6 things everyone who uses a slow cooker should know

Slow cookers are the easy and versatile tool that is guaranteed to be your new kitchen BFF (if it isn't already). 

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6 things everyone who uses a slow cooker should know
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6 things everyone who uses a slow cooker should know

1. Always add your cheese at the end

We’ve all been there; at least, I have. You’ve made a deliciously cheesy recipe in your slow cooker and left it for just a little too long. There’s nothing worse than a gooey, somewhat curdled mess. To avoid just this issue, you don’t have to avoid cheese altogether. Instead, simply make sure that you add it right at the end, around five to ten minutes before serving.

2. Skip washing up

The least fun part of using a slow cooker is simple – the cleanup. No one likes it, and yet we all have to do it, right? Not quite. Using a slow cooker liner means that you can avoid cleaning altogether and get on with eating your deliciously tender home-cooked meal.


 

3. Brown your meats before you start

Before you go ahead and put a whole load of raw meat into the slow cooker, there’s something you should know. Browning the meat a little ahead of time in a skillet will help you lock in extra flavor, plus it’ll seal in the meat’s delicious juices. If you want to be really turn up the flavor, add a little rub or spice mix to the meat, too.

4. Avoid filling it to the brim

If you usually tend to fill up your slow cooker all the way, it could well be time to change your ways. Remember that your food, especially items like beans and pasta, needs room to cook and expand. Instead, you should aim to fill it up around ⅔ of the way so that there is space for a little steam (which will help!) and any expansion. Put this trick to the test by checking out these hearty vegetarian slow cooker recipes that are full of beans and pasta!

5. Warm tortillas on top of the cooker

What could go better with some slow-cooked chili con carne or chicken tacos than some freshly warmed tortillas? Rather than heating up the oven, there’s another, easier option. Place a glass baking tray on top of the slow cooker, in place of the lid, and put your tortillas inside it. They will heat up perfectly!

6. Think outside the box

If you thought that slow cookers were just for stews, you were seriously mistaken. Cook anything from rice pudding to mulled wine, and even cheesecake, right in your slow cooker. If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out these 25 things we bet you didn’t know could be made in the slow cooker.

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There are loads of awesome ways to use a slow cooker in your modern-day cooking. Check out these simple slow cooker recipes to start! Whether you’re a newbie or a dump-and-go veteran, here are seven things to keep in mind when putting your slow cooker to work!

Related: You can make this with a slow cooker! 

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Unexpected things to make in a slow cooker
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Unexpected things to make in a slow cooker

Stock

Yes, you probably know you can make all sorts of soups in a slow cooker, but this is also a great way to make your stock. Stock is best when it simmers low and slow. It's easy, too: Just place the chicken carcass in the slow cooker with carrots, celery, onions, bay leaf, herbs, and water. Cook on high for five hours or low for ten. That stock will help in endless recipes so you may want to make a big batch and freeze some.

Roast Chicken

Roast chicken is a Sunday dinner staple and a source of leftovers to enjoy in lunch salads and sandwiches throughout the week. Taste of Home demonstrates that you don't have to use the oven: That chicken can be perfect and juicy in the slow cooker! Place the chicken and vegetables in the slow cooker with your favorite herb mixture breast-side up on low for four to five hours.  Learn more about how you can braise a whole chicken in your slow cooker, too.

Beer

Would you ever imagine you could make beer in your slow cooker? You can! You just need to create an infusion mash out of specialty grains and water, running it through the step mash process of temperature cycles. Sounds complicated but ultimately it's rather easy. Trust us. Don't miss these ways you might be using your slow cooker all wrong.

Soap

The slow cooker is a great way to hot process the soap. This makes soap "cook" faster than would happen during a traditional slow-making process. Using a slow cooker allows a user to hot process the soap (basically the soap is actively cooking) as opposed to letting the reactions happen on their own (a cold process). Just follow the recipe by measuring your oils and lye and putting in the slow cooker and stirring by hand until it reaches a batter-like consistency (known as a light trace). Then walk away and let it cook for about 20 minutes before turning the heat off, adding the rest of your soap ingredients, and pouring into your soap molds. While you can make soap in any slow cooker, you may want to designate an older one you are not using for cooking anymore. These are some other non-food uses for slow cookers you can try, too.

