Yes, you can put raw meat in a slow cooker and expect it to cook properly if you give it enough time and use a recipe meant specifically for a slow cooker. Slow cookers can actually be used to make some of the most amazing stews. However, different cuts require different cooking styles to bring out the best flavors and not all of them will yield the best results in a slow cooker.
What Kind Of Meat Is Good For Slow Cooker Recipes?
Slow cookers are ideal for cooking tougher cuts of meat like beef shin, pork shoulder or oxtail. These cuts of meat turn really tender when slow cooked. So when you have used up the better cuts for other recipes, you can throw the leftover sinewy cuts into a slow cooker and prepare a delicious, comforting stew. Never use tender cuts like chicken breast in a slow cooker since it will turn leathery and unappetizing.
Is It Safe To Put Raw Meat In A Slow Cooker?
Yes, it’s perfectly safe to cook raw meat in a slow cooker. Usually, when we talk about how safe a cooking process is, we are asking whether all the harmful microorganisms present in raw meat are killed efficiently. The heat generated in a slow cooker and the long cooking time are sufficient to kill any harmful microorganisms present in raw meat.
Why Do Some Recipes Call For Browning The Meat Before Putting It In A Slow Cooker?
Browning the meat before adding it to a slow cooker adds texture and flavor that the slow cooker alone can’t achieve. So this is more about personal preference and how much effort you are willing to put into the dish. You can definitely try out this extra step for better flavor but it’s not compulsory.
Is It Possible To Put Raw Vegetables With Raw Meat In A Slow Cooker?
It may seem a little weird to put all raw ingredients together into a slow cooker but it actually works. You can put raw vegetables along with raw meat in a slow cooker and prepare a nutritious meal. The only thing you have to remember is that some vegetables take longer to cook than small pieces of meat. These vegetables must be placed closest to the source of heat, that is, the bottom of the slow cooker. The other ingredients must also be layered based on cooking time, following the same principle.
Can Big Chunks Of Meat Be Used In A Slow Cooker?
Theoretically, as long as the meat is small enough to fit in a slow cooker, it can be cooked in it. But it’s not a very good idea to do so. The bigger the piece of meat, the longer it will take to cook it fully. There will always be a chance that the heat won’t reach all the way into the core. This can be harmful for you. If you cut up the meat into smaller pieces and then put them into the slow cooker, your food will be both delicious and safe to eat.
How Much Liquid Should Be Put While Cooking Meat In A Slow Cooker?
A slow cooker retains most of the moisture. When you are adding water or stock to a slow cooker, make sure that you use enough to cover all the ingredients. Try not to fill up the slow cooker more than two-third or three-fourth of its volume. Adding too much liquid will not only make your stew or gravy bland, but it is also unsafe for you as the appliance may malfunction.
Should A Slow Cooker Be Set On Low Heat Or High Heat?
Both low and high heat modes serve their own purpose. But since it’s slow cooking that we are discussing, try to use the low heat mode more often. The low mode really brings out the best flavours for most dishes. Sure, it also means that the food will take longer to cook. Try to think of it as your patience paying off!
How Long Does It Take To Slow Cook?
The time is taken to slow cook any dish usually depends on the slow cooker model that you are using. But here’s an approximate conversion table that works for standard slow cookers:
|Normal Cooking Time||Slow Cooker High Heat Mode||Slow Cooker Low Heat Mode|
|15-30 minutes||1.5-2.5 hours||4-8 hours|
|30 minutes-1 hour||3-4 hours||6-10 hours|
|1-3 hours||4-6 hours||8-18 hours|
Common Mistakes While Using A Slow Cooker
Before you get started with your first slow cooker recipe, take a look at the most common mistakes people make while slow cooking:
1. Not Thawing – If you don’t thaw your frozen meat before putting it in a slow cooker, the meat may not get heated enough to be consumed safely. This might make you ill.
2. Using Warm Mode – Warm mode does not heat the meat enough to kill all microorganisms in it. It also heats food unevenly. If you wish to warm cooked food, use an oven instead.
3. Putting Raw Dried Beans – Beans have natural toxins that need to be boiled away. Instead of putting raw beans in a slow cooker, soak them overnight, boil them, then add them to your recipe.
4. Lifting Lid Too Often – Every time you lift the lid, a lot of heat and steam escapes. So, if you keep checking on the food too many times while it is cooking, it slows down the process.
5. Leaving Food In The Crock To Cool – Take out the food immediately after it has cooked. If you need to store it, store it in proper containers.
6. Overfilling The Slow Cooker – Slow cookers don’t reduce liquids much. Overfilling them makes the food bland and might cause the appliance to malfunction.
7. Leaving Skin On Meat – Skin on meat is best fried or seared. In a slow cooker, it becomes rubbery and unappetizing.
8. Not Trimming Fat From Meat – Fat doesn’t burn off in a slow cooker. Trim the fat from the meat if you don’t want grease all over your stew or gravy.
9. Using Alcohol Or Dairy – Slow cooking dairy might cause it to split and alcohol doesn’t completely burn off in a slow cooker. Both are capable of making your slow-cooked meal taste weird.
10. Putting Too Many Chilies – You might want to tone down on the chilies when it comes to slow cooking. The longer the chilies get heated, the spicier the dish will be.
11. Cooking Seafood – Seafood usually takes very little time to cook. Slow cooking is not a good option for preparing seafood.
12. Putting Raw Pasta Or Rice – Slow cooking starchy food like pasta or rice will make your food clumpy.
Try to avoid these mistakes and you are already way ahead in the slow cooker game!
Getting The Best Out Of Slow Cookers
After we have covered the mistakes, let’s get to the good part, the useful slow cooker hacks:
1. Starchy food like rice and pasta should be boiled separately and stirred into the slow cooker recipe at the end.
2. Milk and other dairy products should be added much later in the recipe to avoid splitting.
3. Alcohol-based sauces must be prepared separately to burn off the alcohol and then added to the slow cooker.
4. Fresh herbs and chilies should be put towards the end for the best flavor. More woody herbs like rosemary can be put in earlier though.
5. Root veggies take a lot of time to cook and should be put at the bottom. Similarly, delicate vegetables must be added at the end.
6. Since liquids don’t reduce easily in a slow cooker, you can add a bit of flour to thicken the gravy.
It’s mostly about understanding the cooking time of the ingredients you are using and adding them at different times for the best textures and taste.
To Slow Cook Or Not To Slow Cook?
In conclusion, slow cooking is just like other methods of cooking. It has its own set of rules and limitations. It can make certain recipes shine while other recipes might turn out bland. As long as you stick to these rules and understand the ingredients you are working with, you can stir up some serious comfort food. Once you start getting comfortable with the slow cooker, you can keep experimenting and create slow-cooked versions of all your favorite dishes!