A little over a month ago I announced my intentions to use my kitchen gadgets in 2012. I have so many cool things in the kitchen but many of them I don't utilize as much as I could or should. First up was the crockpot.
This post is Part Two of Two - Lessons Learned. Part One contains The Meals.
Personal Crockpot Revelations
• The crockpot can be used for so much more than just cooking pot roast! And more than stew!
• Cooking meats in the crockpot, even for really extended periods of time, result in such tender and yummy meat.
• Crockpots are better for main dishes rather than desserts, at least based on this month long experiment. But I’m bound and determined to keep trying!
• Nothing smells as good as something cooking in the crockpot all day (or night).
• The cook times are still somewhat of an issue for me (being gone for hours during the day and not eating until late), but weekend cooking for the weekdays helps a lot.
• Using the crockpot is a great way to cook a huge meal and freeze half for later.
• If a recipe says to line the bottom of crockpot with parchment paper, don’t use wax ;)
• I’ve said it before, but using the crockpot still requires work—it’s just a matter of when you do that work.
Crockpot Tips and Tricks
• Read the entire recipe before doing anything else. Otherwise you might be surprised by some prep cooking. Yes, you can fix and forget with the crockpot, but you still have to fix! And sometimes there are steps at the end as well.
• If you plan to start the crockpot in the morning, assemble your ingredients and chop any vegetables the night before.
• If cooking something like bread, strata, or cake, use parchment paper to line the bottom of the crockpot. Determine the size by placing the crockpot on top of the parchment paper and outlining the parchment around the bottom of the pot with pencil. Then fold in half and cut your circle/oval.
• Line the rim of your crockpot/lid with papertowel to catch any condensation from dropping in the dish when lifting the lid (more useful when cooking items that are more solid like cakes).
• I haven’t tried but I’ve heard that outlet timers work in a pinch if you need to delay start your crockpot.
• Crockpot liners do wonders for a quick cleanup. Like seriously miraculous inventions.
• No matter how tempted you are, don’t lift the crockpot lid unless you have to—it will add time to your cooking.
• Try cooking the meal overnight and reheat when you’re reading to eat again—this achieves that “second day” taste without having to wait two nights.
• If your recipe made ten billion servings or you’re just cooking for one or two, freeze half of it now to eat later.
What tips and tricks for the crockpot do you have to share?
So where do I go from here?
Even though my Operation Use My Crockpot has come to a close, I still have so many things that I want to try in the crockpot! Both SuziQ and Allie recommended a pork tenderloin recipe I want to try; CJ gave me directions to crockpot Swiss Steak; I want to continue to experiment with steel cut oat recipes for breakfast, I’d love to make some pasta sauce to then keep on hand in the freezer. There are oodles of recipes online and even a few more that I have bookmarked in my cookbooks. Several of you mention adding red wine to your pot roasts, something that I’ve never tried but sounds so delicious. And then I’d like to try making my brisket recipe with half the liquid I normally use (in other words what the original recipe for the oven calls for). I’d also like to try some side dishes and maybe even some warm beverages!
And I still have questions and things to learn!
• How do I translate a recipe I would normally cook in the oven to the slow cooker?
• Do I really need to brown the meat before tossing into the crockpot (which I typically don’t do), or is this just for coloring and to drain a bit of fat?
• I was taught that I need a lot of liquid to cook in the crockpot—I’ve always drowned my meats in liquid but maybe I don’t need to?
Next month’s Operation Use My Kitchen Gadgets will be…..
I actually just purchased my food processor a few months ago when I started making Elle’s baby food. The blender wasn’t cutting it and the actual appliances for making baby food are a joke (way too freaking small!). So, I use my food processor for…making baby food. And that’s it.
What do you use your food processor for? I know people LOVE these appliances but other than chopping veggies (can I chop more than one kind at a time?) and possibly making bread crumbs or grating cheese (I usually buy the pre-grated cheese), I’m not sure how to really utilize this machine. Since Elle will probably be off the purees in a few months, I want to avoid letting this appliance collect dust.
I’ll be back with a full report of Operation Use My…Food Processor on March 31st. Anyone want to join me? I can promise lots of tweets. ;)
And make sure to tune in next Saturday as Scott and I have gone crazy and will be going au natural for the month of March!
Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking. "Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs." Hope you'll join the fun!