Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Slow Cooking for Busy Days

I find August to be one of the busiest and most expensive months of the year.  Even worse then Christmas-time.  At least during the holidays other people are cooking too.  To make meal times easier I make 2 Crock pot meals on Sundays in the month of August.  I make enough to freeze extra.
Slow Cooking for Busy Days
Slow cookers are any easy way to make meats that are usually braised in the oven or on the stove top in a Dutch oven. Less expensive and tougher cuts of meat benefit from being cooked slow and low for a long time. This small appliance can save you both time and money. Cooking times are long but prep times are short. Imagine coming home and dinner being ready for you and only 1 dish to clean!
Slow Cooker Basics:
• Braising: Pan searing meat at a high temperature then slow cooking in a covered pot
• Size-Slow cookers are labeled by quart size
• Shape-Oval and round are most common
• Crocks can be stationary or removable; removable are easier to clean
• 1 cup liquid is enough for most recipes
• Remove excess fat before cooking
• Stock and broths can be made in a slow cooker
• Oval cookers work best for roast and larger cuts of meat
• Fill cooker no more than 2/3’s full
• Grease, butter or spray cooker before adding food for easier clean up
• Cut root vegetables small to medium and place on the bottom of the crock this will not only add flavor to the meat but will add flavor to the vegetable and ensure doneness
• Browning stew meat, roast and chops will enhance the flavor and appearance of the food but is not required to make the meal
Prepping Ahead:
• Refrigerate meats and vegetables in separate re-sealable bags or containers. Do not store in the slow cooker crock (it could crack the crock or take longer to heat up)
• When cutting potatoes in advance store in water to prevent discoloration
• Seafood should be added in the last hour of cooking and cooked on hi setting
• Rice and pasta can be added in the last hour of cooking and cooked on medium or can be cooked separately
• Dumplings can be drop on top in the 30 minutes and on high with the cover on
• Cookers vary greatly in size and temperature. When preparing a dish for the first time check for doneness 1-2 hours before recommend time.
• Rotate large cuts of meat or whole chickens half way through cooking to prevent meat and veggies on the bottom being soggy
• 1 hour cooking time on high equals 2 hours on low
• Raw poultry and ground meats should cook for a minimum of 3 hours and reach a temperature of 165 degrees when a probe thermometer is inserted in the center
• Tender vegetables and spinach should be added the last ½ hour of cooking
• Frozen vegetables should be added the last hour of cooking
• Removing the lid can add up to 20 minute’s additional cooking time; try not to peek
Slow Cooker On The Go:
• Place towels in a cooler or box. Secure lid with rubber bands. Place in container and top with a towel and cover. Eat within an hour or plug in and put on warm setting.
Converting recipes for the slow cooker:
• Strong flavored spices and vegetables should be reduced by half to avoid too much of one flavor
• Add hot peppers, hot sauce and cayenne pepper in the last hour of cooking
• Reduce liquids by half with the except of soups and stews
• Less expensive cuts of meat work best for slow and low cooking. For example replace flank steak with round steak.
• Dairy breaks down and curdles during long cooking times. Replace milk with evaporated milk or add in the last 30-45 minutes of cooking
• One dish meals take 8-9 hours on low or 4-5 hours on high, 7 hours on medium
Thickening Sauces, Soups and Stews:
• Gravy-for every 1 cup of cooking liquid (fat removed) add 1 tablespoon of corn starch or 2 tablespoons of flour. Mix corn starch or flour with a small amount cold water before adding to hot liquid. This can be done in a sauce pan or right in the crock turned on high. Cover and cook 20-30 more minutes.
• Thickening with roux-Cook 2 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoon flour until bubbly. Cook two minutes. Add one tablespoon of Roux for every cup of liquid. Stir and cook covered on high and additional 20 minutes


Other Helpful Posts
Take it One Prep at a Time,
Chef Jackie

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