Crock Pot Tips, Tricks and Hacks. That sounds like a sorta cool idea. And I've got a lot of them stored in my brain...and I can find a LOT more. I'm a champion researcher. Well, not really. I have an obsessive personality. If I don't know something and I have the means to learn it, I tend to get obsessed.
Though it drives those around me a little batty...hopefully, it'll help someone. You, I'm hoping... I'm hoping it helps you... I've got 25+ years of cooking with these things under my belt (and I have NO idea how I got old enough to be able to say that)...so again, here's to hoping it'll help YOU and keep you from making some of my mistakes along the way. Click on the slider arrows below to see them images/memes/pics (whatever you call it) OR page down to see this clickable table of contents for a more in-depth explanation for each.[huge_it_gallery id="2 "]
Crock Pot Tips: #1 What To Do When Your Meal is Too Soupy
Have you ever had this happen? You knew you were gonna have a long, difficult day but you'd pre-planned...and you tossed some stuff in the slow cooker before you left. WooHoo! You're a rock star 🙂 Or so you think...
You get home... after that long, hard day...put down your stuff, get the rugrats or critters taken care of and go to stir supper. It looks like soup...wait, you didn't make soup. Is your Rock Star status deleted? Not necessarily, no...
Your meal isn't ruined. Most likely anyways. This trick won't work if you're in a super big hurry OR if there's several cups extra liquid. Well, it WILL...just maybe not in time for supper the same night. It isn't just a little too soupy...and by that I mean a cup or two...you can "cock" the lid.
Some folks will tell you to put a toothpick in the corner to just barely let the steam escape a little at a time. That's awesome...for overnight and lots of liquid. But if you want to get it done as quickly as possible and still keep your dinner protected using a wooden spoon, skewers or several chopsticks will probably be your best bet.
How to "Cock" the Crock Lid
So how's it work? Super simple. Stir up the meal, if it has an additional topping (aka cheese) to be added, don't add it yet, leave the spoon in the crock so it can't close the whole way. Turn that baby up to high and go do something else. I don't know your life so I'll not presume to tell you what. Me personally, I'd go garden or talk to my kids or grands or play with a critter or two. Heck, go veg and watch tv...go surf Facebook or Pinterest. Whatever.
The point is you just need to give it some time. I can't say how long 'cause that's gonna vary by slow cooker brand, by age and by how much extra liquid you have to deal with. But it works, almost always.
An Alternative & A Word of Caution...
One word of warning. This usually works great like I said before BUT if you have a slow cooker with a ceramic insert and a glass lid...well, you don't want it to get TOO crooked. If you do and there's much movement in your house...we live in a 120+-year-old farmhouse, over the top of a cave btw...and we used to have a herd of dogs and/or kids running the floors constantly.
If that's your life or something close...the Crockpot Cook and Carry just might be a good product for you next time you're in the market for a crockpot. Why? Well, you can read all about that
here but in this instance, it has a rubber gasket lid! So? That means NO slippage! Do worries about your lid getting broke. Thus the meme/pic up top 🙂
And hey! What do you have to lose? Give it a shot and it might salvage the meal. Lots of luck and keep on rockin' that crock 🙂
Crock Pot Tips: #2 Disappointed With the Flavor of Your Crock Pot Meal?
How about this one...Have you ever made a recipe that looks just AMAZING and smells so good your mouth starts watering before it's even close to done. You're looking SO forward to dinner...you just can't wait..Then you put it in your mouth.
It isn't gross but it isn't "all that". You look back at the recipe to check. Yep, you did it right. So what the heck happened?
I don't know. Want to hit me now? 🙂 That's okay. It was a snarky comment. BUT I do have a tip.
Maybe, just maybe and ONLY if you have the extra time...you can try browning/searing the meat the next time. What the heck is that?
If you want the long, technical description...I'm not gonna try and reinvent any wheels...I think this description is about the best you are gonna get.
How Do You "Sear" Meat?
It isn't difficult and it does all that Wikipedia says it does. It just makes the meat taste richer and more flavorful. So that's a super upside.
In the meme/pic above I used my handy, dandy cast iron skillet. If I ever get around to cooking meals in something besides a slow cooker...9 times out of 10 I use cast iron. There are tons of reasons and I'll go into those sometime later. But that's what I use and this is how I do it using cast iron...
- Turn the burner to medium-high and let it high up (2 minutes-ish) and allow whatever sort of butter or oil you'll be using melt and start to bubble.
- If you're applying a coating (aka flour or something like it) sprinkle or coat the meat (2 more minutes) AND turn the skillet to high.
- Gently (no, don't toss like I usually do, that causes grease burns here) place the meat in the skillet (1 minute) and clean up the flour.
- Allow the meat to sear/brown for about 2 minutes on each side (4 minutes)
- Use tongs or a big spoon and move the meat to the crock and proceed with your cooking (1 minute)
- Clean up the skillet...I'm not counting that time 'cause you can't clean it right now. It's too hot and not only are you risking your own well-being, your chancing to ruin your skillet. ANY skillet. So it just sits there until later at my house. Gross? Maybe. Practical? Yup 🙂
So there's the downside(s)...it takes longer. You'll need 10 (ish) more minutes to sear. But it works and it works well!
