It’s fall which means that my slow cooker has been dusted off from storage. I’ve been searching for delicious slow cooker meals to make my life a little bit easier. I love that I can put a few ingredients into my slow cooker in the morning and come home to a delicious meal for dinner. Well, most of the time. I seem to be coming home to overcooked, flavorless meals lately. Apparently slow cooker does not always mean ‘set it and forget it.’
Today I’m sharing some tips and tricks with you to ensure that your slow cooker creations don’t turn into beef jerky or take hours upon hours to cook. If you follow a few simple rules, your convenient slow cooker meals will turn out perfect every single time.
- Choose the right cut of meat for slow cooking – As much as I love boneless, skinless chicken breasts, this is not the best meat to slow cook because there is generally no fat on a chicken breast. Choosing a nicely marbled cut of beef or pork will help keep the meat tender and moist during the long cook time. Dark meat chicken with bones such as thighs or drumsticks will also tend to do well in the slow cooker because of the higher fat content in this meat.
- Set the correct heat level and cook time – Cooking low and slow is my general rule of thumb. I rarely use the ‘high’ heat level on my slow cooker and typically go with a range of 6 – 8 hours. Cooking the meat too quickly will result in tough, fatty meals.
- Avoid overcrowding – Just because your slow cooker holds 5 quarts, doesn’t mean you want to pack it full. You’ll want to leave enough room for the heat to circulate throughout the pot and cook the food evenly.
- Keep the lid closed – This is one thing that I’m guilty of doing. I like to smell how my roast is cooking throughout the process but the more you open the lid, the longer it’s going to take to cook. Each time you open that lid, you can add another 20 minutes onto your cook time.
- Brown your meat to boost the flavor – I encourage you to brown your meat in a saucepan prior to adding it to your slow cooker. This method seals in the juices and will add another layer of flavor to your dish. A quick sear on both sides of the meat in a hot pan can make a world of difference!
With the pork in this recipe, I opted for marinating the cut overnight before searing the meat and placing it in my slow cooker. Always be sure to put the fat side up so that as the meat cooks, the fat will melt down over the meat and keep it moist. My slow cooker also has a meat thermometer, which is helpful in monitoring the internet temperature of the meat so that I don’t overcook it. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, I suggest cooking this pork tacos recipe on low for 6 hours. Enjoy!