If you are more familiar with using the stove and oven than a crockpot, and most of us are, you might have a few questions about crockpot cooking or be wondering why your last attempt at crockpot cooking did not come out the way you had hoped.
Undercooked and Overcooked Meat and Fish
Perhaps your beef came out tough, which means you either used the wrong cut of meat (always use braising steak or stewing steak in slow cooker recipes) or you didn’t cook it for long enough. Maybe your fish came out rubbery, which means you cooked it, too long. Fish and seafood cooks in about half an hour in there, so it might be wise to cook it on the stove and add it at the end.
Remember also that hard vegetables take longer to cook in the slow cooker than meat or anything else, so layer your ingredients with the hardest ones at the bottom. For example, layer potatoes, turnip, and carrots and arrange your meat on top.
Chicken breast cooks quite quickly in a crockpot so if you are using chicken breast in a recipe calling for chicken thighs or a whole chicken, you will need to adjust the cooking time. If you are including carrots or potatoes, parboil these first or set them cooking before you add the chicken breasts. A chicken breast can cook in just a couple of hours in the crockpot, depending on the recipe.
When using a slow cooker, you should fill it between half and two thirds full. The food will not cook properly if it is filled to the brim and it will cook too fast if there is not much in there. Buy the right sized crockpot in the first place. If you are cooking for a family of four, a medium sized crockpot would be best for you.
How to Cook Rice in a Slow Cooker
Long grain rice and risotto rice do the best in a slow cooker but some people have trouble cooking the rice in there. If the rice is not cooked at the end of the cooking time, add an extra two thirds of a cup of liquid per cup of rice and give it a bit longer. It is usually easier to pre-cook the rice on the stove or in a rice cooker and add it at the end and the same goes for pasta, couscous or any other grain.
Cooking Beans in the Crockpot
The slow cooker was invented as a bean cooker in the first place but that does not mean you can just throw dried beans in there and expect them to cook perfectly. If you are using dried beans, you need to boil them before adding them to the slow cooker. This is especially important if you use red kidney beans. Cover the beans with three times their volume of water and boil them for ten minutes. Turn down the heat and cover the pan. Let them simmer for ninety minutes or until they are soft.
If you combine beans with acidic or sugary foods, these components give the beans a hard coating and make them resistant to softening, which is why it is so important to soften the beans before adding them to the slow cooker.
You might need to soak the beans in water before you boil them. Discard the soaking or boiling water when you are finished. Adding dried beans to the crockpot will not work and they will not soften.
Another option is to use cooked canned beans instead. You should add these near the end of the cooking time, since you only need to warm them through and they are already cooked. Cooking them for too long might make them mushy.
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