Slow Cooker Tips
Dec 14, 2015
Slow cookers are one of my favorites kitchen apliances to use during this time of year. I love the idea of a warm meal on a cold day. We are all pressed for time during the holidays and everyones schedule is crazy busy; So with a little prep work in the morning, dinner can be on the table with ease.
Here are some slow cooker tips from from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service:
Get a clean start. Begin with a clean cooker, utensils and work area. Wash your hands before, during and after food preparation.
Let foods chill. Keep perishable foods refrigerated until preparation time. If you cut up meat and vegetables in advance, store them separately in the refrigerator. The slow cooker may take several hours to reach a safe, bacteria-killing temperature. Constant refrigeration assures that bacteria, which multiply rapidly at room temperature, won't get a "head start" during the first few hours of cooking.
Thaw ingredients. Always thaw meat or poultry before putting it into a slow cooker. Choose to make foods with a high moisture content such as chili, soup, stew or spaghetti sauce. If using a commercially frozen slow cooker meal, prepare according to manufacturer's instructions.
Add foods in the best order. Vegetables cook slower than meat and poultry in a slow cooker so put the vegetables in first. Then add the meat and desired amount of liquid suggested in the recipe, such as broth, water or barbecue sauce. Keep the lid in place, removing only to stir the food or check for doneness.
Fill it just right. Don’t fill the cooker too much or too little. Cookers come in several sizes, so check your recipe for the right size cooker to use.
Consider your settings. Most cookers have two or more settings. Foods take different times to cook depending upon the setting used. Obviously, foods will cook faster on high than on low. However, for all-day cooking or for less-tender cuts, you may want to use the low setting. If possible, turn the cooker on the highest setting for the first hour of cooking time and then to low or the setting called for in your recipe. However, it's safe to cook foods on low the entire time—if you're leaving for work, for example, and preparation time is limited. Make sure the cooker is plugged in and turned on! While food is cooking and once it's done, it will stay safe as long as the cooker is operating.
Did the power go out? Don’t panic. Here’s what to do: If you’re not home during the entire slow-cooking process and the power goes out, throw away the food, even if it looks done. If you are home, finish cooking the ingredients immediately by some other means: on a gas stove, on the outdoor grill or at a house where the power is on. When you are home, and if the food was completely cooked before the power went out, the food should remain safe up to two hours in the cooker with the power off.
Handle leftovers with care. Store leftovers in shallow covered containers and refrigerate within two hours after cooking is finished. Don’t reheat leftovers in the slow cooker. Instead, reheat them on the stove, in a microwave, or in a conventional oven until they reach 165°F. You can then place the hot food in a preheated slow cooker to keep the food hot for serving—at least 140°F as measured with a food thermometer. - See more at: http://www.progressivegrocer.com/departments/pharmacy-wellness-bpc/what%E2%80%99s-slow-new-again-tips-safe-and-healthy-slow-cooker#sthash.3KQI9mrK.dpuf
Hope Danielson, Director of Health and Wellness for County Market