Cooking is great! As you grown into your own as the primary chef of your home and life, you’ll want to explore more and better ways to cook. Now that this curiosity has lead you to slow cooking, you have to wonder if there are any important newbie mistakes that could ruin the whole thing. Slow-cooked meals are supposed to be a thing of beauty, so how can you hit that note from the beginning and skip bland or underwhelming meals from the start? As always, Monkey Pickles has you covered with a few simple do’s and don’ts. Some lessons from traditional cooking will cross over (like always use heat to do the cooking), but others might feel counter-intuitive. That said, here is what you need to know.
DO Unwrap Food Before Throwing it In
One of the great advantages of slow cooking is that it opens up a whole new range of foods to your diet. Unfortunately, slow cookers aren’t advanced enough yet to tell food from packaging. You’d be surprised how easily a layer of plastic lining can ruin an otherwise perfect pot roast. For the more advanced slow cookers, this extends beyond common packaging. Produce sticker labels are also best removed before cooking, and in most cases you even want to avoid a foil wrap. It turns out, those innovative crock pots really change a lot of the rules. So, even though you might prefer to bake or grill unwrapped foods, when you use the slow cooker, you want the raw ingredients only. As wasteful as it might feel, the packaging and wrappings belong in the garbage this time.
DON’T Eat Before the Meal Is Cooked
Some days this will be easier than others. Remember when we talked about the aromas of slow cooking? It’s more powerful than you might think, and those pleasant smells begin wafting long before your food is fully cooked. If you happen to be home for the entire process, you might find it a bit tortuous, which is why the best bet is to plan your slow-cooked meals for days when you won’t be home. Once you get a feel for the process, you can really push things and slow cook meals when you’re gone for a weekend, or even an extended vacation. At the highest level, you’ll start a meal on the day you move out. This technique is a little more expensive, as you’re out a slow cooker, but it’s totally worth it to spare yourself from a lifetime of overwhelmingly savory flavors tormenting your nose with longing.
DO Experiment Heavily
Slow cooker recipe books are an excellent tool to help you get started. Slow cooking is its own thing, and breaking into that world comes with certain discomforts. You’ll never really shine, though until you take off the gloves and get creative, and this extends way beyond having fun with the spice rack. Did your honey-glazed chicken please you last time? Great! You can take it to another level with a cup of ketchup. If you like a scoop of ice cream with your pork tenderloins, wait until you’ve had them together! Naturally, some of your experiments will fair better than others, but the beauty of the slow cooker is that you can mix almost anything. On top of that, you get to enjoy the savory aromas that fill the house before you dig in. You may have invested in the slow cooker because you were too busy to cook such exquisite meals through other means, but you’ll come to love it for the way it opens your pallet to dimensions of flavor you have yet to even imagine.
DON’T Forget to Turn it On
This is trickier than it sounds. The imperative word in this business is slow, and that can make it easy to miss when everything is left off. If you don’t catch it right away, you might miss hours from the cooking process, and then, regrettably, you have to resort to fast cooking. Yuck. The solution is as simple as it sounds. Always double check the power cord, heat setting and indicator lights before you walk away. Once you get this down, you’ll graduate to rechecking a half dozen times until you can smell the cooking process (admittedly, getting older also helps with mastering this technique). The good news is that once you get it down, you won’t have to worry about cold, uncooked dinners anymore.