Chef shares her slow cooker tips

  • By Judyrae Kruse Herald Columnist
  • Friday, February 11, 2011 12:01am
  • Life

It’s finally Friday, which in this case means that, come Monday, the Forum will offer a savory, satisfying, comfy and heartwarming, if not necessarily romantic, crockpot recipe.

Between now and then, should you choose to accept this culinary mission designed, I think, as a perfectly sum

ptuous Valentine’s Day supper, you will need: 2-pound (or larger) beef round roast, taco seasoning, chili powder, dried oregano, cumin, onion, garlic, 24 ounces (1 BIG) bottle beer, 8 ounces tomato sauce and 2 pounds of red potatoes.

Plus the usual kitchen/pantry standbys such as flour, butter, olive oil, seasoned salt and pepper.

You will also need, of course, a crockpot and the following how-to, all of which are provided by Heather Hunsaker, chef and graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.

“Since the slow cooker typically cooks meats in a liquid over a long period of time,’’ she says, “it is great to use for the cheaper and tougher cuts of meat. Due to this cooking process, the end result of the meat will be tender, rich and flavorful. To make sure you are getting the most from your slow cooker, follow these simple tips:

“When buying a slow cooker, look for one with a removable liner. This makes cleanup easier since the liner is dishwasher safe. If you already own a slow cooker without a liner, use disposable cooking bags. These bags are inexpensive and allow you to throw out the used bag after your dinner is ready!

“When prepping your food, remove skin from poultry and trim excess fat from meat. Fats melt with long cooking times, and too much fat will result in a greasy and unpleasant texture in the final meal.

“Also, most meats do not need to be browned before adding to the slow cooker. However, browning your meat or poultry in a skillet before adding them to the cooker will add color and give the meat a more developed texture and taste.

“For best results, ground meat should definitely be precooked before adding to the slow cooker. Ground meats may develop an unappetizing gray color and chewy texture if not precooked.

“Most vegetables such as carrots, potatoes and bell peppers take longer to cook than meat and should be placed at the bottom of the slow cooker. However, tender vegetables like tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini should be added during the last 45 minutes of cooking so they don’t overcook.

“And whatever you do, don’t peek! Don’t lift the lid to stir, unless the recipe calls for it. Each time you lift the lid, enough heat will escape that the cooking time will need to be extended by 20 minutes.’’

The next Forum will appear in Monday’s Good Life section.

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