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Slow Cookers: Destroyers of Food or Delightful Convenience?

Aug 17, 2007
I admit I adore my slow cooker. It allows me to get a start on dinner at whatever time I feel like it. That's a wonderful thing.

However, many other people really don't feel that way about their slow cookers. The flavors of the food don't always come out as you'd expect when you slow cook, and meats can turn out terribly dry.

Fortunately, with practice you can get around those problems and keep them from ruining otherwise perfectly good meals. And if you get some recipes that are planned for slow cookers, you can find some that are utterly wonderful.

Dry meat generally means there wasn't enough moisture in the cooker for the size of the cooker combined with the cooking time. You do not, however, need to cover your meats in liquid to keep them from drying out. That tactic simply produces too much liquid.

Instead, you need to make sure that you're not using an excessively large slow cooker for the way you tend to use it. A large crockpot is wonderful when you want to make food for a lot of people, but other times it flat out has too much space, and that can impact the quality of your results.

Remember, a slow cooker keeps just about all the liquid in your foods in the cooker itself. A bit of it will escape as steam, but most will remain, and so if you're using your crockpot correctly your meats will remain adequately moist.

Blandness, of course, comes from insufficient flavoring. The long cook times can remove a lot of flavor, and you need to use enough to maintain them. If you find slow cooked foods bland, try using more spices or even adding some later in the cooking. It can make a big difference.

Vegetables can easily get overcooked in a crockpot, however. If you like your vegetables a little bit crunchy, try to plan to add them later in the cooking, rather than at the start. I often add them when there's just 30-45 minutes left to go. This allows them to cook to my taste without becoming overcooked and mushy.

With summer approaching, I love to slow cook on hot days. It's just wonderful not adding an oven's heat to the house when I don't have to.

Just about any family can learn to enjoy the benefits of a slow cooker, once they learn how to use it to produce delicious meals. It's really nice to be able to start dinner in the morning and come home to it finished. It can help you to feel the need to eat out less often, as well as make it easier to include fresh vegetables and other healthy ingredients.
About the Author
Stephanie Foster shares advice about cooking at http://www.makehealthymeals.com/ as well as sharing recipes. You may also enjoy some of her crockpot recipes.
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