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Slow cooker basics: Our best tips

Aug. 27, 2013 at 3:34 PM ET

Slow cookers (also known as Crock Pots) have stood the test of time, unlike other cooking fads. Popular with busy families and singles, slow cookers cook at relatively low temperatures for long periods and need little attention. You can prep your ingredients in advance, put them in the pot, and then press "start." Hours later, voila! To get you on the fast track to slow cooking, check out these tips and recipes:

Slow Cooker Tips

 

  • Do not overfill the pot. Leave at least 2 inches of space between the top of the food and the rim.
  • Defrost meat and poultry before adding to the machine. Frozen vegetables are okay to add at the end of cooking.
  • Resist the temptation to peek. Lifting the lid often can lower the temperature of the pot, extending the cooking time.
  • Dried beans cook better than canned in a slow cooker.
  • Layer strategically. Put heavier vegetables such as potatoes and turnips that take longer to cook on the bottom. Top with meat and then lighter vegetables like corn and squash.
  • Cheap, tough cuts of meat work wonderfully in slow cookers. The long cooking time and moisture work together to break down the hard-to-chew connective tissue of the meat.
  • For best results, fill the slow cooker one-half to two-thirds full.
  • If you entertain a lot, consider buying a large (5 ½ quart) machine for parties and events.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.
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