Ah, Fall, it’s almost everyone’s favorite season. Who doesn’t love colorful leaves, crisp air, football games and family by the fire?
It’s fortuitous that we here at Home and Living received a new Black & Decker Slow Cooker to “test drive.” These handy, slow workers make short work of pieces of beef chuck, meaty pork ribs or shoulder blade chunks; and how about soups, stews and casseroles? We haven’t tried making bread or cake in the slow cooker, but we hear it’s doable.
We received a 4-quart slow cooker which is a pretty good size. This should make a good family meal or if you are just two people, leftovers for the lunchbox. We are kinda crazy for the pretty dotted cover the Black & Decker slow cooker wears—it’s rather cheerful. And if is going to sit on the counter quietly steaming for 8 hours, you might as well like looking at it.
This one is cool in that it has a removable liner so it’s easy to clean because it lifts out. The stoneware pot is durable and the lid is tight-fitting (so important). Don’t think you won’t need a potholder to touch the inner lining—it gets HOT! You will need protective gloves at the end if you are pulling it out.
Don’t add cold food to this baby if it’s already hot—stoneware doesn’t like sudden temperature changes. There is a “warm” setting, but that’s not for cooking, just for—well, you know, keeping it warm.
We have some tips for you below but here is what we know: the pot should only be filled ½ to ¾ full, no more. You don’t want something over or under-cooked. Keep the lid on (at least for the first two hours) but it’s better if you resist the peeking.
Here are some other helpful tips about slow cooking (and some important reiterations):
- Don’t overfill.
- Keep the lid on.
- If you fix and prep food the night before, don’t store it in the cooker in the fridge.
- Brown and deglaze meat before adding to cooker; it imparts a richer flavor.
- Don’t add frozen ingredients.
- Cut meat into smaller pieces if you have a roast.
- Use less liquid, add more spices, herbs (garlic and chili powder intensify); and go for whole spices if you’ve got them.
- Add milk or sour cream 15 minutes before end time.
- Any dried beans should be cooked prior to using.
- Rub seasonings into meat and place meat over vegetables.
- No need to preheat or stir.
- Check recommended cooking times; Most meats require 8 hours of cooking on LOW.
- You can thicken the juices and concentrate flavors by removing the lid and cooking on HIGH for the last half hour of cooking time.