Lots of us love our slow cookers, and they can be a lifesaver in the kitchen when you lead a busy life, but unfortunately you can’t cook everything in one!
There are some things that should never meet your slow cooker, and here’s 12 of them:
1. Lean Meats
Slow cookers are great for tenderizing tougher joints of meat such as brisket and pork shoulder, but if you put lean meats in such as chicken breast or fillet steak, they’ll end up like shoe leather, or disintegrate altogether.
2. Raw Meats
The gentle heat of a slow cooker won’t brown your meat, yet it’s this browning that gives it a good flavor. Fry your meat quickly to brown and sear it first before adding to the slow cooker.
3. Too Much Liquid
Slow cookers don’t lose a lot of moisture when cooking, so if you add too much water to start with, your casserole will taste pretty bland. If you’re not using a slow-cooker-specific recipe, reduce the amount of liquid by half.
4. Summer Vegetables
Courgettes, asparagus and peas are too delicate to be cooked in the slow cooker, but it is great for softening root vegetables.
5. Too Much Spice
If you put too much chili in the slow cooker, you’ll regret it! Hot and spicy ingredients become hotter the longer they’re cooked for, so sprinkling spices in at the beginning of the cooking time isn’t a great idea. Stir them in with only a few minutes left of cooking time instead.
6. Raw Dried Beans
Some dried beans – especially kidney beans – contain a toxic substance that needs to be destroyed by cooking at a high temperature. Most slow cookers don’t have this type of heat, so boil the beans briskly on the hob for ten minutes and rinse before adding to the slow cooker.
7. Dairy Foods
Dairy products separate when cooked for a long time, so if you add milk, cream or yogurt to your slow cooker at the beginning of cooking, you’ll end up with a curdled, watery mess. Add dairy once the recipe has finished cooking.
8. Too Much Alcohol
Putting large amounts of wine or beer into your slow cooker isn’t a good idea, because alcohol needs to boil and evaporate a little to get rid of the alcohol and just keep the taste. Boil your alcohol on the hob first before adding to the slow cooker.
9. Skin-On Meat
Meats that have skin on, such as chicken thighs, need the dry heat of roasting or grilling to crisp up. If you cook them in the slow cooker, the skin will be greasy and rubbery.
10. Soft Fresh Herbs
Soft herbs such as basil, coriander or mint don’t do well in the slow cooker, as the long cooking time destroys their fragrant properties. Woody herbs such as rosemary or thyme can stand up to the long cooking time, but use them sparingly as they are very pungent.
Fish and shellfish are also too delicate for the rigors of the slow cooker. They need short cooking times to be at their best. Squid and octopus are the exceptions, as long, slow braising can tenderize them beautifully.
12. Pasta and Rice
Don’t think you can save time by banging pasta and rice into the slow cooker – they’ll turn into a congealed and mushy mess as they have a high starch content and cook far too quickly for the slow cooker.