Want to learn how to use your crock pot to its fullest advantage to produce delicious, flavorful slow-cooked meals that practically cook themselves? EatingWell food editor Jessie Price shows you 5 tips for successful, healthy recipes in your crock pot or slow cooker and demonstrates how to prepare Slow-Cooker Braised Pork with Green Salsa.
Here are Jessie’s 5 tips for successful slow cooker and crock pot recipes:
Tip # 1: Plan Ahead
“I like to do all my prep the night before,” says Jessie. “Then when I’m getting ready for work, I can just dump it all in quickly.” For our recipe for Slow-Cooker Braised Pork with Green Salsa, you can plan ahead by trimming and cubing the pork shoulder, slicing the onion and preparing the sauce. Refrigerate these separately the night before and they’ll be ready for the crock pot in the morning.
Tip #2: Browning Adds Flavor
If you have time, browning meat and vegetables adds flavor to your finished dish. Simply stir-fry meat or vegetables in a large skillet with a little olive oil until the pieces are lightly browned on all sides. This can also be done ahead of time—just refrigerate your ingredients until you’re ready to cook.
Tip #3: Use the Right-Size Slow Cooker
Make sure you’re using a slow cooker that’s the right size for your recipe. “If there’s not enough food and liquid in the slow cooker, your meal could burn,” cautions Jessie. “And if there’s too much, it will be hard for it to reach the right temperature.” If foods don’t heat quickly enough, they may remain in the danger zone (between 40° and 140°F), allowing bacteria to thrive. Check your recipe to see which size slow cooker is recommended.
Tip #4: Keep Temperature in Mind
Heating the sauce before pouring it over the ingredients in your crock pot will help them reach the required temperature more quickly, bypassing that danger zone that can cause food-safety problems. If you’ve made the sauce ahead and refrigerated it, just bring it to a simmer in the microwave or on the stovetop before adding it to the slow cooker.
Tip #5: Don’t Peek
It’s important to keep the crock-pot lid on so heat doesn’t escape and the cooking temperature stays constant. “If you’re looking, you’re not cooking,” says Jessie. So leave that lid on, even if you’re tempted to peek. Set the timer and check for doneness at the beginning of the suggested time range.
Ready to cook? Try these healthy slow cooker and crock pot recipes:
EatingWell’s 10 Best Slow-Cooker Recipes
Save Time & Money: Crock Pot Recipes to Cook Once & Make Two Meals
Easy Slow-Cooker Soups & Stews
Healthy Vegetarian Crock Pot Recipes
Satisfying Low-Calorie Slow-Cooker Recipes
7 Easy Crock Pot Recipes with Chicken
Download a FREE Healthy Slow-Cooker Cookbook!