I love the holidays, and I love making our favorite holiday dishes, but once January rolls around I tend to feel a bit burnt-out on cooking. But there are only so many nights in a row you can order pizza before you start feeling bad about it! ;-) To avoid the January pizza marathon, I’m planning on using my crockpot as much as possible!
While scouring the internet for slow cooker recipes recently, I came across a few brilliant slow cooker hacks that I knew I wanted to share here on the blog. I threw in a few hacks of my own, and voila, this list of ten must-know slow cooker hacks was born! If you’ll be joining me in participating in “Just-Say-No-To-Cooking January” (which I just made up) I think you’ll find some useful tips in here. :-)
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Use tin foil to create a divider in the center of your crockpot. Place a slow cooker liner over the top and push it down into the two cavities. Now you can use your crockpot to cook or heat up two dips or soups!
2. Double Boiler
Fill your crockpot with a few inches of hot water, and you can use it as a double boiler! Just put whatever you’re melting in a glass mason jar and place the jar into the water. This trick is great for melting chocolate, making salves, and more!
3. Catch Condensation
Catch drips of condensation before they reach your food by placing a towel or a thick paper towel under the closed lid of your crockpot. This is really useful for making things like crockpot brownies and bread that tend to get soggy.
Use your crockpot as a humidifier! Just fill your crockpot with warm water and turn it on high. Moisture will start to escape the crockpot after an hour or so, humidifying whatever room it’s in. Humidifiers can be a lifesaver in the winter, as the warm, dry air from furnaces can dry out your nasal passages, which can increase your chances of getting sick.
5. Avoiding Crockpot Catastrophes
If you’re adding cream or cheese to your crockpot recipe, add it towards the end of the cooking time to avoid accidentally curdling the dairy. Likewise, items that are already cooked will break down quickly in your crockpot, so add cooked pasta, veggies, and beans towards to your crockpot near the end of the cooking process.
6. Erase Residue
Despite our best cleaning efforts, the removable stoneware in a crockpot can develop a white residue over time. This residue can be dissolved using white vinegar, or a combination of white vinegar and baking soda. Just sprinkle baking soda inside the stoneware, then pour or spray a bit of vinegar onto it. Wash afterwards with warm, soapy water.
7. Sear Your Meat
For meat dishes and recipes, you can achieve a much richer and fuller flavor by searing your meat on a hot pan before putting it in the crockpot. Searing meat at high temperatures creates caramelization on the surface, which will infuse your final dish with a more developed flavor than you’d be able to achieve without searing.
8. Keep A Lid On It
Unless your recipe instructs you to stir during the cooking process, keep your hands off that lid! Every time you remove the lid during cooking, a large amount of heat is lost, and it can take up to 30 minutes to regain the lost heat.
9. Rescue Runny Soups & Sauces
On the other hand, if your crockpot creation is too liquid-y for your tastes, you’ll WANT to remove the lid. Removing the lid allows the liquid content in your dish to reduce, resulting in a thicker final product.
10. Avoid Dry Meat
Slow cookers tend to work best with larger, fattier cuts of meat. When fat is cooked slowly at a low temperature, it melts into the meat which keeps the whole thing moist and delicious. Leaner cuts have less fat, and they can turn tough and dry in a slow cooker. If you’re cooking a lean meat, it’s best to use a large piece, which will dry out more slowly than a smaller piece. (For instance, chicken breasts will dry out pretty quickly, but a whole chicken will stay very moist!)
Bonus Slow Cooker Tips!
11. Adapt Recipes For Crockpots
With a few simple alterations, you can make many of your favorite standard recipes in your crockpot! Download my handy printable guide to converting recipes for crockpot use by following the link below.
Read More: Stovetop/Oven to Crockpot Conversion Chart
12. Clean The Interior Of The Cooker
The removable stoneware part of your crockpot is easy enough to clean in your dishwasher or by hand, but what about the actual cooker part? Spills happen, and can get crusted on to the interior of the cooker. But it is possible to clean away those stains!
13. Make Something Interesting
Beyond the usual meat dishes, soups, and stews you’re familiar with making, there are all sorts of things you can make using your slow cooker! I wrote a post a few months back about unusual things you can make in your crockpot, covering everything from brownies to crayons!
14. Give Your Crockpot A Makeover
Chalkboard crockpots are very “in” right now, and for good reason! It’s a fun and easy way to label what’s cooking inside, so you can serve food right out of if and your guests will know exactly what they’re getting. It also looks sleek and sophisticated on its own! But you don’t need to go out and buy a new crockpot to cash in on this trend – just give your existing crockpot a makeover!