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6 Crockpot Mistakes You Might Be Making

Posted by on Oct. 15, 2013 at 10:23 PM
  • 9 Replies
1 mom liked this

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: it's now slow-cooked food season. While we usually tend toward our Dutch ovens for things like chili, braised chicken, and pulled pork, we totally understand the "set it and forget it" appeal of a plugged-in slow cooker. But people often take that mentality too literally and screw up what could be a deliciously low-and-slow-cooked meal. We asked senior food editorDawn Perry how to make the absolute worst crock pot dish ever-i.e., how to avoid making mistakes and instead produce tender, delicious meat and absolutely no mushy vegetables.

1. Use the leanest meat you can find 
 Lean meat cooked for a long time-no matter what the temperature-gets tough and stringy. Big hunks of fatty meat like short ribs and pork shoulder work best in a crock pot. The fat will keep the meat moist, and the slow cooking breaks down the connective tissue that makes those types of cuts tough. So with a slow cooker, fatty meat = good.

2. Throw your meat into the pot raw 
Everyone wants a crock-pot recipe where you just toss everything in the pot, then magically have an amazing dinner eight hours later. Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that. Always brown your meat on the stove first- it adds a layer of caramelized flavor you can't get otherwise.

3. Don't add anything with low notes or sweetness 
A low note is a flavor that adds a depth and richness to a dish-like bacon, browned onions, black pepper, and Worcestershire sauce-and they're integral to any good crock-pot recipe. As are sweet ingredients like brown sugar and tomato paste. Because most flavors break down and become one, those types of strong flavors make a great base for a sauce. 

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4. Add bright notes, crunchy vegetables, and dairy at the very beginning 
Bright notes are fresh flavors like acid and herbs. They'll get lost in the mix (and your herbs will turn brown and limp, ew), so it's better to add those ingredients last. If you want some kind of crunchy vegetable in your dish, it's also best to add it toward the end to avoid mushy veggies. And dairy? It will curdle, which looks terrible. Stir in any dairy at the very last moment.

5. Leave the skin on chicken 
 Do you like rubbery, chewy, gelatinous chicken skin? Then take it off before throwing your bird into the crock pot. Do leave in the bones, though-they'll help the meat stay tender. And chicken is the magic meat that doesn't need browning before going into the pot, mostly because it would be cooked too much after a long stint in the slow cooker.

6. Cook something that needs to hold its structure 
Macaroni and cheese? Lasagna? Sure, there are slow-cooker recipes for them out there, but you definitely shouldn't attempt to make them. More often than not, pasta (and other things that should hold their shape) becomes a mushy mess. Just don't do it. Make something like chili instead if you really want to make an easy slow-cooker recipe. 

by on Oct. 15, 2013 at 10:23 PM
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Replies (1-9):
by Ruby Member on Oct. 15, 2013 at 11:46 PM

Thanks for the the crockpot

by on Oct. 16, 2013 at 6:46 AM
There are times I do put raw meat in mine normally when I'm making roast but I always allow it to cook throughly and by itself. I normally always cook the roast meat the day before I plan on serving it.

I agree with all the rest of the tips. I know someone that throws raw frozen meat and all the veggies in tge crock pot at the same time, it's not good.
by on Oct. 16, 2013 at 9:38 AM

Something I used to do with my old slow cooker, that isn't on the list, is not adding enough liquid.  I would get so frustrated when everything was stuck/burned to the sides.  Now that I have a new slow cooker, with three different sized pots, things are much easier.

by on Oct. 16, 2013 at 9:49 AM
Awesome tips!
by on Oct. 16, 2013 at 11:41 AM

I am guilty of 1 and 2.

by on Oct. 16, 2013 at 1:15 PM

Good tips.

by on Oct. 16, 2013 at 5:47 PM
by Luci on Oct. 16, 2013 at 10:29 PM

 Great tips.

by on Oct. 17, 2013 at 2:35 PM

Good tips!

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