Slow cooking is a popular way to prepare hearty meals. Slowly cooked stews can make for the perfect meal on chilly winter days. In addition to helping craft meals that stick to your ribs, slow cookers fill a home with enticing aromas all day long, and that can make everyone hungrier and more eager to try the finished product by dinnertime.
Slow cooking aromas wafting through the air heighten anticipation, and cooks can exceed expectations by employing a few strategies to increase flavor.
Let fat do the flavoring. Fatty cuts of meat fare best in slow cookers, as the excess fat ensures the meat won’t dry out. The thought of flavoring with fat may not appeal to everyone, and those who prefer lean cuts will likely have to shorten the cooking time and add more liquid than the recipe calls for to ensure the meat doesn’t dry out before it makes it to the dinner table.
Brown the meat. Slow cooking experts tout the importance of browning meat prior to placing it in the slow cooker. According to AllRecipes.com, searing meat with a little oil in a hot skillet will help the meat develop more complex flavors. Ground meats also should always be browned before slow cooking, as this prevents the meat from clumping up and can ensure the finished product is not excessively greasy.
Avoid overfilling the cooker. Foods cook differently when the cooker is too full. In such instances, the dish may end up tasting more like steamed food than simmered food. That’s especially so when too much liquid has been placed in the cooker. In such instances, steam hits the lid of the cooker and creates condensation, which then drips back into the pot. That can make everything inside more soggy and less tender. The owner’s manual of the slow cooker may recommend how much to fill it, but it’s generally best to fill the cooker somewhere between halfway and two-thirds of its capacity.
Cut ingredients evenly. Uniformity of flavor is a goal when slow cooking, as slow cooked meals tend to be served when hosting a crowd and cooks will want everyone’s meal to boast the same amount of flavor. One way to ensure that is to make sure ingredients are cut evenly. Evenly cut carrots and potatoes will finish cooking at the same time, ensuring everyone’s meal will benefit from the same flavor profile.