Friday, August 22, 2008
I've gotten quite a few emails lately asking what to do about a hot crock, or a slow cooker that cooks too quickly, and burns or dries out food.
ick. I hate that.
First off, I'm sorry. So sorry.
There is nothing more defeating than thinking you have dinner all ready to go and come home to a gross dried-out or charred mess. I'm really sorry.
But, hopefully this will help, just a bit.
1) Make sure you are using the right size cooker. A slow cooker needs to be quite full in order to heat evenly and cook properly. I have used pretty much all of the different types of cookers on the market, and have now collected quite a few (as of 5/2013: I have 14 in the house!!).
I realize that storage space is at a premium, but consider getting a smaller slow cooker if you find that you aren't filling your crock at LEAST 2/3 of the way full each time you use it.
This goes against the bigger-is-better American mentality. I know. I'm sorry.
2) Start easy. Don't try out a pasta dish or a rice dish, or bleu cheese and steak roll-ups for one of your first crockpot cooking adventures. The reason they come with a little book full of stews and soups is because they are easy and somewhat fool-proof.
cream cheese chicken
sausage and vegetables
3) Cook for the shortest and lowest cooking time if you are going to be out of the house.
I know, it doesn't make sense.
If you are going to be out of the house for 10 hours, and the cooking time says 6-8 hours, don't set it for 10. Set it for 6, and then let it stay on warm for the rest of the time you're going to be out of the house. Worst case, the meal isn't quite done and you flip it to high while you change your clothes and set the table.
The cooking time is a range. You have to get a feel of your slow cooker (which is why you should start with the easy ones, first) and figure out due to your altitude, humidity, etc. how long things will take.
You will get a feel, I promise. I'm a complete dunder-head when it comes to cooking, yet I can slow cook. You can, too. I promise.
4) But my slow cooker doesn't switch to warm! If you don't have one of the newer "smart" pots, and you plan on being out of the house for a long period of time, you should really invest in one.
These are the slow cookers I happen to use in my own home, and I've heard from readers that they have been able to score them for *quite* cheap at garage sales or on Craigslist.
5) I think my slow cooker releases too much moisture. Okay. Some of the newer slow cookers have a slot in the stoneware for a spoon to rest, or there is a vent hole in the glass lid. I have no idea why the manufacturers have put those things in. They certainly didn't ask me my opinion! When you release steam through these holes or slots, your food dries out.
You can remedy this by putting down a layer of foil over the stoneware, and then put the lid on like normal. PLEASE BE CAREFUL!!! when taking off the foil---the steam will shoot right out.
6) I want to make something small but only have a geat-big-huge cooker. That's okay. All you need to do is simply insert an oven-safe dish into your cooker and then put your food into the dish. This will create a smaller cooking vessel which will insulate your food and keep it from getting over-cooked or lost in a huge machine. I use corningware or pyrex, but metal pans are fine, too. Here are my recommendations.
7) I've done all that and it's still way too hot and it's making my countertop hot, and I think there's something wrong with it. Don't use it. Call the manufacturer. Talk to the experts who actually made the product. I'm a mom who drinks too much coffee and wears slippers all day. I can't fix it. I wish I could. I'm sorry.
If you have a hard time getting through to a particular manufacturer, please email me. I now have contact information for the different customer service channels and will try my hardest to connect you to the correct person who can be of service.
I hope this helps! xoxo steph
Alphabetical Listing of Recipes
Save Money by Using Your Slow Cooker
Frequently Asked Crock-Pot Questions
An Important Note About Safety
My New Year's Resolution
Slow Cooker Troubleshooting