Monday, February 27, 2017

6 Crock-Pot Secrets

I am a busy Mama with a career that allows me to choose where I work. Home is my first choice . . . but that doesn't mean I have extra time for elaborate home cooked meals. I like simple but delicious home cooked meals for my family. That is why I love my crock pot. Here are six sumptuous secrets that I have learned about crock pot cooking.  Bon App├ętit!

1. Use fattier meat
Lean meat cooked for a long time-no matter what the temperature-gets tough and stringy. Big hunks of fatty meat like short ribs and pork shoulder work best in a crock pot. The fat will keep the meat moist, and the slow cooking breaks down the connective tissue that makes those types of cuts tough. So with a slow cooker, fatty meat = good. You can always chill and lift the fat off later.

2. Always brown beef on the stove first
Everyone wants a crock-pot recipe where you just toss everything in the pot, then magically have an amazing dinner eight hours later. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. Do not throw beef in raw. Always brown your meat on the stove first- it adds a layer of caramelized flavor you can’t get otherwise.

3. Add ingredients with low notes or sweetness
A low note is a flavor that adds a depth and richness to a dish-like bacon, browned onions, black pepper, and Worcestershire sauce-and they’re integral to any good crock-pot recipe. As are sweet ingredients like brown sugar and tomato paste. Because most flavors break down and become one, those types of strong flavors make a great base for a sauce.

4. Add bright notes, crunchy vegetables, and dairy at the very end
Bright notes are fresh flavors like acid and herbs. They’ll get lost in the mix (and your herbs will turn brown and limp, ew), so it’s better to add those ingredients last. If you want some kind of crunchy vegetable in your dish, it’s also best to add it toward the end to avoid mushy veggies. And dairy? It will curdle, which looks terrible. Stir in any dairy at the very last moment.

5. Take that skin off of the chicken
Do you like rubbery, chewy, gelatinous chicken skin? Then take it off before throwing your bird into the crock pot. Do leave in the bones, though-they’ll help the meat stay tender. And chicken is the magic meat that doesn’t need browning before going into the pot, mostly because it would be cooked too much after a long stint in the slow cooker.

6. Cook things that do not need to hold structure
Macaroni and cheese? Lasagna? Sure, there are slow-cooker recipes for them out there, but you definitely shouldn’t attempt to make them. More often than not, pasta (and other things that should hold their shape) becomes a mushy mess. Just don’t do it.  If you really want a delicious and easy crock pot meal, make something like chili, stew, or soup instead.

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