Tips for Slow Cooker Success (Part 1)

Regular readers of our blog will know that we are often looking for ways to promote good family nutrition.

Many of the books that we quote from emphasize the importance of home-cooked meals as a way to improve your diet and teach your family good eating habits.

One of the easiest ways for time-stressed people to have a home-cooked meal is to put it in the slow cooker and let it simmer all day while they are at work.

Chef_Pepin_Oval_Slow_Cooker
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons & Chef Pepin management

But as author Dick Logue points out in his book, “500 Heart-Healthy Slow Cooker Recipes,” many traditional slow cooker recipes are high in sodium, saturated fats, and cholesterol and low in fiber—not exactly the recipe for a healthy lifestyle.

Logue’s book (as you may have guessed from the name) has lots of great slow-cooker recipes that you can feel good about eating. He also offers some great tips for getting the most from your slow cooker that are great for the casual user and the die-hard alike.

His list is so thorough, in fact, that we are splitting it into two parts. Like a slow-cooked meal, these tips only get tastier with time.

Slow Cooker Tips

  • Fill the slow cooker one-half to two-thirds full. If you fill it to the top, foods may not cook properly or will take longer to cook. If the level is lower, the foods may cook too quickly. If you cook for different numbers of people at different times, you may want to have several slow cookers of different sizes
  • Don’t lift the lid, especially if you are cooking on the low setting. Each time you lift the lid, enough heat will escape that the cooking time should be extended by 20 to 30 minutes.
  • For safe cooking, always thaw meal or poultry before putting it into a slow cooker. Frozen food takes too long to thaw and get to a safe cooking temperature
  • Foods cooked on the bottom of the slow cooker cook faster and will be more moist because they are immersed in the simmering liquid
  • Fresh root vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, and onions should be placed in the bottom of the pot, under the meat, for faster cooking. They tend to cook more slowly than meat. Cut them into bite-sized pieces so they cook faster and more evenly.
  • Add softer vegetables like tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini during the last 45 minutes of cooking time if you don’t want them to be very soft
  • Buy roasts and other large cuts of meat that will fit in your slow cooker or trim them to fit. Trim extra fat from meat. This is not only healthier, but will allow the meat to cook more evenly
  • Use cheaper cuts of meat. Not only do you save money, but these meats work better in the slow cooker. Cheaper cuts of meat have less fat, which makes them more suited to slow-cooker cooking. Moist, long cooking times result in very tender meats

OK, that wraps up part 1 of our post. Stay tuned for part 2 in the next few days, and if you have a slow cooker tip or recipe you’d like to share, let us know by leaving a comment on the blog or posting on our Facebook page.

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Slow Cooker RecipesEveryone loves the comfort-food appeal and convenience of slow cooker fare. However, traditional slow cooker recipes are high in sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat. This book lets anyone with heart disease, hypertension, or high cholesterol enjoy flavorful, healthy versions of slow cooker favorites.

500 Heart-Healthy Slow Cooker Recipes is filled with quick and easy recipes for hearty stews, savory casseroles, nutritious soups, and delicious desserts. It’s healthy eating that you can love and that will love your heart!

Dick Logue is the author of several cookbooks and founder of the website http://www.lowsodiumcooking.com. After being diagnosed with congestive heart failure more than 10 years ago, Dick threw himself into the process of creating healthy versions of his favorite recipes. A cook since the age of 12, he grows his own vegetables, bakes his own bread, and cans a variety of foods. He is the author of 500 Low Sodium Recipes, 500 Low-Cholesterol Recipes, 500 High Fiber Recipes, 500 Low Glycemic Index Recipes, 500 Heart-Healthy Slow Cooker Recipes, 500 400-Calorie Recipes, and 500 15-Minute Low Sodium Recipes. He lives in La Plata, MD.

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