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How to get the most out of your slow cooker

Don’t let the words “slow cooker” put you off! This doesn’t mean hours of slaving away over a hot stove, constantly checking on your dishes, prepping veggies or making rouxs – quite the opposite, in fact! There are lots of easy slow cooker recipes, which are simple to follow, handy to make and provide delicious-tasting, healthy meals. In order to make these amazing crockpot meals yourself, there are just a few basic rules you need to follow.  

Rule 1: Don’t overspend
There are tons of models available – some for as little as £15 – and they all do the same job. Check out boot fairs, your local electrical stores and even supermarkets for the best deals.

Rule 2: Check out the size
Some models may look big, but once you’ve taken the machine apart, the actual stock pot could be very small. Consider this if you are cooking for a large family, or like to cook a large batch and freeze it, ready for your week ahead. Take a look at machines in shops before purchasing, so you get an idea of how big the actual pots will be.  

Rule 3: Don’t be scared to experiment
If you’re a first time slow cooker user, get used to your machine. If you’re cooking a whole chicken, for example, don’t be worried that your meat won’t brown. However, if you really aren’t sure about the appearance, sauté your meat on the hob before exposing it to the slow cooker.  

Rule 4: Read your booklet
All machines are different and all come with different settings and instructions. Some might need preheating beforehand, so bear that in mind when preparing your home cooked meals. Try to remember that one hour in a conventional oven is the equivalent to 2-3 hours on high in a slow cooker.  

Rule 5: Don’t remove the lid
As tempting as it may be, once your food has started cooking, try not to remove the lid, as this reduces the temperature and can take longer for the slow cooker to get back up to its required temperature.  

Rule 6: Defrost foods
All frozen foods, especially meats, should be defrosted first. Frozen foods such as prawns, peas, sweetcorn and other quick-cook vegetables should only be added in the last half hour of cooking time.

Rule 7: Know your timings
Pasta should only be added in the last half hour of cooking time – the same goes for fresh herbs, as these tend to lose their flavour if cooked for a long period of time. Root vegetables take a longer time to cook, so sauté them first to speed up the cooking time, or cut into smaller chunks.  

Rule 8: Enjoy it!
A slow cooker is great if you want to cook more homemade meals, want to save money by using cheaper meats and want to save time preparing a meal after a long working day. Fill your cooker up with lots of different ingredients, turn it on, walk away and enjoy your day, ready to return to a flavoursome feast.


For lots of delicious recipes to use in your slow cooker, readThe Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook (£9.99, Robinson) by Sarah Flower.