I posted these tips and tricks to crock pot use in my group "Kiss the Chef" and another member asked me to post this in recipe form so she could use it as a reference. I hope everyone else can get some good tips and tricks too.
1Only fill the crock pot one half to three quarters full. The foods will not cook properly if the appliance is filled to the brim. Foods cooked on the bottom of the slow cooker cook faster and will be moister because they are immersed in the simmering liquid.
2Here's an easy tip to check progress without lifting the lid. Spin the cover until the condensation falls off. Then it's easy to see inside.
3Remove skin from poultry, and trim excess fat from meats. You can thicken the juices and concentrate flavors by removing the lid and cooking on HIGH for the last half hour of cooking time. For food safety reasons, it's a good idea to cook on HIGH for the first hour to quickly bring the temperature up to 140 degrees. Then turn the dial to LOW and finish cooking. One hour on HIGH is equal to two hours on LOW. Cayenne pepper and Tabasco sauce tend to become bitter if cooked for long periods of time. Use small amounts and add toward the end of the cooking time.
4Add tender vegetables like tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini during the last 45 minutes of cooking time so they don't overcook.
5Dairy products should be added during the last 30 minutes of cooking time, unless the recipes states otherwise.
6Remove cooked food from the crock pot or liner before storage. Because the liner is made of such thick material, the food won't cool down quickly enough to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
7Stir in spices for the last hour of cooking. They will lose flavor if cooked with the rest of the ingredients for the long cooking period.
8Follow the layering instructions carefully. Vegetables do not cook as quickly as meat, so they should be placed in the bottom of the appliance. Don't lift the lid to stir, especially if you are cooking on the low setting. Each time you lift the lid, enough heat will escape that the cooking time should be extended by 20 minutes to half an hour.
9Crock pot Conversion Chart:
If original recipe calls for 1/4 to 1/2 hr,
cook on low for 4 to 8 hours or
cook on high for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours
If original recipe calls for 1/2 to 1 hr,
cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours
If original recipe calls for 1 to 3 hrs.,
cook on low for 8 to 16 hrs. or cook on high for 4 to 6
Low is 180 to 200 degrees
High is around 300 degrees
The cooking times sure aren't very specific, but only a
guideline given by the Culinary Arts Institute.
10Yes, you can definitely convert most recipes to crock pot use. The general rules of thumb are:
*Decrease liquid - liquid does not boil off in a crock pot
*Don't add cheese, or other milk products until the end of cooking, they tend to break down during long cooking times. Some recipes call for cooking with cheese the entire time, (i.e..: breakfast casseroles) without any problems being reported on this list that I know of. You can also substitute cream of whatever soups - you can make your own vegetarian version if interested - for milk products.
*Don't add rice, or noodles until the end of cooking - they will turn into mush by the end of the cooking time. Allow around 20-30 minutes on high to cook. Alternately, you can cook those items separately and stir in just before serving or serve the main dish over it.
Add less spices or wait until the end of cooking time.
*You can thicken your soup or gravy by adding a milk or water & flour mixture at the end of the time, or take off the lid and allow some liquid to boil off.