Fall has arrived! I don't know about you, but the arrival of cool temperatures, crisp falling leaves, and football on TV puts me in the mood for using the crock-pot. There is nothing like opening the front door at the end of the day and being greeted with the inviting smell of dinner. Crock-pot meals are also my go-to after being at an all day tournament. Who wants to think about cooking dinner when you have been out of the house all day? I know I don't! Instead of hitting the drive-through, or reaching for a take-out menu, let's make a plan and dust off those crock-pots!
First things first though, I thought we should have a quick review of crock-pot safety and then I will give you a couple of easy and delicious recipes to try.
Crock-Pot Safety Tips
Always thaw meat or poultry before putting in crock-pot.
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. While food is cooking and once it’s done, food will stay safe as long as the cooker is operating.
If you are not at home during the entire slow-cooking process and the power goes out, throw away the food, even if it looks done.
Store leftovers in shallow covered containers and refrigerate within two hours after cooking is finished. Reheating leftovers in a slow cooker is not recommended. Cooked food should be reheated on the stove, in a microwave, or in a conventional oven until it reaches 165 °F.
Water or liquid is necessary to create steam. When cooking meat or poultry, the water or liquid level should cover the ingredients to ensure effective heat transfer throughout the crock.
Put vegetables on the bottom or sides. Vegetables cook the slowest, so place them near the heat, at the bottom and sides of the slow cooker.
Keep the lid on. Do not lift the lid or cover unnecessarily during the cooking cycle. Each time the lid is raised, the internal temperature drops 10 to 15 degrees and the cooking process is slowed by 30 minutes.
Use a food thermometer. Before taking a bite, check meat and poultry with a food thermometer to make sure it has reached a safe internal temperate to destroy bacteria. Roasts: 145 to 160 F. Poultry: 165 F. Soups, stews, sauces: 165 F.
Cool properly. Do not leave cooked food to cool down in the crock. Eat immediately or place leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate.
I hope you find these tips helpful. Now get crockin'!!!!
And to get you started, here are a couple of links to some yummy crock-pot recipes to try:
Slow-Cooker Salsa Chicken