Chili. It's the first thing everyone thinks of when they see a slow cooker. For some that's a good thing, but for others, the idea of crock pot cooking conjures up images of perfectly good ingredients that are consigned to their mutual doom in a low-temp dungeon. Just like cooking with any other vessel, if you do it right, it's a thing of beauty. If you do it wrong, just make sure you don't do it wrong in front of your family or you'll never hear the end of it. We've got a few helpful tips to give you a strong start for making more than just chili.
By their nature, slow cookers are the ideal way to prepare cheaper cuts of meat that would normally be unpleasantly tough when prepared any other way. Feel free to shop down a little and save some money for your next slow-cooking experiment.
Resist the urge to open the lid, even if you just want to see how everything's going, as that's the easiest way to let heat escape. Lifting the lid just once might add up to 30 minutes to the cooking time.
Have you considered the possibility of using your slow cooker for desserts? Are you averse to the idea of having a huge pot of warm peach cobbler in your home? And that's before we start talking about cheesecake, bread pudding, or fondue. Stop daydreaming about desserts - we've still got more helpful tips left!
Remember how you're not going to take off the lid? The lid helps keep all the moisture in, so be sure to only add as much liquid as called for in your recipe. The lid will keep it from escaping during the cooking process.
Most slow cookers have ceramic or non-stick coatings, so clean-up isn't much of an issue. If you're still worried about cleaning, however, a bit of non-stick spray inside your slow cooker before you get started can make things easier at the end. Just think of it as one enormous muffin tin that's full of soup.
Now that you've got a black belt in slow-cooking, let's talk about safety. Don't leave the finished product in the slow cooker for too long, and certainly don't use your slow cooker for reheating foods. While your slow cooker is cooling down or heating up, it won't achieve the temperature necessary to kill bacteria. Once the slow-cooking process is over, get your delicious concoction cooled in the fridge or reheat it on the stove or in a microwave. This will help keep bacteria from growing and keep you safe from sour tummy.