Thursday, May 27, 2010

slowly does it

Do you have a slow cooker? No, well, they're on sale at Audi for a ridonculously low price, it's okay I'll wait...

Got one? Excellent, prepare to have your best winter ever.

I succumbed to the slow cooker craze a few winters ago and have managed, through a lot of trial and error to learn to love this little critter. They take a bit of getting used to, but once you're used to them, beware, they'll make your life so much better you'll become addicted.

Now, firstly:

• You don't need to brown your onions, but you should. Quickly frying your onions in a little oil adds flavour to the dish, and some slow cooker dishes can lack flavour. So bang as much in as much flavour as you can I reckon. After frying off, consider browning your meat. Again, not necessary, but what's a few minutes preparation? If you're pressed for time in the morning, do this step the night before and then refrigerate. In the morning just toss everything in and go about your day.

• Deglaze your pan. Seriously, who would waste those delicious bits? After browning, throw in a little wine or stock {even water} stir all the sticky bits off the bottom and add this to your water.

• Cover your final dish with a layer of baking paper before adding the lid. This keeps the steam nice and close to your dish and stops your meat from drying out. Essential. Always do this.

• Slow cookers don't reduce sauces like oven-baked dishes do. Use less liquid, or toss your meat in flour and cook off for two minutes before adding. Another way to reduce is to remove the lid and turn up to high for 30 minutes before stirring. Sometimes I'll add a little cornflour paste if I'm so inclined.

• Season well. Adding bags of flavour is always a good idea. Meat will be lovely and tender, but I don't know if it's because it's cooked in crockery or what the story is, but sometimes stews cooked in the slow cooker can lack flavour - so always add extra.

• Brown roasts first. My fave slow cooker dish is a leg of lamb, bone in, studded with garlic and anchovies. I'll brown it first {on the bbq if it's too big for a frypan} and then place it in the slowcooker on a bed of very chunky potatoes, sweet potato and onions. Then I'll pour over 1/2 cup of white wine and cook it on low for 8 hours. Just before serving I'll gently remove the vegies {they'll be soft and smooshy} and pop them in a very hot oven for 15 minutes to brown. While this is happening the meat is resting and I'll make a gravy with the juices by adding a little stock, turning it to high and stirring. Mmmmmm.

• Choose cooking on low over high for best results.

• Stay home for your first few efforts - just to see how quickly your slow cooker works. Some of them are faster than others so 7 hours on low will cook a dish to perfection, but 8 hours is too long. Experiment and don't be afraid. Go with flavours and ingredients you love and use it for what it's good for. On a cold, dark wednesday when I get home from netball training at 5.30 I love being greeted by a steaming hot meal that only needs rice or potatoes to complete.



  1. Bummer that eight hours is too long! I was hoping you could bung it on in the morning then have your meal when you got home from work. Guess that would be more like nine hours for me...

  2. Good tips.

    Mum just got one, and I'm sure I'll be next!

  3. This here is why I LOVE you PPMJ! Thank you. Expect a call mid prep though as I am certain I will get ALL confused...

  4. Love my slow cooker to bits especially for lamb shanks. Thanks for the tip about the baking paper..didn't know that.

  5. No, Nicola - it might be! Also, you could buy a timer and have it come on at say, 10am then it'd be ready when you got home.

    Belinda - you've got to.

    Beth, you're welcome - and feel free to call, tweet, text etc xx

  6. I've had a slow cooker for 4 years but I'm too chicken to use it! Do you have any recipe book suggestions? I need explicit instructions!

  7. thanks for these tips, I've always wondered if I'm using mine effectively. I just chuck everything in and it comes out very nice, but I think it could be better.


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