Upside & Another Option
Here's another possibility. If you intend to cook lots of roasts or any meat really, the
3-in-1 Slow Cookers completely ROCK. I've only had mine for a short time and you can read about that here you if want...but I tell ya what...Amongst other things you can sear/brown/saute right in that crockpot!
No extra dishes to wash, no hot pans to worry about...and again,
you can read about that here...cause the Cuisinart 3-in-1 I bought does NOT get hot on the outside. Excellent winner if you're either a clutz or have littles around...of which I am the first and have several of the second.
So there's an option and something to think about too. Again, it has lots of other stuff it can do and there are several points you can read in
the review .
Anyways...if you're looking to add a little more flavor to your crock pot meal, try searing the meat next round.
Crock Pot Tips: #3: Did your chicken dish come out dry?
Crockpot chicken dishes are a staple for most folks. They are super easy, delicious and take next to no time to prep.
But have you ever had the meat come out too dry? I sure have. So I started researching...I don't know if you've read any of my other posts on that subject...but I am a champion researcher. I can never not know an a answer.
Ask one of my siblings or my Mama and it's cause I was born in the "Show Me" State (that's Missiouri for those that don't know). Ask someone else it's because off my sign. I don't know what or why, I just know I gotta know answers...so I research stuff. And here's what I figured out about crock pot chicken...
Whole Crockpot Chicken
Whole chicken made in the crockpot can be even more delicious that the rotisserie style you get at the store. Done correctly it's moist, juicy and you can make it any flavor you can think of...made wrong, and it's just gross. Even tossing it in with a lot of water and cooking it into soup won't always salvage it...been there and done it.
The one in the picture above is from our Cajun Style Crockpot Chicken. It's delish but you can use any sort of spices you want...really!
So here's the tips...whole crock pot chicken really needs 8 to 10 hours to cook on low. Or 3 to 5 on high. It also needs to be elevated somehow. You can always by a rack for your crockpot. Or you can purchase a slow cooker that comes with a rack as well. The Cuisinart 3-in-1 Multicooker comes with an awesome rack that has handles on the sides so it's super handy.
But purchasing a new crock pot isn't always an option. So if you're in a pinch or just don't want to invest in a new one right now...you can also try one of these options...
An Inverted Glass Pan
You can use an inverted glass pan to keep your chicken elevated. This works really well. It isn't wasteful like using aluminum foil balls and it can serve other purposes too.
You can also flip that same little glass Pyrex dish over and cook all sorts of yummy stuff right in your crockpot. And get this...there is very little chance of it burning this way too! It's an excellent way to make:
- Overnight Oatmeal
- Crockpot Cobblers
- Slow Cooker Candy and melting chocolate
These little Pyrex dishes come in a handy set with lids. I've made all sorts of stuff in the crockpot using this set. It's also great in the oven, microwave, freezer, and dishwasher. They are a most excellent set to have around for most everything.
The pans shown in the set above with the green lids...those are the ones that work in the crockpot so well. You can also use the little ones to make individual crock pot cakes and cobblers...it's actually very cool 🙂
Aluminum Foil Balls
Rolled up balls of aluminum foil balls can also be used for cooking a whole chicken in the crock pot. Some folks don't agree about using this method 'cause of either waste or exposing yourself to too much aluminum. That's something you'll need to research and decide on yourself. I know I did it before I bought the Pyrex set above.
If you decide to use this method just tear off a 18-to 24-inch piece of foil and roll it up. Do this until there are enough balls to keep your chicken off the bottom of the crock pot. Balls can't be reused. Dispose of them after your done cooking.
Boneless, Skinless Varies of Chicken in the Crock Pot
If you're cooking boneless, skinless chicken breasts OR thighs in the crockpot, they can get dry QUICK. So unless you're cooking the really big, thick breasts OR frozen meats...you really only need to cook it for 3 to 5 hours.
Chicken tenders take the lower end of that, so about 3 to 3 1/2 hours. That will, of course, vary depending on how many you cook and how big your crock pot is AND how much other stuff is in the dish your cooking.
A perfect example is this 5-Ingredient Chicken Breast Dinner. It needs a little longer because of the potatoes in the dish. It cooks perfectly in about 5 1/2 hours for me.
Chicken pieces that still have the bone in them are more forgiving when your crock pot cooking. It takes them a lot longer to dry out. I don't know the scientific reasons behind it, I just know that's the way it works.
A good example of this is this Barbecue Chicken Thigh Dinner Recipe. It will cook in about 6 hours but I've personally cooked it for almost 8 and it wasn't dried out at all! So the "bone-in" variety is a great option if you're gonna be gone a long time.
Cooking Frozen Chicken in the Crockpot
If you're in a super big rush or just plain forgot to get it out of the freezer...you can also toss frozen chicken in the crockpot. Cooking whole frozen chicken is NOT recommended. And again, I don't know the complete scientific reasoning behind it...but the internal temperature is the issue. By the time it's cooked on the outside, the inside most likely will not have a chance to get to the temperatures required to be safe. And really, it's better to be safe than sorry.
But if you do decide to cook frozen breast, thighs or tenders...just add an extra hour or two to your cook time...it'll come out great!