You probably have a crock pot. You probably even use it several times a year, often in winter when its ability to offer a hot soup or stew at the end of a freezing day is unmatched by anything else in your kitchen. If you are the busy mother of sons, though, you may not be taking full advantage of all your crock pot has to offer. It is probably the most forgiving appliance in your kitchen. In fact, once you know the few rules about what not to do with your crock pot, youíll realize that you can do just about anything with it! Once you get used to using your crock pot regularly, very rarely will you find yourself stopping for fast food on the way home because you know that by the time you get home and make dinner, it will be too late for your family to eat.
1. You canít make dry foods in your crock pot (there are a few exceptions to this rule, such as granolas, but, in general, it is a good rule to observe).
2. With some recipes, you wonít add all of your ingredients at once. Ingredients that are typically added later in the process include peanut butter, cornstarch, rice, pasta, and others. When you read your recipe, make sure to pay attention to any mention of adding ingredients to the crock pot later in the process. If you plan to be gone all day, it might be better to choose a recipe that has you add all of your ingredients at once.
3. Donít use super lean cuts of meat in the crock pot. Save your beautiful pork loin for the over; choose a picnic roast or a butt roast for the crock pot. That fat will melt right off of the meat and you will end up with the moistest meat you could ever imagine. If you have a choice between chicken breasts and thighs, thighs are usually best. If slow cooked too long, chicken breasts will dry out and become stringy. Hereís a trick, though: put chicken breasts in the crock pot frozen. Youíll increase the time they take to cook and delay that drying out process. If you ever have doubts about the doneness of your chicken, use a meat thermometer to verify its doneness.
4. Donít use too much liquid. If you follow a recipe correctly, there will come a time when you look at your crock pot and think that it canít possibly hold enough liquid to cook your food! It does! If you put in too much liquid, one of two things will happen. Either your food wonít cook all the way, or it will taste completely bland. Trust your recipe. The crock pot will do its work with very little liquid.
Once you get used to using your crock pot regularly, youíll wonder how you ever did without it!