A slow cooker is a handy countertop appliance with a removable, often ceramic, dish and lid. Once the cooker is switched on, it gently heats ingredients inside and can be left on for long periods of time, anywhere between two to 12 hours on average. They also use less electricity than a conventional oven.
One of the best things about a slow cooker is how easy it is to use. All you need to do is pop all of your ingredients in, put on the lid, set the temperature, and leave it to get to work. Most have only two heat settings – low or high – and some may have a ‘keep warm’ function too.
If you’re using a favourite recipe and converting it for your slow cooker, cut the liquid content by a third. The tight lid of the cooker means all the moisture stays inside so less water is needed.
The bottom of your slow cooker is the hottest part, so that’s where to place tough cuts of meat or root vegetables. More delicate ingredients can be placed on top.
If you’re cooking a cut of meat or vegetables that taste good with a sear, you can brown them beforehand in a frying pan or cast-iron pan. It does change the flavour, but it isn’t necessary.
For your slow cooker to work at its best, be sure to aim for somewhere between a half and three quarters full. If it’s over or underfilled, your food may not cook as evenly as it could.
When you need your slow cooker dish to be ready for the plate a little faster, you can generally halve the recipe time by turning the heat from low to high. It can impact the flavour a little but is very handy when you’re in a hurry.
It can be tempting to lift the lid and take a look at your dish but every time you do, you’ll let out the heat. It takes slow cookers a long time to get up to temperature, so leave the lid alone.
There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re using a slow cooker to ensure everything is cooked safely.
If you’re prepping ingredients ahead of time, don’t be tempted to refrigerate them in the slow cooker’s own dish. The dish will take too long to heat up in your cooker.
The low and slow style of cooking means it is better to wait until a meat has been thawed before popping it in your slow cooker.
Once your food is cooked, it’s recommended to make sure it’s refrigerated or frozen within two hours.