's the best way to cook a joint in it? Do you have to cover it with liquid completely? Please tell me your secrets smile.

lightrain Fri 12-Apr-13 07:26:08

I just bung everything in together at the beginning of the day. It is cooked for a long time on a simmer so all bugs killed, you don't need to worry about that. Trick is. To add next to no liquid - so if you would normally add water or stock if cooking in oven or stove top, reduce amount by two thirds. Liquid does not boil off in a slow cooker and its when then dish gets watery and sauce very thin that everything starts to taste samey.

tigerlilygrr Fri 12-Apr-13 07:26:33

turnip no liquid, nothing. I read that on MN, thought "these people are crazy" and ignored it. Then my mum said the same and I tried it. Absolutely delicious. Just put your joint in as is and leave, all the fat and juices render off so if you then strain it to get rid of excess fat, and add a little wine to a frying pan with the juices after cooking, you get gravy. So far I have tried leg of lamb (have a big SC but had to saw off the end bit though!) chicken and shoulder of pork. For chicken I transfer my SC ceramic dish to the oven for 1/2 hour to crisp the skin but you don't need to.

To do a joint I usually put the meat on a layer of veg and herbs, no liquid. The veg are only to flavour the gravy and get sieved out. To get round the fattiness I freeze the juices and then use them next time to make gravy (If it's chicken I also make stock with the carcass on the hob afterwards). If I need to use same day juices I either trim the meat so it isn't fatty or lift it out 45 mins before serving, get the juice into a pyrex jug and bung it in the freezer till the fat solidifies.

It does make fabulous gravy very easily.

tigerlilygrr Fri 12-Apr-13 07:42:05

whoknows I got a gravy separator which drains off the fat immediately; it's one of my favourite simple gadgets! It's been well used since I've had my SC.

Great ideas for removing fat, but so much faff grin I do miss good gravy though.

Does anyone know what I should do with the juices from ham in brown sugar? Tried straining off the fat and reducing it to make it thicker but it just tasted like burnt sugar!

tigerlilygrr Fri 12-Apr-13 08:56:52

Nigella has a recipe for blackbeans soup cooked in ham juices (mmmm porky goodness).

Never cooked black beans before! I shall freeze the juices until I get to the supermarket to buy some! Thanks!

AnimatedDad Fri 12-Apr-13 09:08:18

Sounds more like her cooking than the pot making everything taste the same.

Slow cookers do blend the flavours more, together but that's the point isn't it?

I've never heard anyone getting ill from germs in a slow cooker.

Tiger - I have tried finding one of those, I know Lakeland used to do one, but no luck. I will keep looking though.

tigerlilygrr Fri 12-Apr-13 18:45:37

whoknows ta da! link mine is the £3.99 one, does a perfect job.

Doh! Why didn't I think of Amazon? I buy practically everything else there. Thank you.

Ordered! grin.

tigerlilygrr Fri 12-Apr-13 22:23:50

Pleased to be of use!

sashh Sat 13-Apr-13 05:20:54

Have never cooked a joint in mine, only stews. What's the best way to cook a joint in it? Do you have to cover it with liquid completely?

Nope, no liquid at all, just lift the lid, put the meat in, set on high, replace the lid.

Tell your sister to put a shoulder of lamb in her SC, or a half if it is small. She will be converted.

Turnipvontrapp Sat 13-Apr-13 15:06:38

Ah thanks everyone for your replies, would never have thought to put a joint in with no liquid! So next question,can you give me your top tasty joint recipes please? Ta smile

Leg of lamb with little liquid:

2 large onions, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 stick celery, sliced
2 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp sugar
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1 tbsp flour
100mL stock
100mL passata
100mL red wine (simmered for 2-3 mins in a pan first to drive off the alcohol)

3 hours on high then two on low, or 4 on high (approx)

Turnipvontrapp Sat 13-Apr-13 17:18:14


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