Thursday, January 31, 2013

Crockpot Basics

I love my slow cookers!  I have 3 that I use on a regular basis.  One is a large one for big items, like a whole chicken or turkey.  One is a all-in-one that also is a deep fryer.  The only downfall about it is that the liner is not removable.  The one above is the that gets used the most.  It has been a real lifesaver on those days when I have 3 things going on at the same time.

There are a few things to consider before purchasing a slow cooker.

  • Size.  Make sure you buy a slow cooker that will be large enough to cook the meals you want to in it.  It is recommended to not fill your cooker more than 2/3 full.
  • Shape.  Something that is overlooked and should be considered.  Shape of the slow cooker is important.  Round ones are great for soups and such.  If you are planning on cooking roasts and such in one, consider an oval.  You will get more length in your cooking surface.
  • Liner.  I didn't realize until I bought my first crockpot, the all-in-one, how handy the removable liner is.  If you are going to be putting together your ingredients the night before, a removable liner is the way to go.  I find it handy to prepare things as much as possible the night before in the liner and keep it in the fridge overnight.  In the morning, I pull it out and let it get to room temp before setting the liner in the heating unit to cook.
  • Temperature.  According to how you want to cook in your slow cooker, you will want to look at temperature settings.  My all-in-one cooks by degrees, where my everyday one is a low or high setting.  My low setting is about 170 degrees and high is 210 degrees approximately.  I also have a "warm" setting which is great for keeping food warm in case dinner is delayed or the food cooks faster than I planned.
  • Lids.  Check out your lid before cooking.  Most slow cookers come with a see through lid which helps in keeping an eye on the cooking process.  My larger slow cooker does not and it is really hard sometimes to resist the urge to lift the lid to take a peek.  They say, removing the lid during cooking adds about 20 minutes each time to the cooking time.
Cooking with a slow cooker is really easy and a great time saver.  Most slow cooker recipes will explain when to add items that do not take as long, like some vegetables and pasta, to the cooker.  You will want to keep an eye on the amount of liquid.  Do not let the liquid escape from the slow cooker.

Slow cookers are great for less expensive and tougher cuts of meat.  Cooking at the lower temps can make them more tender and appealing. 

Now, for a recipe!  This one is my own invention.  I thought of it one day when wanting something different for dinner and out of ideas.

Shredded Beef Stew over Mashed Potatoes

1-3lb roast
2 cups + 3 Tablespoons water
1 cup sliced carrots
Bay leaf
1 Tablespoon corn starch
Salt and pepper to taste
Mashed potatoes

In a slow cooker, add the beef, 2 cups of water and bay leaf.  Cook on low about 6 hours or high about 3-1/2 hours.  Remove meat from cooker after cooking and shred with two forks.  Once shredded, add back to slow cooker with carrots.  If water looks a bit low, add more.  In a small glass mix cornstarch and 3 Tablespoons of cold water.  Mix until cornstarch is dissolved.  Add to slow cooker and stir.  Cook on low for another 1/2 hour.  Serve over mashed potatoes.

Can't get any easier than that!  It is one of my kids favorites and usually requested atleast once a month.  You can also add more vegetables as desired.  My kids prefer just carrots with this.

Hope these tips make your day a little easier!


  1. Hi Maggie,
    It's so lovely to see you back and with another wonderful recipe ..... you sure know a lot about slow cookers !!!!!!! I haven't even got one !!!!!
    Hope that you and your family are all well and enjoying life. Much love. XXXX

  2. Hey I just notice you are blogging again. How the heck have you been?

  3. Your idea for the beef and mashed potatoes sounds like a delicious comforting meal especially on a cold day as we have today.

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