This time of year, the crock pot comes out to aid in preparing all the cold weather comfort foods we love this time of year. Here are a few tips to help in choosing a crock pot, some cooking tips, and a recipe or two!
Purcashing and Safety
– When you buy a crockpot, look for one with a removable liner. They are so much easier to clean. If you have one of the older varieties, don’t worry! Now you can buy crockpot liners that make clean up so easy! One other tip: spray your crockpot with cooking spray to make clean up easy!
The liners are very similar to the roasting bags sold for oven roasting chickens and roasts.
– For food safey reasons, it’s a good idea to cook on HIGH for the first hour to quickly bring the temperature of your food up to 140 degreees F(out of the food danger zone). Then turn the dial to LOW and finish cooking.
– I do not recommend putting frozen food into the crockpot. Frozen veggies are fine, but larger cuts of meat are not great. It takes a long time for meats to thaw, and a crock pot heats up slowly, lengthening that food danger zone temperature area(40 degrees F to 140 degrees F, where bacteria can grow the fastest). It is best to start with thawed foods.
– One hour on HIGH equals two hours on LOW.
– Follow layering instructions carefully. Recipes give you these instructions for a reason. The foods your making cook best in a certain order, and sometimes it is vital for meats or vegetables to be on the bottom to make sure they are cooked through.
– DON’T LIFT THE LID!!! No peeking! Each time you lift the lid, you add an extra 25 minutes to 1/2 hour to your cooking time. For an easy way to check the progress, just spin the lid and the condensation falls right off! (I understand this doesn’t work on the newer oval shaped crock-pots, so try simply shaking them back and forth once, and that should do it!)
– Ground meats should be cooked in a skillet before adding to the crockpot. They do not brown in the crockpot.
– Dairy products should be added in the last 30 minutes. They will break down with extended cooking time, just like on the stove top.
– Liquids don’t boil away in the crockpot, so if your making a recipe that wasn’t created for the crocpot, reduce the liquid by 1/3 to 1/2 unless you are cooking rice or making soup.
Here is a favorite of my crockpot recipes! I have posted it before, but it is a keeper!
Slow Cooker Carne Guisada
2 1/2 pounds beef chuck roast or bottom round, cut into 1-inch pieces
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 TBSP vegetable oil
1 medium white onion, diced medium
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and diced medium
1 large jalapeno, seeded, diced small
5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp dried oregano
6 TBSP flour
1 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 can (14oz) diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
Season beeg with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 2 teaspoons oil over high. In two batches, cook beef until browned on all sides, 5 minutes per batch(add 2 teaspoons more oil for second batch). Transfer to a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. In same skillet, cook 2 teaspoons oil, onion, bell pepper, jalapeno and garlic over medium, stirring and scraping up browned bits with wooden , until vegetable are tender, 5 minutes. Add cumin, chilil powder, oregano and flour and cook 1 minute. Slowly pour broth into skillet, stirring until liquid is smooth. Simmer 2 minutes, then transfer mixture to slow cooker, along with toomatoes and bay leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours. Serve on tortillas with cheese, lettuce and any desired toppings. Serves 8.