Crock Pot Tips for 2010

*I get a lot of questions about crock pots and slow cookers. I posted this originally on December 30, 2010. I’m going to share it again since there are so many new fans, followers and subscribers. I hope this helps to answer some of your questions and solve some of your problems.* ~ Ginger ~

Here we are at the end of 2010. Where did the time go? As we approach 2011 and start a whole new round of recipes I wanted to share some crock pot tips with y’all. Some of them I’ve known for a while, and some I had to learn the hard way. My hope in sharing these is that you don’t have to make some of the same mistakes that I did while learning to use your crock pot and in return it will encourage you to use it more in 2011.   -Tip #1- Anything you can bake in the oven you can make in the crock pot. You may not want to do it directly in the crock pots crockery, but if you can fit a loaf pan, ramekins, pie plate or muffin tin in your crock pot, you can make the same dish you were going to make in the oven in your crock pot.   -Tip #2- If you want to make caramel dip out of canned sweetened condensed milk, but the label on the can says not to cook in the can, don’t worry….. you can use a mason (otherwise known as a canning) jar. The pint size canning jars come in handy when wanting to make stuff in the crock pot because they can withstand the heat, fit in pretty much any size crock pot and the wide mouth jars make it easy for brownies, cakes and pies to slide out of (just sayin’).   -Tip #3- You can cook multiple things at the same time in your crock pot. This is where aluminum foil and parchment paper comes in handy. If you’re cooking meat and want to do the veggie right along with it simply wrap the potatoes, corn, onions, parsinps, etc. in foil or parchment and place it underneat the meat (I do this most often when I’m making a whole rotisserie style chicken in the crock pot). When I’m making soups or stews I will wrap biscuits, rolls or bread in aluminum foil and lay it on top to be warming the last hour of cooking. I love the whole multi-tasking aspect of a crock pot.   -Tip #4- When making candy (or melting chocolate period) in the crock pot, use a paper towel under the lid to catch the condensation. Water is the enemy when working with melted chocolates so the paper towel (secured by the crock pot lid) will absorb any condensation that might have otherwise went into the chocolate and caused it to seize or clump.   -Tip #5- Always soak dry beans before cooking them in the crock pot. If you opt out of this step you will probably never want to cook beans in the crock pot again. For some reason the beans will never cook correctly and soften if you skip soaking them. I ALWAYS soak my beans overnight before cooking them in the crock pot. If you don’t have time for that (or plain old forgot to do it) you can boil the beans for 15 -20 minutes on the stove top before adding them to the crock pot.    -Tip #6- Never store the crock pot lid snuggly fitted on top of the crock pot. This is where funky smells come from. It is best to place the lid down in the crockery or store the crock pot and lid completely seperate. Everything is better when it can breathe! Remember that.   -Tip #7-  Know if your crock pot runs hot before trying a new recipe in it. This is easy to figure out. A lot of the newer crock pots and slow cookers run hotter than the older ones. If you fill both of your crock pots (the old and the new one) 2/3 – 3/4 of the way full of water and turn them to high for 3 – 4 hours you can stick a candy or meat thermometer in the water and check the temperatures. If the new crock pot has produced hotter water then you know it runs hot. Don’t discount the new crock pot if it runs hot, there are still things you can use it for. I make sure that I only cook soups or stews in the hotter running crock pot (the soups and stews are more forgiving if the temperature is a little hotter). If I choose to make something WITHOUT dairy in the hot running crock pot I will leave the lid slightly ajar…. this lets the extra heat escape and cuts down on the chances of burning my food.    I hope these tips help you out and truly encourage you to use your crock pot more often. Crock pot cooking is fast, fun and frugal. Take advantage of the world’s most famous counter top appliance by trying something new in it today.   Happy New Year!

This post shared at Around My Family Table.