23 Jul 2020
What’s not to love about slow-cooked meals? They’re affordable, easy to make and save time in the kitchen. But with a few simple hacks, you can take your crockpot creations to the next level. Here’s how to get the most out of your slow cooker, plus the top eight slow-cooked recipes we’re dishing up in store.
1. Cheaper is better
Perhaps the slow cooker’s greatest gift is its ability to save you dollars at the grocery store. The long cooking process is great for breaking down and tenderising fattier, sinewy meats, which means cheap cuts, like brisket, shanks, shoulders and thigh, literally fall off the bone and melt in the mouth. More expensive, leaner cuts of meat often dry out in slow cookers. And, because the flavour of the meat has time to really infuse through the dish, you don’t need lots of meat for maximum flavour. Instead, bulk up the dish with yummy, fresh seasonal veggies (also a cheaper option).
2. Prepare the night before
Whether you’re racing off to work, or hustling the kids to get them to school on time, or both, it’s fair to say that mornings for most people can be hectic. The beauty of slow cooking is you can prepare everything you need for the meal the previous evening, pop it all in a container, cover, then store it the fridge overnight. So your slow-cooker dish is adequately pre-heated before you pop your ingredients in, turn on your appliance as soon as you’re up then tip in the ingredients just as you’re racing out the door. Make sure you remember to pop on the slow-cooker lid!
3. Add everything at the start
With the exception of pasta, rice and fresh herbs, which often need to be added towards the end of the cooking time, most slow cooker recipes ask for all the ingredients to be added together at the start. Not only does this make the cook fool-proof, it frees you up to do other things. If you have the time, you can add extra flavour and complexity to your dish by browning the meat in a frypan first, but this is not crucial.
4. Reduce your liquid
If the slow cooker presents one challenge, it’s getting the ratio of liquid correct. Because slow cooker lids stay on while the dish is cooking, liquid isn’t able to evaporate. As a rule of thumb, your liquid (stock or water usually) should just cover the meat and/or vegetables. If you do have too much liquid towards the end of your cook, simply transfer it to a saucepan and reduce it over medium-high heat on the stove top.
5. Still too watery? Just add flour
Adding flour to your slow-cooked meal doesn’t reduce the liquid, obviously, but it will thicken it into a rich, robust sauce. If you’re adding the thickening agent at the end of the meal, mix cornflour or plain flour with a little bit of plain water to turn it into a paste, then stir through the meal before replacing the lid and simmering for a while. Alternatively, you can lightly roll your meat in cornflour at the start of your cook – this will have the same thickening effect on the liquid.
6. Trim the fat
When you fry, braise or roast meats the fat drains away. Not so when you slow cook – any fat left on the meat will melt into your liquid and gather into pools of oil in your stew. Removing the fat first will prevent this from happening while making your meal healthier for you. Additionally, slow cookers do not need oil. While most are non-stick, often recipes call for enough liquid to ensure your meat and veggies won’t catch on the bottom. If you feel your recipe is light on liquid, give the inside of the dish a quick spray with canola or olive oil.
7. Go low
If you’ve got the time, use the low setting on your slow cooker. The slower you can cook your dish, the more flavoursome and tender it will be. It also means you can be out all day and your dinner won’t overcook and spoil. FYI – cooking on high for an hour is equivalent to cooking on low for two hours.
Rather someone else do the dirty work? Melt-in-your mouth and bursting with flavour, these are our top eight slow-cooked meals. Find them in store throughout winter.
1. Love lamb? Try our slow cooked lamb shanks with creamy mash, beans and gremolata, cooked in a rich tomato sauce. Single serve, $14.95
2. Alternatively, our tender lamb shoulder, slow cooked in a red wine sauce served with creamy mash and vegetables is a winner too. Small serve, $10.95, large $22.95.
3. Our slow braised beef cheek ragu with fresh pappardelle is so moreish we promise you’ll want a second serve. Small $11.95 or large $22.95
4. For times when you’re craving fragrant, Asian flavours, try our Asian spiced slow cooked beef short rib, served with coriander rice. Single serve, $14.95
5. Prefer beef? You can’t go past our braised beef cheeks, slow-cooked in a rich Italian tomato sauce served with creamy polenta. Single serve, $14.95
6. Looking for meat-free Monday inspiration? Try our maple roasted pumpkin, slow cooked for over an hour until the flesh is melty and delicious. It’s then gently mixed with ricotta and tossed through our house made gnocchi. Small serve, $10.95, large $22.95.
7. For afternoons watching the footy, try our slow cooked barbecue-inspired pork, slow-cooked until melting then pulled and served in soft sliders. Each substantially sized slider is $9.50.
8. Or for something nostalgic, try our traditional French beef bourguignon served with a generous side of creamy mash. Small serve, $10.95, large $22.95.