Slow Cooker Guide
Winter is a great time to use your slow cooker as they are the perfect, quick and easy way to make wholesome warming stews and soups. With lifestyles getting busier it is great to be able to throw some ingredients into the slow cooker before you leave for the day, knowing a meal will be ready when you walk through the door in the evening.
Our quick guide will tell you everything you need to know about this must-have piece of kitchen equipment.
What Is A slow Cooker?
A slow cooker is an electrical appliance that consists of a base containing a heating element, a stoneware pot to hold the ingredient of choice and a glass lid to keep the heat and moisture inside the cooker.
Heat is distributed by the heating element, through the stoneware to cook the ingredients inside the pot.
Most slow cookers have a low, high and warm setting. Temperatures vary between manufacturers but typically range between 175°F to 215°F. The low setting is ideal for cooking tougher cuts of meat over a longer period, making them tender and moist. The high setting will cook food in a shorter period of time. The warm setting is perfect for keeping your recipe warm until you are ready to eat. This is also a handy setting for parties where your guests can help themselves to a warm dish at their leisure.
Slow Cooking Tips & Tricks
Ensure the correct heat setting is selected for your recipe. As a general rule, the high setting will cook your food in half the time as the low setting.
Harder root vegetables should be placed in the bottom of the slow cooker with meats, herbs and spices towards the top. This will ensure your ingredients will cook evenly throughout the cooking process and be ready at the same time.
Ensure the cooker is filled at least halfway for best results but do not fill over 2/3 full.
Do not be tempted to open the lid. A secure lid helps keep in heat and moisture allowing the recipe to cook evenly. Opening the lid can slow down the cooking process.
Tougher cuts of meat such as braising steak, shanks and brisket can be transformed with the low slow cooking process. For larger cuts simply cut in half to allow for even cooking inside the pot. Browning your meat prior to placing into the pot will add a caramelized flavour to your dish.
Slow cookers use far less electricity than the household cooker. As the slow cooking process is ideal for cheaper cuts of meat, dried beans, lentils and pulses most meals are low cost.
The main benefit of a slow cooker is convenience, typical prep time for most recipes is between 10-15 minutes with very little cleaning required.
Nothing beats walking into your home after a long day and smelling the sweet smells of dinner coming from the slow cooker. If you're looking for some great ways to use your slow cooker this winter, then you'll want to see these five crockpot recipes.
Winter-Warming Slow Cooker Recipes
Slow Cooker Chicken and Rice
A good, warm, hearty dish for winter that's easily prepared in the slow cooker. With five basic ingredients, you can have a hearty, delicious dish for dinner - all prepared in one pot.
4 boneless skinless chicken breast
4 cans cream of chicken soup
2 cups of rice
Pour two cans of cream of chicken soup in the bottom of the slow cooker. Add the chicken breast on top. Ensure the chicken breasts are separated. Pour the rest of the cream of chicken soup over the chicken, coating evenly. Pour in the rice then add about 2 or 3 cans of water using the empty soup cans. Stir a little then add in the frozen broccoli. Put the lid on the slow cooker and set it to low for 4 hours. Break up the chicken in the pot, mix and serve.
Slow Cooker Beef Stew
Nothing tastes better during the winter months than a warming beef stew. And since stews are better the longer they marinate in their flavours, using the slow cooker is the perfect way to make beef stew. Here's our take on this tasty dish.
900g diced beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 onion, chopped
3 potatoes, cubed
4 carrots, sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped
Place the meat in the slow cooker. Mix the flour, salt, and black pepper in a separate bowl and pour it over the meat in the crockpot. Mix it up with the meat to coat the meat in this flour mixture. Stir in garlic, bay leaf, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, onion, potatoes, carrots, and celery.
Cover and cook on low for 10ñ12 hours or high for 4ñ6 hours.
Crockpot Ranch Chicken
Chicken cooked in ranch dressing! You couldn't ask for anything better. Try doing this in your crockpot.
4 boneless skinless chicken breast
2 packages ranch dressing mix
450ml bottle ranch dressing
½ cup milk
Split the chicken breast and sprinkle with ranch dressing. Season both sides of the chicken.
Pour some ranch dressing into the bottom of the crockpot. Place your seasoned chicken breast into the crockpot. Add ranch dressing until the chicken is completely covered. Mix about 1/2 cup of milk into the ranch dressing bottle and pour over the chicken. Sprinkle any remaining ranch dressing mix over the top. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.
For sides, make some egg noodles and a vegetable.
Crockpot Chicken Noodle Soup
Nothing makes you feel better when you're feeling under the weather than chicken noodle soup. This recipe is ideal for freezing and can be defrosted and reheated for a quick tasty meal.
4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
6 cups of water
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
340g package frozen egg noodles
Place all of the ingredients but the egg noodles into the crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
When chicken is tender, remove from the crockpot and shred. Set aside in a dish to keep warm. Turn slow cooker up to high and add the egg noodles. Cook until noodles are soft and add the chicken back to the broth. Add more seasoning as needed.
These are some classic winter dishes you can enjoy in your slow cooker. What are your favourite dishes to make in the crockpot in the winter?