By Lisa Holcomb
A slow cooker can be a life-saver for many busy moms. When you are rushing here and there with kids, teaching lessons, feeding babies, etc. you don’t always have time in the evenings to get a meal ready. I’ve listed some tips to make using your slow cooker easier and safer.
One aspect of cooking and preparing food is cleanliness and food safety. The following are things to keep in mind when preparing food:
- You should also wash your hands in between handling meats and vegetables because raw meats may have bacteria that may be transferred to vegetables. Since you might cook the meats and vegetables at different temperatures this can be a safety hazard.
- It’s always best to use the freshest ingredients when possible for your recipes.
- Meats should also be fully defrosted before placing them in the slow cooker and should be cut in manageable sizes for cooking. Sometimes you can throw smaller pieces of meat like chicken breast still frozen in to the slow cooker and they will cook just fine. However, I would avoid putting a frozen roast into your slow cooker to cook. The center of the meat might not cook properly if it is still frozen and can be raw even after being cooked for some time.
- Know the right temperature to cook your food. Some foods cook faster than others and you might have to cook meats first before adding the vegetables. It is a good idea to know the suggested cooking time for the recipe that you are making to ensure that it is thoroughly cooked and safe to eat.
- Always wipe and sanitize areas where the raw chicken may have been placed because the bacteria can be transferred to whatever is placed on it next.
In addition to tips for cooking with a slow cooker, there are also some good tips for handling the slow cooker itself.
- You should check your slow cooker’s cord often for any cuts or wear and tear before using it.
- Don’t handle the inside of the cooker after it has already been plugged in. They can heat up very quickly.
- Don’t overfill the slow cooker. Not only will your food not cook properly, but it can spill and leak over while cooking.
- Don’t lift the lid unnecessarily. Taking the lid off the slow cooker can increase the cooking time. Only lift it if you really need to.
- Don’t reheat cooked meals using the slow cooker. Typically, slow cookers aren’t great at reheating foods. You’re much better off reheating in the microwave, on the stove top, or in the oven.
A good slow cooker is a must-have in my kitchen and knowing some basic slow cooker tips makes it work even better. If you need slow cooker recipes there are plenty online that will fit your family’s budgets and needs. Enjoy!
Lisa Holcomb and her husband, Will, have six children (her oldest two children are married and have babies of their own) and live near Austin, Texas with their four boys. Lisa is co-founder of Build A Menu and is known as the “Queen of Meal Time Makeovers.” She is an author, speaker and an advocate for adoption, family nutrition, savvy grocery shopping and family dinners. Feel free to email her at [email protected].