I can’t believe it’s November. Florida has been experience record high temperatures lately. Guys, it’s still in the 90s here. Where’s fall? I want nothing more than to curl up in the evening with a warm meal that warms me up on the inside without sweating in the process. You can’t appreciate the cooler weather of the fall until you’re in this predicament.
A few weeks ago I mentioned that I would start using my crockpot more frequently. A part of me also wished that the weather would usher in cooler temps in the process, but that’s neither here nor there. I hadn’t used my crockpot a lot in the two years I owned it because I honestly didn’t know how to cook using one. The first time I tried to use one, my meat was tough and bland, and the vegetables were not cooked evenly. I knew there had to be an easier way!
Campbell’s Sauces have made this process so much easier for me, and it’s saved me time looking for recipes as well. The other night we tried the Sweet Korean BBQ and even my picky husband liked it. And that’s saying a lot, especially coming from a foodie who’s had “real” Korean BBQ. Enough said. There are other flavors to choose from, like Tavern Style Pot Roast, Apple Bourbon Pulled Pork, Beef Stew, and Southern BBQ. After having tried most of them, I can guarantee your family will love them!
I thought I’d compile a list of things I’ve learned these past few weeks about slow cooking, and other things I wish I had read about sooner.
5 Tips for Tasty Slow Cooker Meals
Cut potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and other dense vegetables into bite-size pieces before placing them in the crockpot. That’s a given. But what I didn’t know was that I should place them in the bottom of the crockpot. In the past, I’d put potatoes and other dense veggies top of the meat and they didn’t get cooked thoroughly. It makes sense, as they weren’t getting covered with the liquid.
Conversely, add tender vegetables, such as fresh or frozen broccoli, green beans, or peas, at the end of the cooking time, unless you want mush floating around. After you pop them in, cook on the high-heat setting 30 minutes or until tender.
These meats must be completely cooked in a skillet over medium heat before you place them in the slow cooker:
- ground meats
Why? Salmonella and e. coli bacteria can sometimes fester in these meats, even though they look and smell normal. Trim any fat from the meat and cut roasts larger than 2 1/2 pounds in half. It aids in the cooking time, and makes it fall apart quicker.
Also, I like to season my meat versus just browning them. I hate to say it, but browned meat on its own doesn’t taste as flavorful as its pre-seasoned counterpart. I know there are some purists out there that have gone to culinary schools and look down on pre-seasoning, but I just can’t skip it. Trust me, your tastebuds will thank you for it.
Another thing I do that will probably get me scoldings is…I stab the meat all over before seasoning. Call me crazy, but I like to increase the surface area of where the spices and salts touch, and stabbing the meat allows the seasonings to do their job easier. (Please don’t e-mail me scolding me! This is just personal preference).
Also, turn the meat over once or twice during the cooking process.
This was a tricky one for me. How much liquid is too much liquid?
Slow-cooking releases a lot of liquid from the meat. Like, a lot, and I’m not sure why. Imagine my surprise, after adding tons of liquid to a roast, when it looked like it was swimming in soup? Yeah, don’t do it. To be on the safe side, add about half the amount of liquid you would on a stovetop.
When using a helper like Campbell’s Slow Cooker Sauces, don’t add any liquid. Trust me. Campbell’s knows what they’re doing. I couldn’t believe just how much liquid the slow-cooker had inside it when using their sauces. The Campbell’s Slow Cooker Sauces are very thick; like the consistency of a rich BBQ sauce. It’s counterintuitive not to add any water or stock, but remember, the meat will release its own juices over a period of seven to eight hours.
Okay, so sometimes there’s so much liquid in the crockpot that you’re left scratching your head. Don’t get rid of it! You can use some of it to make gravy. But, that defeats the purpose of EASY and SIMPLE slow-cooking, Lisette! It’s okay. I’ll share a little secret.
You can use a little bit of cornstarch gently mixed with cool water in a separate bowl. After the cornstarch has dissolved, you can pour it into the liquid and mix thoroughly. It will thicken up.
5. Quantities of Food
How much is too much food in the slow cooker? How little is too little? The rule of thumb is to have it at least halfway full, but no more than two-thirds full. You don’t want too much food in there because of the liquid that will be released from your meats. Too little food, and, well the opposite of too much water is too little water, and you might risk burning your food. And that’s not what you want to come home to after a workday.
If your meat was smaller than you anticipated, or the crockpot is less than half-full, add in another chopped potato, onion, or carrot to fill it up.
Making crockpotting your own.
Sometimes you’re in a pinch and you goof up. For example, when I made the Campbell’s Slow Cooker Hawaiian Pork, I mistakenly bought too much meat. I wasn’t able to find a second Hawaiian Pork sauce at the store, so I bought pineapple tidbits and a mango citrus skillet sauce for chicken to make up for the flavors. Also added salt, pepper and garlic powder for additional flavors. It turned out better than any of us could have imagined. For leftovers, I used the Campbell’s Sauces recipe generator for the Tropical Panini recipe idea. I simply used what I had on hand (honey ham deli meat instead of bacon, regular mustard instead of spicy brown mustard,etc) to make a quick lunch and it was delicious!
What slow-cooking has taught me this past month is, there are no mistakes, just happy accidents. (Or was that Bob Ross?).
Did you know that CSCS are not only great for every day meals but they are awesome for game day gathering with friends? Meals with Campbell’s Slow Cooker sauces are delicious and so easy to make. Just 5 minutes of prep time is all it takes. Take the Game Day Great, Every Day Easy Challenge and experience it for yourself.