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Take it slow

The slow cooker is a time-saving, economical kitchen appliance that is an asset in any household. Get great meal results with these handy tips and our selection of delicious recipes.

Slow cooker tips and tricks

  • Remove excess fat from meat before using in slow cooker recipes.
  • It is a good idea to brown meat and onions before slow cooking as this will give a much tastier flavour to the finished dish. Dredging the meat in a little flour before browning also adds thickening to the sauce.
  • Make sure vegetables are cut in pieces that are similar in size and shape. Add vegetables which cook quickly (such as peas and spinach) during the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking.
  • Skimming the fat from cooking juices at the end of cooking makes for a smoother and healthier sauce. Either spoon off the fat or transfer liquid to a gravy separator jug and drain the fat.
  • At the end of cooking if you want to thicken juices, either transfer the liquid to a pan, bring to the boil and simmer until reduced to your liking. Or combine one or two tablespoons of cornflour and one-quarter cup of water, add to the juices and continue cooking with the lid off (with the slow cooker on high) simmering until thickened.
  • Add fresh herbs at the end of cooking for maximum colour and flavour.
  • If you prepare ingredients the night before cooking in the slow cooker, bring the bowl insert back to room temperature before cooking. Or allow for an extra half hour to one hour cooking time.

Care and maintenance

  • Always turn your slow cooker off before cleaning. Unplug it.
  • Lids can be washed either in the dishwasher or with hot soapy water.
  • Always cool the inner cooking pot thoroughly before washing rather than running it under cold water. It may not withstand sudden temperature changes and could crack.
  • Use a non-abrasive cleaner or vinegar with a non-abrasive cloth to remove stubborn stains. Do not use scouring pads.
  • The outside of the heating base may be cleaned with a soft cloth and warm soapy water and then wiped dry.
  • Never immerse the heating base in water or liquid.

Slow cooker safety

Because slow cookers cook food at very low temperatures, there are a few things to remember so your food stays safe. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) advises the core temperature of food in a slow cooker must reach at least 60°C for the potentially harmful bugs that may be in the food to be killed. To achieve this:

  • Always defrost meat completely before putting it in your slow cooker.
  • Cut meat in small pieces. For large meat joints and whole chicken, follow the manufacturers’ instructions.
  • Place vegetables that cook more slowly at the base then around the sides of the slow cooker (unless directed otherwise), then add the meat.
  • How full you have your cooker, and the amount of liquid in the recipe are important to how safely your food cooks. Always follow the recipe.
  • Don’t leave raw ingredients sitting in the slow cooker at room temperature before cooking.
  • Remove the lid only when you need to stir or check the food, and always cook with the lid on the pot.
  • Cool leftovers quickly. Use a shallow container that allows the food to spread out. Cool at room temperature for no more than two hours then refrigerate.

Be careful with beans

Dried red kidney beans contain a toxin (that can make us sick) which isn’t destroyed by cooking in a slow cooker. Do not cook dried red kidney beans from their raw state in a slow cooker as they won’t reach a high enough temperature to destroy the natural toxin phytohaemagglutinin. Instead, soak beans in water for at least five hours then drain and boil in fresh water for at least 10 minutes before adding to the slow cooker. Canned beans can be used as they are, straight from the can.

Recipe ideas

Farmhouse soup with spinach dumplings
Portugese-style chicken
Greek-style lamb shanks
Vegetable curry
Mexican pulled pork with chipotle slaw
Aromatic braised pork
Kumara, pumpkin and chickpea soup
Chicken, mushroom and tarragon casserole
Spicy meatballs in tomato ginger sauce

First published: Jul 2014



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