Kikkoman's slow cooker school!
Slow cookers are a great kitchen gadget. They are cheap to run, easy to use and result in nutritious food packed full of vitamins as the food is slowly stewed in its own juices. You simply prepare all your ingredients in the morning and then allow it to slowly cook over the day so it is ready for you in the evening. Hardly any washing up too!
- Keep the lid closed during the cooking process. Every time you remove the lid the heat loss will result in extending the cooking time by an additional 20 to 30 minutes. Just stir everything at the beginning and the end.
- Choose the right cut: Cheap cuts of meat such as pork and lamb shoulder, chicken thighs, braising steak and lamb shanks become really tender with slow cooking. Leaner cuts like pork tenderloin and chicken breast tend to dry out.
- Very little oil is needed, if any. Remove the fat from meat and ideally chicken skin too as slow cooking can result in a greasy sauce.
- Lots of people brown the meat and onions first to add extra flavour, but since this is meant to be hassle-free one-pot cooking, this stage can actually be omitted. The slow cooking itself will provide a rich and full flavour because the food is sealed in and flavour is not lost though evaporation.
- If using frozen meat or vegetables, make sure they are fully thawed before turning the cooker on. For best results the ingredients should be room temperature before placing in the slow cooker.
- For even cooking, cut food into uniform-size pieces. Smaller chunks work best. Place firm root vegetables like potatoes, parsnips and carrots at the bottom and pile the meat on top.
- Avoid overcrowding - only fill a slow cooker between one-half and two-thirds full. The lid should fit tightly on top.
- Slow cooking requires some kind of liquid, otherwise the food will dry out. But if you are following a regular recipe, halve the amount of liquid specified – slow cooking does not evaporate liquid away as it would in the oven or on a hob.
- Add dairy at the end: Milk, cream and yogurt tend to curdle in the slow cooker, so stir them in during the last 15 minutes of cooking.
- You don’t need to add much wine. The alcohol doesn’t burn off due to the low temperature and no evaporation process. A little goes a long way.
- You can choose whether to cook at a high or low temperature depending on how quickly you want it to be ready. Cooking on high is roughly double the speed of cooking on low.
- Dried herbs work better than fresh herbs as they release their flavour over a long time.
- Don’t put cold water into straight into a hot slow cooker after use as it might crack. Leave it to cool down first.
- These are general tips, but always follow the cooking guidelines in your slow cooker manual.
Check out our fab slow cooker recipes by top food blogger Lucy Parissi: