We’ve all been there. Life is busy, and we just can’t be bothered to cook. How wonderful is that feeling when we remember that we bunged all the necessary ingredients into the slow cooker earlier that day? Here you will find all the tips you need to you can adapt recipes for the slow cooker and have this experience more often.
Why adapt recipes?
I don’t know about you, but I have a select few slow cooker recipe books. Unfortunately, I tend to do the same meal over and over. Food becomes dull and boring pretty quickly for me in this respect. However, I recently discovered that it’s possible to adapt some of my favourite recipes I usually cook on the hob, and it isn’t as difficult as it might sound!
If that sounds like it might be useful to you, continue reading for some top tips to adapt recipes for the slow cooker.
The clue to the cooking time is in the name ‘slow cooker’. The heat is lower and, therefore, it will take longer for your meal to be ready to eat. A low setting tends to heat to just under 100 degrees Celsius, whereas high is 150 degrees.
Given that, a meal with meat or vegetables would need to be in the slow cooker for around 8-10 hours on low or 4-6 hours on high. Some crockpots also have a medium option, which usually takes 6-8 hours.
Try to avoid removing the lid too regularly. Doing so will cause it to lose heat pretty quickly, and so you will need to add a little extra time on at the end.
Using a slow cooker involves having a lid on; thus, very little moisture escapes. As a result, it is advisable to reduce the quantities of liquid you use by at least a half when you adapt recipes for the slow cooker.
If using stock cubes or a stockpot, make it up in a jug and add half the amount you usually would if cooking it on the hob; otherwise, the flavour profile will be different because of stronger stock.
At the end of the cooking time, if the sauce is too runny, you have a couple of options. You could remove the lid and crank up the heat for around 30 minutes.
Alternatively, try adding some thickening granules. I love these much more than cornflour, although it has the same effect, as you can just add straight to the pot.
Syns of thickening ingredients
If you add too much liquid to a recipe or find it is almost cooked and just too runny then adding thickening granules or a slurry of cornflour is perfect. If you follow Slimming World however this means you are adding some syns.
Cornflour is synned at 0.5 syns for level teaspoon and 1 syn for a level tablespoon. If you need more than this then 25g of cornflour is 4.5 syns.
McDougalls thickening granules may be something you like to use. If you use 1 level teaspoon of these it is 1 syn.
For alternatives to cornflour or thickening granules how about next time putting some potato in with the recipe, that tends to not only bulk a recipe up but also absorb some liquid. Alternatively adding some dried mashed potato could help. Slimming World do class this as synned used in this way but in my opinion that is crazy so the choice is yours.
Some ingredients cook better over a long period of time than others. For example, the best cuts of beef are braising steak, stewing steak and brisket. By the time they have finished cooking, you will have the most succulent, melt-in-the-mouth beef you could imagine.
It is undoubtedly best to use the low setting when you adapt recipes for the slow cooker, avoiding the meal bubbling too ferociously. If you prefer lamb, try shanks as they become tenderised the longer they cook for.
Chicken needs a shorter cooking time than lamb and beef and is better cooked on high. Chicken thighs or whole chickens tend to taste better.
It is also best to trim off any excess fat as the lower temperature means it doesn’t melt away like it would in the oven.
Aside from the meat, there are other considerations you should make. Never add frozen ingredients to your slow cooker; thaw them out thoroughly first.
Root vegetables can be tricky characters. Always chop into smaller pieces than you ordinarily would as they remarkably take longer to cook than meat. It’s best to fry for a few minutes before adding to the pot.
Garlic granules are a great quick alternative to fresh garlic if you are rushing. you can also play around with spice blends to make your own recipes.
If using red beans, such as kidney beans, ensure you cook them first. Tinned ones are ok to add straight into the pot, but you should strain and rinse first.
Finally, when cooking on the hob, I dip my spoon in regularly (a new one each time, of course – double-dipping is NOT nice!) to taste before adjusting the seasoning. Of course, when using a slow cooker, this is not as straightforward. Try to use a little less than usual, adding a little more at the end if necessary. It is much simpler to correct a blander dish than an overly salty one, for example.
Other recipes you might like
Whilst these are not slow cooker recipes I am sure you will love them too.