Seven hacks to make slow cooking even easier

It’s hard to fault the slow cooker when it comes to Winter dinner prep. Pop it on in the morning and arrive home from work to the smell of dinner ready to serve. There are a few common complaints about the slow cooker, from watery sauces, to the pain of clean up: we’ve got the hacks you need to make sure you’re getting the most out of this kitchen fairy godmother.

1. Always keep the lid on

This is the golden rule. Every time you lift the lid you’ll be extending the time it needs to cook. It can take up to 30 minutes to reach the temperature it was at previously every time you open it, so resist the urge to take a peek!

2. Thicken that watery sauce

Now we’ve told you the golden rule, we’re going to tell you the one time to break it! If it comes to serving and you open your slow cooker to find a watery sauce, never fear we have an easy answer.

Take the lid off, turn the machine up to high heat and leave it for 30-45 minutes to let excess moisture cook off. The liquid will reduce, leaving you with a thick and delicious gravy or sauce. (If you can’t wait, make a runny paste with a teaspoonful of cornflour and a little water and stir this into the pot).

3. Sear your New Zealand pork first

Even though it’s tempting to fling everything in the slow cooker, a little prep with your New Zealand pork will make a big difference to the final outcome. Make sure you sear the meat in a hot fry pan before adding it to the slow cooker. This will caramelize the surface and infuse your whole meal with a deeper flavour.

4. Choose the right cuts of New Zealand pork

Slow cookers are designed for larger cuts of pork with a higher fat content, because the “low and slow” cooking method melts the fat and helps keep the cut moist and delicious. Pork shoulder, leg and rib cuts are heroes of the slow cooker. Check out more about the different cuts of New Zealand pork.

5. Make a slow cooker sling

If you’re cooking something that you want to remove easily in one piece, before you put the meat in, line the slow cooker with a piece of baking paper that is long enough to come over the sides of the cooker. Then when it comes to removing it, you can just lift the piece of baking paper out and voila!

6. Make cleaning a breeze

To remove tough residue, fill the slow cooker with water to just above where the leftover food ends and add a combination of ½ cup baking soda and ½ cup of white vinegar. Set the slow cooker going on low for about an hour. Then just rinse it in warm water and you’ll be done!

7. Convert conventional oven recipes to the slow cooker

If you’re hunting through recipes and find one you like but it uses the oven, never fear, you can easily convert it to a slow cooker:

For Time - As a general rule, 1 hour of simmering on the cooktop or oven equates to approximately 5-6 hours on low or 2-2.5 hours on high in a slow cooker.

For Liquid - As there is little evaporation when cooking with a slow cooker, you need to reduce the amount of liquid.

As a general rule, reduce the liquid (such as stock, wine or water) by about half of the original amount.

A maximum of two cups of liquid will generally be enough for most slow cooker recipes (except soups).

If you're looking for slow cooker recipe inspiration and more ideas, check out our slow cooker section

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