Crockpots have been around for many years. There's a lot of information out there about the appliance and how it should be used, but not all of this information is accurate. We're here to help you separate the fact from the fiction.
Some of the most common crockpot recipes include soups, stews, and roasts. This is likely where this myth began. However, it's possible to cook all kinds of meals in a crockpot. You shouldn't be afraid to tackle other exciting dishes in your slow cooker.
Any food that requires a long cooking time at a low temperature will benefit from time in a crockpot. You can create plenty of beautiful dishes -- including macaroni and cheese, lasagna, and even cake -- in your crockpot!
Another common misconception about crockpots involves how sensitive the cooking device is. People used to say you'd need to cook the meal longer if you removed the lid. Others would say that you'd lose all the moisture when you opened the lid.
Both of these "facts," however, are only misconceptions. It's okay to remove the lid to check on the meal and take in some of the fantastic aromas. While you don't want to open the lid frequently, you aren't going to ruin your dinner by opening the lid. Much of the cooking is done after the first four or five hours, and the time after that is when the flavors begin to mingle, making the dish more complex and delicious.
While you can make more than soups, stews, and roasts in a crockpot, you can't cook everything in it. For example, most kinds of rice will not cook properly in a crockpot. Bacon will not get crispy in a crockpot, and seafood cooks too quickly for it to be prepared in a crockpot. (You can cook shrimp in a crockpot, but only if you add them later in the cooking process.)
You may have heard that your food will not cook properly if your crockpot is not two-thirds full. However, this is not the case. You can cook smaller portions in a crockpot as easily as you can cook larger ones. If you're preparing a smaller portion in a larger crockpot, you can lower the cooking time to account for the change. Alternatively, you can use a smaller crockpot with a longer cooking time. Either way, you're in the clear.
It's true that crockpots trap moisture, which prevents any liquid reduction. That doesn't mean your food will always be watered down, though. You can thicken the sauce in your crockpot by adding a bit of cornstarch to it and by removing the lid from the crockpot for the last 20 to 30 minutes of cooking. This will give your meal plenty of time to thicken up and become less watery.
This myth has made its rounds in the food world before. It has also been debunked time and time again. Browning your meat prior to adding it to your crockpot, as we do in our slow cooker beef stew recipe, will give you a couple of benefits, such as a crispier texture and more vibrant flavors. However, it's far from a necessary task, especially if you're trying to make an easy meal without a lot of cleanup.
Some people avoid crockpots because they believe that the inserts are difficult to clean. However, with proper preparation, cleanup can be as easy as one-two-three.
Many inserts are dishwasher safe, and there's nothing easier than throwing something in the dishwasher. If you don't want to go that route, simply spray the insert with nonstick cooking spray before preparing your meal, and cleanup will be a lot easier. You can also purchase disposable crockpot liners that put elbow grease out of the picture.
While you can certainly leave your crockpot on all day, keep this advice in mind: make sure your slow cooker has an automatic warming mode that will turn on once the cooking is complete. Second, you don't want to overcook your food, so make sure your portions are correct before selecting that eight-hour cook time.
Using a crockpot is a convenient way to prepare a meal, but it's important to know how to use it (and how NOT to use it) before setting and forgetting. Now that you're aware of the crockpot myths that are out there, try some of these deliciously simple crockpot recipes today.