Cookbook Excerpt  
5 Tips for Using Your Slow Cooker: A Friendly Year-Round Appliance

by Phyllis Pellman Good,
author of
Fix-it and Forget-it Cookbook: Revised & Updated: 700 Great Slow Cooker Recipes

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1. WHAT TO BUY

A good standard size for a household of four is a 4-quart slow cooker. If you often cook for more, or you like to prepare sizable roasts, turkey breasts, or chicken legs and thighs, you'll want a 6-quart cooker.

For parties or buffets a 1 to 2-quart size works well for dips and snacks.

Cookers which allow you to program "On", the length of the cooking time, and "Off", are convenient. If your model doesn't include that feature, you might want to get a digital appliance timer, which gives you that option. Make sure the timer is adequate for the electrical flow that your cooker demands.

A baking insert, a cooking rack, a temperature probe, and an insulated carrying tote are all useful additions offered with some models. Or you can buy some of them separately by going to the manufacturers' websites.

2. LEARN TO KNOW YOUR SLOW COOKER 

Some newer slow cookers cook at a very high temperature. You can check the temperature of your slow cooker this way:

Place 2 quarts of water in your slow cooker. 

Cover. Heat on Low 8 hours. 

Lift the lid. Immediately check the water temp with an accurate thermometer.

The temperature of the water should be 185F. If the temperature is higher, foods may overcook and you should reduce the overall cooking time. If the temperature is lower, your foods will probably not reach a safe temperature quickly enough, and the cooker should be discarded.

3. MAXIMIZING WHAT A SLOW COOKER DOES BEST

Slow cookers tend to work best when they're two-thirds full. You many need to increase the cooking time if you've exceeded that amount, or reduce it if you've put in less than that.

Cut the hard veggies going into your cooker into chunks of about equal size. In other words, make your potato and carrot pieces about the same size. Then they'll be done cooking at nearly the same time. Softer veggies, like bell peppers and zucchini, cook faster, so they don't need to be cut as small. But again, keep them similar in size to each other so they finish together.

Because raw vegetables are notoriously tough customers in a slow cooker, layer them over the bottom and around the sides of the cooker, as much as possible. That puts them in more direct contact with the heat.

There are consequences to lifting the lid on your slow cooker while it's cooking. To compensate for the lost heat, you should plan to add 15-20 minutes of cooking time for each time the lid was lifted off. On the other hand, moisture gathers in a slow cooker as it works. To allow that to cook off, or to thicken the cooking juices, take the lid off during the last half hour of cooking time.

Use only the amount of liquid called for in a recipe. In contrast to an oven or a stovetop, a slow cooker tends to draw juices out of food and then harbor it. Of course, if you sense that the food in your cooker is drying out, or browning excessively before it finishes cooking, you may want to add cup of warm liquid to the cooker.

Important variables to remember that don't show up in recipes:

The fuller your slow cooker, the longer it will take its contents to cook.

The more densely packed the cooker's contents are, the longer they will take to cook.

The larger the chunks of meat or vegetables, the more time they will need to cook.

4. DEBUNKING THE MYTHS

Slow cookers are a handy year-round appliance. They don't heat up a kitchen in warm weather. They allow you to escape to the pool or lake or lawn or gardens -- so why not let them work for you when it's hot outdoors. A slow cooker fixes dinner while you're at your child's soccer game, too. So don't limit its usefulness. Remember the dozens of recipes-beyond-beef-stew in this collection! 

One more thing -- a slow cooker provides a wonderful alternative if your oven is full -- no matter the season. 

You can overdo food in a slow cooker. If you're tempted to stretch a recipe's 6-hour stated cooking time to 8 or 10 hours, you may be disappointed in your dinner. Yes, these cookers work their magic using slow, moist heat. Yes, many dishes cook a long time. But these outfits have their limits.

For example, chicken can overcook in a slow cooker. Especially boneless, skinless breasts. But legs and thighs aren't immune either. Once they go past the falling-off-the-bone stage, they are prone to move on to deeply dry. Cooked pasta and sour cream do best if added late in the cooking process, ideally 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time if the cooker is on high; 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time if it's on low.

5. SAFTEY

A working slow cooker gets hot on the outside -- and I mean the outer electrical unit as well as the inner vessel. Make sure that curious and unsuspecting children or adults don't grab hold of either part. Use oven mitts when lifting any part of a hot cooker. 

To prevent a slow cooker from bubbling over, either when its sitting still on a counter, or when its traveling to a carry-in dinner, fill the cooker only two-thirds full. If you're going to exceed that limit, pull out your second slow cooker (what -- you have only one?!) and divide the contents between them.

For more tips from Phyllis Pellman Good, read Tips for Healthier Eating for Stuck-in-Their-Ways Adults

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Order now from Amazon.com

The above is an excerpt from the book Fix-it and Forget-it Cookbook: Revised & Updated: 700 Great Slow Cooker Recipes by Phyllis Pellman Good. The above excerpt is [from] a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Reprinted from Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook. by Good Books (www.GoodBooks.com). Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2010 Phyllis Pellman Good, author of Fix-it and Forget-it Cookbook: Revised & Updated: 700 Great Slow Cooker Recipes

Author Bio

Phyllis Pellman Good is a New York Times bestselling author whose books have sold nearly 10 million copies.

Good's cookbooks have also appeared on the USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists. She is the author of Fix-It and Forget-It Lightly: Healthy, Low-Fat Recipes for Your Slow Cooker; Fix-It and Forget-It 5-Ingredient Favorites: Comforting Slow-Cooker Recipes; Fix-It and Forget-It Recipes for Entertaining: Slow-Cooker Favorites for all the Year Round, and Fix-It and Forget-It Diabetic Cookbook: Slow-Cooker Favorites to Include Everyone (with the American Diabetes Association), all in the series.

She and her husband, Merle, live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. For more information about Phyllis Pellman Good, visit www.Fix-ItandForget-It.com and www.facebook.com/fixitandforgetit

Fix-it and Forget-it Cookbook
Revised & Updated: 700 Great Slow Cooker Recipes
By Phyllis Pellman Good
Published by Good Books
May 2010; $15.95US; 978-1-56148-685-4

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The book has already sold more than 5 million copies, so we didn't want to spoil it! We have only added a few enhancements to this original cookbook in the wildly claimed Fix-It and Forget-It cookbook series:

1. Brand New: 100 new recipes for slow cookers.

2. Brand New: "Prep Time," "Cooking Time," and "Ideal Slow-Cooker Size" are included for each recipe.

3. Brand New: 4 pages of basic and very helpful "Extra Information":

o "Substitute Ingredients for When You're in a Pinch"

o "Equivalent Measurements"

o "Kitchen Tools and Equipment You May Have Overlooked"

o "Assumptions about Ingredients in Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook, Revised and Updated" 

4. Brand New: 1 page of "Tips for Using Your Slow Cooker: a Friendly, Year-Round Appliance." 

5. Brand New: Additional tips and tricks for making the most of your slow cooker, spread throughout the book. 

6. Brand New: A second color -- a rich purple -- for recipe titles, contributors' names and addresses, the words "Tip" and "Variation," and the numbered instruction steps.

7. Brand New: The drawings on the opening pages of chapters and the spot illustrations throughout.

8. Brand New: 1 page of tip-in color, right inside the front cover.

9. Brand New: 2 pages of review excerpts to position the original book's success, immediately following the tip-in page of color. 

10. Revised: An improved Index!

11. Revised: A personal Introduction to the book by author Phyllis Pellman Good.

12. Revised: Good's personal comments and voice throughout the recipes

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