They’re great when you’ve got a busy day ahead, and take much of the stress out of cooking – but did you know that there are some things that should never see the inside of a slow cooker?
Unless you are a super cook who uses one all year round, winter is generally the time when people let their slow cookers take the strain more frequently.
Despite these handy crockpots being incredibly useful when it comes to not having to worry about dinner, not all food can be put in a slow cooker.
So, if you’re new to the slow cooker scene or haven’t used yours in a while, take a look at our guide below to the types of food that don’t work as well in them…
There are very few, if any, circumstances in which it’s okay to put fish in a slow cooker. Doing so is likely to cause your home and your crockpot to smell very strongly for a long while after you’re doing cooking, and will cause the fish to dry out.
It doesn’t take very long to cook fish in an oven, so why not use the slow cooker to make a delicious sauce to pour over the top of it?
Boneless chicken breasts
Much of the point of putting any kind of meat in a slow cooker is to soften it and reduce the fat. Chicken breasts tend not to have much fat on them anyway and are usually not that tough when cooked.
Exposing chicken breasts to longer periods of heat can create the opposite effect of cooking it in an oven, leaving it tough and dry. Your best bet is to use bone-in chicken and remove the skin first.
Green or delicate vegetables
The majority of vegetables are either really delicate or green and cooking them in a slow cooker on their own – as opposed to in a sauce or casserole – for hours on end, will cause them to lose their freshness, quality and colour by the time you come to eat them. However, most dishes taste better with some added greens so be sure to add them to your dish 10 minutes before the end of the overall cooking time.
All types of rice are a bit of a no-no when it comes to slow cooking, so it’s best to leave that to just before you’re about to eat. If you’re really pushed for time, wild rice is the best bet in a slow cooker.
Generally crockpots and slow cookers won’t cook rice evenly as there isn’t as much space for the heat to move around it as there is for meat. For most types of rice, the grains around the edges will be overcooked while the bits in the middle will be undercooked if done at all.
It really only takes up to 20 minutes to cook rice on the hob and any time longer than that can reduce the quality.
Most types of dairy won’t work in a slow cooker, as they are likely to curdle and won’t react well to the prolonged amount of heat. If your recipe calls for a large amount of cream or cheese, consider adding it towards the end of the overall cooking time so it’s in long enough to warm up, or warm on the stove before serving.
If a recipe calls for an ingredient such as kidney beans, try opting for the canned version instead. Dried beans, such as kidney, have a toxin in them that can be cooked off in boiling water. However, water in a slow cooker doesn’t usually reach boiling point and so it would make kidney beans largely unsafe to eat if not prepared properly.
If you only have dried beans to hand, soak them in water for 12 hours first then boil them in fresh water for at least 10 minutes.
If you enjoy soggy and disintegrating pasta then you’ll be pleased to know that your desired result can be reached by cooking pasta in your slow cooker. But if you just want to eat pasta in the normal way, cooking it in a slow and steady heat over many hours just won’t work.
Instead, why not cook a delicious sauce to go over the pasta in your crockpot, or some meat that can be chopped up and stirred through it?
With the exception of mulled wine, cooking any type of alcohol in a slow cooker just won’t work – this includes marinading meats in a red wine sauce or jus. Usually for these kinds of recipes, the idea is for the alcohol to evaporate so the meat is left with the flavour or a reduced amount of the alcohol. In a slow cooker, there is nowhere for it to escape, meaning your dish will be left tasting quite bitter and slightly acidic.
Due to the quick change in temperature between a freezer and a slow cooker, if frozen food isn’t thawed properly before being cooked then there is a chance it can create harmful bacteria. Don’t use a slow cooker to defrost your frozen food, instead, allow it to thaw overnight either on the counter or in the fridge and wait until it has completely defrosted before cooking.
Part of the idea of cooking meat in a slow cooker is to soften it up but a lot of expensive steaks are already tender enough that they don’t need much done to them other than a few minutes in the pan or the oven. If a crockpot recipe calls for a lot of meat, try getting a cheaper cut that will take longer to cook.
Try this recipe in your slow cooker…