- Most crockpot recipes don't need to be stirred during cooking, especially if cooked on low heat. When you lift the lid, the crockpot loses so much heat that the cooking time should be increased by 20 minutes each time.
- Use whole leaf herbs and spices instead of ground for better flavor. Some spices, especially pepper, can become bitter over a long cooking time. Add those in the last hour of cooking for best flavor.
- Some of the newer crockpots seem to cook at a hotter temperature, probably because manufacturers are concerned about food safety. You can check the temperature of your crockpot this way:
- Place 2 quarts of water in your crockpot
- Cover and heat on low for 8 hours
- Lift the lid and immediately check the water temperature with an accurate thermometer
- The temperature of the water should be 185 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature is higher foods may overcook and you should reduce the overall cooking time. If the temperature is lower your foods will probably not reach a safe temperature quickly enough, and the crockpot should be discarded.
- Pasta and rice can be cooked in the crockpot. Pasta needs lots of liquid to cook properly, and should be added during the last hour of cooking time, depending on the consistency of doneness you prefer. Rice can be more difficult to cook. I prefer using brown or wild rice for better results. Make sure you have enough liquid in the recipe so the rice becomes tender.
- You can make cakes and desserts in the crockpot! Use a small round rack or vegetable steamer to lift the cake pan off the bottom of the crockpot so heat circulates evenly around the pan. You do need a larger crockpot for 'baking' cakes and other desserts. A 5 quart slow cooker will hold an 8" or 9" cake pan or springform pan. You may need to increase cooking times if you live at a high altitude, usually by 40-50%.
Cleaning the Crockpot
- Fill the appliance with hot soapy water when the cooker has cooled. Let soak for 15-20 minutes, then scrub with a cloth, nylon net pad or a plastic sponge. Do not use a harsh abrasive cleaner, SOS pad or metal pad. Rinse well in hot water and dry.
- To remove mineral stains, fill crockpot 3/4 full with hot water and 1 cup white vinegar. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours. Then let the crockpot cool and soak and clean as directed above.
- To remove water marks from glazed crockery, rub the surface with vegetable oil and let stand for 2-3 hours. Then fill with hot soapy water, rub the surface, and scrub with a nylon net pad. Rinse and dry well.
- Many people cook frozen foods in the crockpot. And others like to reheat foods in the crockpot. Most food experts do not recommend these practices, as foods need to reach a temperature of 140 degrees within 1-1/2 hours to prevent bacteria growth.
- Even if the foods do eventually reach a safe temperature and cook thoroughly, bacteria in the food can produce toxins that aren't destroyed by heat and that can make you sick.
- Many people have experienced food poisoning and don't even know it. They may have some digestive discomfort or feel ill for a day or two and then recover. Unfortunately, a person in a high risk group (elderly, persons with compromised immune systems, small children, and pregnant women) can suffer serious consequences from food poisoning.
- More than 5,000 people die each year in the U.S. as a result of food poisoning. If you decide to cook frozen foods or reheat foods in the crockpot, do so at your own risk.
- One thing you can do is to warm the liquid used in the recipe and add it along with the frozen foods, to help raise the temperature more quickly.
- Taking a calculated risk may be acceptable to you as long as you know the consequences AND as long as no member of your family is in a high risk group.
Learning to safely use your crockpot will help maintain your family's health. And once you become an expert at using this appliance, the time you spend in the kitchen will be greatly reduced.