One of the greatest tools available to a busy household is the crock pot. It has been around since the early 70’s. I remember when I got my first crock pot. It was the basic Rival crock pot that had a setting for low and high heat. Now crock pots are amazing. They have come a long way.
Now they have timers, multiple uses, temperature probes, locking lids, removable cooking inserts and you can even set them to turn on and off when you want them to.
After 38 years, I finally replaced my crock pot. I wanted one of the newer ones with all the bells and whistles. I kept thinking that my old one would die and then I could justify getting a new one. I decided it was never going to die and just went ahead and got a new one. The old one has been moved to the RV and is used often when we are camping.
The biggest down side to the crock pot has always been the cleanup, but now that is not even an issue. There are liners that you line your crock pot with. Cook and serve your dinner and when it’s time to clean up, you simply remove the crock pot liner. Now there is no excuse to not use your crock pot.
Here are some tips for better tasting meals when you use your crock pot:
1. Only fill the crock pot one-half to one-third full. The crock pot needs to have room to form steam. If it is filled to the top, your food will not cook as evenly and will not be as moist as you want it to be.
2. Fresh vegetables taste much better than frozen or canned vegetables when cooking in the crock pot.
3. Browning your meat before you put it in the crock pot enhances the flavor of the meat.
4. I like to trim the fat from meat before adding it to my meal. Fat does add flavor, but it will make your broth too oily. Leave some fat, but trim most of it off.
5. Don’t add too much liquid. Most recipes do not require much liquid for cooking. If you’re making soup, then add all the liquid you need, but don’t let all of your crock pot meals turn into soup.
6. High temperature is about 300 degrees. Low is about 200 degrees.
7. DO NOT take the lid off during your cooking time. Every time you remove the lid, it takes between 15 and 20 minutes for the crock pot to return to the correct temperature. A lot of the cooking is done by steam and you lose the steam every time you lift the lid.
8. Less expensive cuts of meat are great in the crock pot. Cook them on low and they are so tender and tasty.
9. Add hard vegetables such as potatoes and carrots in the early stages of cooking. Add softer vegetables such as squash and mushrooms during the last hour of cooking.
10. If you find that your dish is too soupy, remove the lid, leave the heat on and allow some of the liquid to evaporate.
One of my favorite things to cook in my crock pot is pot roast. When I cook a pot roast in the crock pot, my house smells so good all day long. I cook my roast the same way my mom did. To me, it is the most delicious pot roast recipe I have tasted.
Here it is:
1. Brown your pot roast. Some crock pots have a browning setting. If yours does not, just brown it in a skillet on your cook top. Browning helps to build the flavor of the meat.
2. Put roast in the crock pot.
3. Pour on package of powdered onion soup over top of meat.
4. Add about 1 cup of water.
5. Cook on low.
6. After a couple of hours I add peeled potatoes, cut into large chunks and carrots.
Cooking time will depend on the size of your roast. Don’t forget to make gravy out of the wonderful juices.
There are literally hundreds of recipes on Pinterest and the Internet for crock pot cooking. Save yourself some time, dust off that crock pot and get cooking.
Malissa Meeks is a mother of seven who knows her way around the kitchen. By her estimate, she has prepared more than 42,000 meals over the years. She also knows what she likes in a good restaurant. Her column appears here each week. Leave comments here or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.