On busy nights you don’t have to throw together a last-minute meal, hit the drive-thru or call for delivery to get dinner on the table. With a pinch of planning ahead, the turn of a dial and these simple tips, you can slow cook your way to a hearty and healthy family meal that’s ready when you walk in the door.
Use the Right Size
Use the size cooker recommended in the recipe for proper cooking. The Hamilton Beach® 6-Quart Stay or Go™ Slow Cooker has three settings and holds up to a six-pound chicken. Its sealed lid locks tightly against spills, full-grip handles provide ease in transport and dishwasher-safe stoneware and lid makes for effortless clean up.
Browning roasts, tenderloin and ground meat and sautéing vegetables in olive oil before adding them to your slow cooker enhances the flavors and yields a richer-tasting finished dish. Pompeian® OlivExtra® Premium Mediterranean Blend is the perfect oil for browning. This innovative trio of extra virgin olive, grapeseed and canola oils stands up to high temperature cooking methods like sautéing, searing, stir frying and grilling. It’s also a healthful choice as a source of omega-3 and omega-6 monounsaturated fats and vitamin E.
Choose a Cooking Liquid
Slow cooking with a liquid like broth, stock, diced tomatoes or tomato sauce tenderizes meats to a succulent texture. Our recipe for Slow Cooker Tex-Mex Pulled Pork turns irresistibly tender when cooked in Furmano’s® Chili Style Diced Tomatoes with Ancho Chili & Cumin. All Furmano’s® Tomatoes are canned within 24 hours of being freshly-picked with the entire canning process taking just four minutes from start to finish! Try their Salsa Style Petite Diced Tomatoes with Spicy Green Chilies & Lime and Petite Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies too
The Right Spice
Dried herbs and spices add intense flavor to roasts, soups and stews when cooked for several hours. For perfectly seasoned dishes, add half the recommended amount of The Spice Hunter® Gourmet Herbs, Spices and Salt-Free Seasoning Blends at the beginning of cooking, then taste and adjust as needed toward the end of the cooking process.
Boost Nutrition and Portions
Stretch slow-cooked meals and improve their nutrient quality by including healthful and affordable whole-grain rice or quinoa, beans, lentils and legumes. Our recipe contains both drained and rinsed Weis Quality Black Beans for added fiber, vitamins, minerals and plant-based protein. Layering the tender pork, beans, avocado, shredded cheese and other toppings over whole-grain Weis Quality Instant Brown Rice transforms it into a complete meal with Southwest flair.
If not used correctly, a slow cooker can pose food safety risks. Practice these five steps for safe slow cooking:
Defrosting meat, poultry and vegetables before adding them to the slow cooker allows the food to cook properly and keeps the temperature out of the ‘danger zone’ for bacteria growth.
Fill the slow cooker half to two-thirds full and make sure the lid fits snugly to ensure food cooks thoroughly and in the recommended amount of time. Don’t over- or under-fill.
Resist the urge to lift the lid and peek at your meal. This causes heat to escape and may slow the cooking process. Remove the lid of the slow cooker just 30-45 minutes before the low end of the cooking range to check doneness.
Check the Temp
The only way to know for sure that your food is safe to eat is with a food thermometer. Common minimum safe internal temperatures are as follows:
- Beef or pork: 145°F
- Ground meats: 160°F
- All poultry: 165°F
- Soups, stews and casseroles: 165°F
Store Leftovers Right
Slow cooker recipes often yield large batches. Refrigerate any leftovers within two hours of cooking and use within three to four days.
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