Crock Pot 101 Lesson 3

Did you think I forgot about this series? Well, now that summer is coming up, I thought it would be a good time to revisit it. My original plan was to post a new lesson with every 50 new subscribers. Maybe that's too ambitious for this non-salesy kind of person like me. But I did reach 30, so I am going to modify my goals. I will post a new lesson with every 25 subscribers, so hopefully you won't have to wait so long! (Just to let you know: For those of you who subscribe, God willing, I am planning to compile these posts plus the recipes into an ebook for your convenience, which will be sent out to subscribers only when the series ends. Another good reason to get on the mailing list! I promise I won't spam you. I barely am able to get out one email a month!)

Anyways, let's move on to...

Lesson 3: Slow Cooker Tips

Okay, so here is a caveat. This is what I learned while doing my research on slow cooking. Whether I actually follow the rules is another question. I don't want to put information on this blog that could get me in trouble, so if you want to disregard these recommendations, use your common sense and proceed at your own risk. I do.

Tip #1: Fill your crock pot only 2/3 to 3/4 full. This seems to be the "sweet spot". Leave about 2" between your food and the top.

Tip #2: Do not open the lid of your slow cooker during its cooking time. When you do, the temperature drops. If you do, add fifteen minutes more to your cooking time.

Tip #3: If you are dying of curiosity, and just have to see the progress but can't see, here's a trick to try if you are using a round slow cooker: spin the lid to remove the condensation so you can see. Cool, eh? Obviously, this won't work with an oval cooker. However, for mine, I don't usually have trouble seeing what's going on.

Tip #4: Save time by pre-filling your crock pot the night before. In everything I have read, it is recommended that you do not put raw meats into contact with vegetables overnight. If that is not an issue, then you can fill it the night before. Some sources say that you will need to factor in a little extra time, say an hour or so, but to be truthful, I haven't found this to be necessary. Use your discretion.

Tip #5: With that said, some recipes call for meats to be browned before putting in the crock pot. This gives your food a more appetizing color. From my experience, this is not absolutely necessary, but with chicken, it does make a bit of difference in appearance. The caution is that browning is not the same as cooking, so do not brown your meat, then refrigerate it overnight. This is to prevent potential food poisoning hazards.

Tip #6: Don't soak a hot stoneware crock in water right away. Let it cool a bit or else it may crack. Then you'd be very sad.

Tip #7: Don't put your stoneware into the freezer either.

Tip #8: Don't use an extension cord with your crockpot. I've read this in multiple places, so there must be a reason. But I don't know why.

Tip #9: Keep plastic or other meltable items away from your crock pot. I once had a plastic bread bag melt because it was too close. Leave some space around your slow cooker. And of course, keep it away from the edge, the sink or from curious little hands.

Tip #10: If all else fails, read your instruction manual. It may have the answer to what you are looking for!

This week, on Memorial Day, we were able to bring dinner to my husband while he was working on our new house. Even though we did not have any appliances, we were able to enjoy a hot meal together. What I did was prepare this roast (recipe below), make the gravy, and then pour it over the pork, which I had cut into bite-sized pieces. (That's so we didn't have to juggle knives on our laps!)

When I arrived at the house, I plugged my crock pot and my rice cooker in to warm up the meal, then we went out for a walk in our local botanical gardens for about an hour. When we came home, dinner was ready and waiting. Our crockpot saved the day!

This summer is a perfect time to break out the slow cooker. On vacations, we like to find a place to stay that has at least partial kitchen facilities and a mini refrigerator. What I do is prepare my ingredients beforehand as far as possible at home (cut, chop veggies, etc.). If I use meats, I use them first or use pre-cooked meats that only require re-heating (like ham, kielbasa).

Before we leave for a day out to the beach or to an amusement park, I fill our crock pot and then when we come back, dinner is ready! We have saved so much money this way. Not to mention, the food is probably a lot healthier! We round out our meals with bread, rice, potatoes, fruits, vegetable sticks and dip, and then for a special treat, we just pick up dessert.

So stay tuned this month on the blog for crockpot recipes for the summer. Even if it's just a busy day out with the kids or you don't want to worry about heating up the kitchen at the end of the day, your crockpot can definitely be a big help. Here's one recipe to get you started!

Parmesan Pork Roast

Serves 10

1 boneless whole pork loin roast (4 lbs.)—cut in half, place in slow cooker

Mix the following in a small bowl:

2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 Tbsp. dried basil

2 Tbsp. minced garlic

3 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. olive oil (I like to measure this out, and swirl it around my ½ cup measure, then dump it into the bowl)

½ cup honey (if you grease the cup with the olive oil, the honey just slides out)

½ tsp. salt

Pour this mixture over the pork. Cover, and then cook on low for 5 ½ to 6 hours. Remove meat to a serving platter; keep warm. Skim fat from cooking juices; transfer gravy to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Then add:

2 Tbsp. cornstarch mixed into

¼ cup cold water

Gradually stir this mixture into pan. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.

Slice or shred roast (see notes below); serve with gravy.

Notes:

  • Depending on how old your cooker is, you may get different results. With my 1990’s cooker, I was able to get nice slices. With my newer one, it seemed to shred more.
  • While I was slicing mine, I cut (or shred) into bite-sized chunks, returned the meat to the crockpot, then poured the gravy over it and stirred to coat. This makes it easier for little ones and seemed to be less dry. Or you can serve slices with gravy on the side.
  • Buy pork on sale and freeze. Most of these ingredients are probably already in your pantry, making this an easy meal to throw together.

Here's the PDF if you'd like a printable version! Parmesan Pork Roast

If you'd like to see the next installment, I encourage you to let me know by signing up on my email list to the right! When I hit 25, I'll release another lesson. We'll start looking into cooking different types of foods, like pastas, meats, soups, desserts! I also read about making bread in your crockpot, so I'll let you know if that works! If you'd like to see the other lessons in the series, here's Lesson 1 and Lesson 2!