Cooking with a slow cooker can be an absolute dinner saver on busy nights! But do you know how to make it even quicker and easier?
I have rounded up my six favorite slow cooker cooking tips, perfect for your busy life as a mom with little kids at home. They will make your crock pot more efficient, safer and even easier than it already is!
Learn how to use your crockpot the right way to save time, make sure your meals turn out + never have a slow cooker dinner fail again!
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you know that I only got my first slow cooker after I had my first baby. And if you’re a new reader, now you know as well 😉
The truth is – at first I didn’t really know what to do with it. How it could be helpful.
But now I’m a complete convert! My crockpot is an absolute meal saver around here on busy days, and when I realize I’ll be short on time and need an easy dinner option – I often opt for the slow cooker.
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I always thought it’s just the same as cooking in a dutch oven on low heat for a couple of hours. But it’s actually so much more convenient! I would never leave the house with the oven on, but I do trust the slow cooker to not burn down our home while we’re at the library.
The crockpot is also very convenient when I don’t feel like crowding my stove, or when we have guests for a holiday party and cry over the fact that we don’t have more oven space.
And during summer it barely heats up the kitchen, while during winter I often make things in it that fill our home with holiday smells!
So what else can you do to have dinner ready with hardly any effort?
Here are a few tips I figured out to make cooking with a slow cooker even more practical:
1. You can prep ahead
If you don’t even have time in the morning, prep everything the night before! I recommend refrigerating all prepped ingredients separately in airtight glass storage containers (here’s a good deal on Amazon*).
I especially take care to keep meat separate from other ingredients. Bonus: You can marinate the meat all night long for extra flavor without much effort!
In the morning, allow the ingredients to warm up at room temperature for around 15 minutes. Then place them in the slow cooker and cook as you normally would.
2. Jump start a meal cooked on low
If you’re cooking your meal on LOW, bring the liquids to a boil before adding them to the slow cooker. This will heat up the ingredients enough to jump start the cooking process.
It also lessens food safety concerns!
3. Check everything is working
Make sure your slow cooker is plugged in and on the correct setting – and then check it twice! This might sound really silly, but I’ve heard from more than one person so far that they came home to raw, spoiled ingredients.
It’s even more frustrating when you come home with hungry kids and quickly need to find something else to feed them.
So better be safe than sorry, even if your family thinks you’re kind of a maniac for checking your crockpot seven times.
4. Go easy when it comes to recipes
Skip recipes that involve too many steps! Slow cooker meals are meant to make your life easier, not to give you a headache.
And modify simpler ones to make them even easier. It’s nice to brown meat before adding it to the slow cooker for example, but it’s technically not necessary.
If you’re really short on time, don’t stress yourself out with those extra pans to wash.
5. Read the recipe thoroughly
Plan ahead if your recipe calls for ingredients added near the end of cooking time. Things like pasta don’t need 8 hours to cook, and dairy products split if left cooking for too long.
If you choose a recipe that needs some attention shortly before serving time, make sure you’re home and everyone isn’t starving yet.
6. Don’t open the slow cooker during cooking
One thing I find really hard about slow cooker meals is that I can’t check them while they’re cooking!
Did you know that every time you open the slow cooker, you might increase the cooking time by 20 to 30 minutes?
If the recipe indicates opening the slow cooker during the cooking time to add extra ingredients, that’s fine. But try to resist peeking under that lid otherwise 🙂
For me, knowing how to get a slow cooker meal on the table with even less effort has had a huge impact on our family dinners:
After a busy day I’m not stressed because I need to hustle in the kitchen. Dinner is already waiting for us!
We have way less hangry toddler tantrums! Em gets really cranky when she’s hungry and she can go from being OK to FOOD NOW MOM within a few seconds. When dinner is in the slow cooker I can concentrate on her instead of trying to do everything at once, which usually ends in disaster.
We’re eating healthier during stressful times. I know I couldn’t regularly put home-cooked dinners on the table without my slow cooker – you can see which one I have and love here.
I hope these tips for cooking with a slow cooker will help you during busy times!
If you need recipe inspiration, click here for all the slow cooker recipes on Savory Nothings: Slow Cooker Recipes
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