Common Crockpot Mistakes Everybody Makes

food, common crockpot mistakes everybody makes

“Checking” the food too often

Resist the urge to peek: Every time you lift the lid on your slow cooker, you let steam and heat escape. It takes a long time for this heat to build up, so impatiently peeking at your dish is actually going to cause it to take even longer. Only lift the lid when you need to add ingredients at the end of the process (like herbs), and make it quick!

food, common crockpot mistakes everybody makes

Treating meat incorrectly

Choose your meat wisely: Slow cookers are best for cheaper, tougher cuts of meat (flank, chuck) as the low, slow heat breaks down tough connective tissue and gives you the melt-in-the mouth texture.  In addition, fattier cuts prevent the meat from drying out. Save the high quality cuts for the grill.

Sear meat before you put it in: You can put meat into the cooker raw, but you’ll miss out on a lot of depth of flavor by doing so (with the notably exception of chicken). Some slow cookers allow you to sear the meat without changing pans, so there is really no excuse.

Position it carefully:  Meat that is placed on top of a pile of ingredients, far from the liquid, will dry out much faster than meat that is submerged and integrated into the broth.

food, common crockpot mistakes everybody makes

Stewing the herbs

Hold off on the herbs: Fresh herbs added at the beginning of the cooking process will have lost practically all of their flavor and aroma by the end. Put them aside, and only add in the last half an hour of cooking to maximize their impact.

food, common crockpot mistakes everybody makes

Curdling the diary products

Don’t add dairy too soon: Unless you want it to curdle, that is. Like herbs, most dairy products perform better when they are added near the end of the cooking process.

food, common crockpot mistakes everybody makes

Leaving the skin on

Cook chicken without the skin: Instead of becoming crisp and delicious, chicken skin cooked in the slow cooker becomes rubbery and gooey. If you are cooking chicken in a stew, it’s best to remove the skin altogether. If, however, you are cooking chicken (and other poultry) whole, you can achieve the delicious crispy skin by putting it under the grill for about 10 minutes before serving.

food, common crockpot mistakes everybody makes

Using too much alcohol

Go easy on the alcohol: When you use wine in cooking, the alcohol itself usually cooks off, and the volume reduces through evaporation. This doesn’t happen when using a slow cooker, so you should always reduce the amount of alcohol used in recipes that aren’t already optimized for slow cookers.

food, common crockpot mistakes everybody makes

Not distributing the ingredients properly

Distribute your layers carefully: The bottom of the crock pot is the hottest part, so things that take a long time to cook (like carrots and parsnip) should always form the base. Another way to ensure that everything cooks evenly is to cut ingredients in even sizes.

food, common crockpot mistakes everybody makes

Reheating food

Don’t reheat food in the crock pot: Slow cookers are perfect for creating healthy, easy and stress-free meals, but are totally unsuitable for reheating leftovers. Doing so will place your food in the “danger zone” of 40°F – 140°F (4°C – 60°C) for a long period of time, increasing the risk of bacteria growth and possible food poisoning. Use the stove top or microwave to reheat your leftovers instead. On the other hand, once the leftovers are properly heated, they can be kept warm for an hour or two in a pre-heated slow cooker.

Hungry for more? Here are 101 crockpot recipes for every occasion.

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