Some things I have learned and/or read: The bottom cooks fastest (HARD veggies like potatoes and carrots go there, in small pieces). The top cooks slowest, so if you put say celery or a piece of meat at the very top it will hold its shape more, lower down it will fall apart. Over 8 hours, the meat will fall to pieces, that's really the only difference. Also more likely to dry out. Newer crockpots tend to cook hotter; get used to your own. If it's hotter you'll need more liquid, and it may be less forgiving of 10-12 hr cooking times (on the other hand, your potatoes won't be hard). I prefer whole pieces of meat (like a small roast, cut in pieces to fit if necessary); they dry out less and hold shape better than steaks or stew pieces. Chicken breasts get way too dry, but chicken thighs are great. I prefer bone-in (more flavour) and I just peel the skin and fat-blobs off while they're still partly frozen. If you are converting a regular recipe, just halve the amount of cooking liquid it calls for the first time round (if it's too wet, you can discard it or save it for stock or gravy). Anything can cook on low for 8 hours; if it's a fish, seafood or cheese dish, it doesn't belong in the crockpot.
Most meals will be fine if cooked longer than the recipe says - I usually use mine for the whole work day 10-11 hours and its all good. The one problem is boneless/skinless chicken - it gets dry if done crockpot style unless you do it for just a few hours. Bone-in chicken, however comes out awesomely tender, falling off the bone. Some veggies, like fresh spinach, are best stirred in at the end so they don't get overdone. For me it depends on the dish and how you like them. Fresh herbs are best put in during the last half-hour, too, so they don't lose flavor. I think the slow cooker is a great place to experiment because it is hard to really mess it up. Good luck!
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Fitness Minutes: (50,656) Posts: 7,423 4/17/08 8:15 P
Okay Guys, here is what I know. The slow cooker is so great because it is the slow cooking part. You don't need as much liquid to cook,I just put enough liquid in to cover the bottom of the pot so it doesn't dry out and that is all I ever need unless I am making soup. it is so low that it cooks in it's own juice. If you put it in the cooker when you go to work or what ever it will be done and waiting for you when you get home. It doesn't matter what size the meat is it is perfect. It will be so tender it will fall off the bone. The slower it cooks the better it is and with the slow cooker you can go about your day and not worry about it.
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Fitness Minutes: (18,635) Posts: 4,148 4/17/08 4:38 P
I have a question for all of you who are more expert crockpot users than I am. I don't understand the principles behind a crockpot. What makes everything come out right and be so yummy and tender? Things like how much liquid do you need? Does meat do better if it's one big piece, or is it better cut up into bite-size pieces? Can you use frozen meat, and if so, how much longer would it need to cook? If a recipe says to cook on low for 8 hours, but I won't be home for 10 or 11 hours, will it still be all right? I've heard that veggies take longer to cook than meat so they should be on the bottom--okay, I can see that for potatoes or carrots, maybe, but what about tomatoes, onions, spinach, etc.?
Not knowing how it all works means I can only follow crockpot recipes and only if the cooking time matches my schedule! I can't modify other recipes to use in a crockpot and I can't just "do my own thing". Seems like life would be a whole lot easier if I knew what I was doing. LOL
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