Brownies

A slow cooker is a godsend for all sorts of baked goods but especially those you want to be extra rich and indulgent, like a brownie. This recipe from Oprah.com takes fairly traditional brownie staples and pours them into a slow cooker, atop greased parchment paper. You'll cook on low for three hours and it should be gooey and rich when it's ready. Here are some other things we bet you didn't know you could make in a slow cooker.

French Toast

Breakfast is extra fun to slow cook because it's delicious to wake up to. While the breakfast options are endless, this French toast is pretty special, involving whisking eggs, milk, vanilla, brown sugar, and cinnamon and pouring over diced bread in a slow cooker, and cooking on low for at least six hours. In the morning you will have a gorgeous soufflé-like French toast.

Pizza

Jeff Mauro of the Food Network shared a fun trick for making pizza in the slow cooker. Spray the bottom of the pot so that your crust doesn't stick, but beyond that it's as simple as making dough, cooking it on high for an hour and then going back into the pot to add your toppings and cook on high until your toppings are melted and the crust is a golden brown.

Candles

Crazy but true: You can make homemade candles in your slow cooker! It's no mess, no fuss, and no double boiling. You just need to spoon pieces of wax into candle holders and arrange them at the bottom of your slow cooker, and cook on high for about a half hour before coming back to check on them. Your wax will have melted down a bit, so add more wax to each candle holder. When each candle holder is full of melted wax, add some essential oils to each and stir. Then, add your wicks and turn the slow cooker off. Over the next few hours, that wax will harden into candles.

Yogurt

While it feels easy enough to pick up some containers at the supermarket, making your own yogurtcan be fun and healthy. You'll need a yogurt starter culture, which you'll add to milk you have slowly warmed in the slow cooker. You'll then culture it overnight before storing in glass jars in your fridge. You can choose any ingredients you want to go in it, which is half the fun. Be sure you're not making these kitchen mistakes while you're at it.

Bread

If you want to make fresh homemade bread, you do not need to own a bread machine. This is an especially great option when it's way too hot out to consider heating up the kitchen by baking. You'll want to line the slow cooker with parchment paper so that it doesn't stick, and cook the bread dough on high for two and a half hours. If you want your bread to have a darker char, you can then brown under the broiler for a few minutes.

Hot cocoa 

Having a winter get-together and want to have hot cocoa at the ready for all your guests? This is a genius and easy way to make it, keep it warm all party long, and not use the stove. Plus, you can easily spike it once the kids go to bed...

Mac and cheese

Mac and cheese is a time-honored favorite, often involving lots of stovetop stirring followed by baking in the oven. None is necessary! Just create your macaroni, roux, and cheese mixture and place in a slow cooker on low for two and a half hours—this side will be so popular you may have to double or triple that recipe.

Baked potatoes

One may think that making baked potatoes involves taking up oven space, but it doesn't. Just wash, poke, and wrap those potatoes in foil. No liquid is necessary to add for this recipe. If you leave the slow cooker on low, eight hours later you'll have perfect potatoes. Feel free to mash them after, but we kind of love the baked without baking concept! If you like your potatoes loaded, that's an option in your slow cooker as well.

Crayons

Chances are you have lots of old broken crayons around the house. These can be given second life by peeling and breaking down the crayons into a muffin tin and placing in a slow cooker on high for an hour and a half. The crayons will melt down. Then, place them in the fridge and let them set – your crayons will harden again and set and be ready to use.

Lasagna

Lasagna is such a great winter's night meal, but it requires a lot of layering and work. This way is just dump it and forget it—throw your favorite ingredients in the slow cooker and let it do the work as you go about your day. You can cook on low for around eight hours and the noodles will crisp toward the end of the process, just like in the oven!

Grits

This southern staple can be a little tedious to make right, but when cooking low and slow, the flavors come together perfectly. You will cook the grits, water, and salt low overnight. Add your cream, butter, and cheese when you wake up and cook just long enough for the cheese to melt. Breakfast perfection.

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