With only 3 days to go until I start my 31 slow cooker recipes in 31 days, I thought a little house-keeping was in order. Here’s a few slow cooker tips & tricks I’ve learnt along the way:
How to clean & deodorise your slow cooker
The easiest way to tackle tough spots or smells in your slow cooker is to generously sprinkle the insert with bi-carb soda then spritz with vinegar (I keep a spray bottle of white vinegar under the kitchen sink). There should be enough vinegar on the bi-carb soda to make it fizz. You can then use a soft plastic dish brush to gently scrub the insert. Really tough spots might need a second go. To finish, wash insert in warm soapy water as normal. NEVER use steel scourers, metal brushes or other harsh cleaning products on the slow cooker as you will scratch the ceramic lining.
Lining your slow cooker
I love how a slow cooker can turn the toughest cut of meat into a tender juicy meal, but sometimes the difficult part is getting the meal out of the slow cooker without it falling apart into an unrecognisable mess. The simple solution is using a crisscross foil liner that will help to lift the meal out of the slow cooker.
Take a piece of foil long enough to reach from one side of the slow cooker to the other with an overlap at each end. Fold it in half lengthwise, then in half again so it is a long ribbon of foil that’s now 4 times as thick. Lie this across your slow cooker in one direction, then repeat with another piece of foil and lie it in the other direction to make a cross.
I always use this liner when cooking roasts (chicken and lamb), for recipes that need to keep their shape to serve (like stuffed bell peppers) or meals that need to be cut or carved (like meatloaf). Just gather up the four ends and carefully lift it out of the slow cooker.
Only use wooden or plastic utensils
To avoid scratches and damage to your slow cooker insert, always use plastic or wooden utensils when mixing or stirring. Metal utensils can scratch the ceramic coating. Also, don’t cut meats while they are still in the slow cooker – your knife will certainly scratch the bottom of the slow cooker insert.
Too much liquid?
The process of slow cooking releases a lot of juices, so you’ll find that slow cooker recipes don’t use nearly as much liquid as the oven equivalent. If you get to the end of the cooking time and find that your dish has too much liquid, remove the lid of the slow cooker, put it on its highest setting and allow to cook for 30-45 minutes or until enough liquid has evaporated. For most casseroles and stews I usually add a tablespoon of cornflour dissolved in a little water about 45 minutes before the end of the cooking time. This helps to thicken the juices into a gravy.