Slow cookers are the set-it-and-forget-it heroes of the kitchen. If your favorite casseroles, soups and braised meat recipes are designed for the oven or stovetop, you can easily cook them in the slow cooker instead. A simple conversion chart and these tips will get you started.
Converting temperatures and cook time
How long you cook a dish in your slow cooker depends on whether you set it on high or low and the recipe's original cook time. The general rule is the high setting cooks about twice as fast as the low setting.
Converting a recipe to slow cooking works the best with dishes that are cooked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius) or lower in the oven or those that are cooked on the stove.
Foods that don't do well in the slow cooker are dishes that require sauteing on the stove or need to cook above 350 degrees. Higher temperatures are mostly used to brown items, and slow cookers don't have that capability.
Save this conversion chart to make switching from oven to slow cooker easier.
Aim to fill your slow cooker two-thirds of the way with ingredients. The less volume in your cooker, the faster your dish will cook, so keep that in mind. You may want to use a smaller slow cooker or double the recipe to hit the sweet spot.
Also, remember that different brands of slow cookers tend to cook at slightly different temperatures, so you may need to experiment.
There are a few rules to remember when cooking in your slow cooker. Liquid amounts are your biggest concern. When converting a recipe for a slow cooker, always add half a cup of water to the bottom of the crock before setting-and-forgetting if the recipe doesn't call for liquid. If the recipe does require liquid, reduce the amount given in the recipe by half.
Here are some more tips:
- Always chop your fruits and veggies into the same shape and size so that they cook evenly.
- Add softer fruits and vegetables -- like peaches, peas, corn, greens, squash, peppers, plums and tomatoes – around the last 30 minutes of the cooking time.
- Add tougher produce -- like carrots, apples, onions, potatoes and fresh green beans -- at the beginning because they take longer to cook.
- Add milk products during the last 30 to 60 minutes of the cooking time to prevent curdling.
- Brown or sear meats on the stove before adding them to the slow cooker. This will give the finished dish more flavor and better texture.