Kitchen Tips

8 of the best tips for using a slow cooker

A slow cooker can sometimes feel like the most magical way to cook dinner; pop a few ingredients in, set the timer and come back hours later to a mouth-watering meal. Here are our tips for making delicious slow-cooked dinners.

Let's face it, very few people can resist the lure of slow-cooker lamb shanks on a cool winter's evening.
But are you making the most of your new favourite appliance? These eight top tips for using your slow-cooker will have you dishing up dinner with minimum effort and maximum taste.

1. Cut out the extra prep

It may not always be necessary to go to all the effort of prep-preparation, like sautéing the onions or browning the meat before you add them to the mix. It may add an extra flavour you personally prefer, but it really isn't essential.

2. But prep the meat

The extra moisture in the cooker means you don't need to add oil, so it's a good idea to trim the fat from your chosen meat pieces.

3. Know your cuts

Look for cheaper cuts like chicken thighs and lamb and pork shoulders, since the process of slow-cooking will make them beautifully tender anyway.

4. Reduce the liquids

If you're adapting a regular recipe for the slow-cooker, cut the liquid by about a third as the air-tight lid won't let anything evaporate and the dish won't naturally reduce. And don't over-fill it; half to two-thirds full will ensure perfect cooking without spills.

5. Flour power

Just as the liquid won't reduce, it won't thicken. Try rolling the meat in a little flour, or mix a couple of teaspoons of cornflour with water until it makes a paste, and stir in to the pot at the end.

6. Make ahead

If you really want to get ahead, you can throw all of the ingredients in the pot the night before. Pop it in the fridge overnight, and let it come to room temperature for about 20 minutes the next morning before setting it to cook.

7. Low and slow

It's called a slow-cooker for a reason; a low, gentle heat bubbling away all day will bring out all of the flavours and give you the tastiest result.

8. Step away from the slow-cooker

Just like opening an oven door, the more you lift the slow-cooker lid to check on the contents, the more often the heat of the appliance is reduced, and the longer the cooking time will be. Trust your slow-cooker and let it do its thing.
And… now we're hungry for something cooked sensationally in the slow-cooker. Slow-cooked Texan beef brisket with easy slaw will have everyone coming back for more, as will this super-easy slow-cooked winter ragu. There are even more delicious recipes below!