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Cooking with Crevolyn: Using slow cooker is good for all seasons

POSTED: April 23, 2014 1:00 a.m.

Anyone who knows me knows I love my slow cooker. It is, without a doubt, my favorite cooking appliance.

No offense to my KitchenAid mixer, which is the first runner-up in that category.

Truth be told, I have four slow cookers of various brands and sizes. If you ask me, you just can’t have too many of them.

Many folks tell me they use their slow cooker only in the winter, because it is perfect for cold-weather foods. On the other hand, some will tell me they use theirs only in the summer, because they prefer not to spend as much time in a hot kitchen. So you see what I’m saying? You can use it year-round for just about everything. There’s nothing better than coming in the door after work to have supper already cooked and ready to eat.

With that in mind, I thought it might be fun to share some helpful tips about this type of cooking, which I call Slow Cooker 101.

Resist the urge to peek inside your slow cooker until cooking is complete. Once you remove the lid, it takes about 30 minutes for the heat to regain its previous temperature.

Keep in mind one hour on the high setting is equivalent to two hours on the low setting. You can adjust most recipes depending on your time frame.

If you want to thicken cooking juices, set to the high setting for the last 20 to 30 minutes of cooking time and remove the lid.

Vegetables will generally take longer to cook than meats. Because direct contact with the bottom and sides of the slow cooker is needed for the vegetables to cook, place them under the meat unless otherwise directed in the recipe.

Pasta, dairy and seafood have a tendency to break down when cooked for an extended period of time. It’s usually best to add these items in the last 30 to 60 minutes of cooking.

Use only the liquids specified in the recipe, especially when cooking meats and soups. There is very little evaporation when slow cooking.

Remember to cut whole chickens and large pieces of meat in half before placing in the slow cooker. This will allow them to cook more evenly and thoroughly.

Don’t overfill your slow cooker. Most manufacturers recommend only filling to 2/3 full.

If you have time, sear your meat before placing it in the slow cooker. While not a necessity, it will make your meat more flavorful.

I’m a strong believer in the liners made specifically for slow cookers. They will change your life when it comes to doing the dishes.

Some of my favorite recipes are made specifically for slow cooking. While I typically use it for main dish recipes, a few weeks ago I made what I affectionately call “Heavenly Chocolate Dessert.” Trust me. It is called that for a reason.

If you’re interested in the recipe, check it out on my website, www.cookingwithcrevolyn.com. You’ll be glad you did.

Today’s recipe may be my absolute favorite for slow cooking. The chicken will melt in your mouth.

Sweet Baby Ray’s slow cooker chicken

* 4 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless

* 1 bottle Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce

* 1/4 cup vinegar

* 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

* 1/4 cup brown sugar

* 1 teaspoon garlic powder

Place chicken breasts in the slow cooker. Mix together remaining ingredients and pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low 4 to 6 hours.

Crevolyn Wiley is a Gainesville resident with her first published cookbook “Cooking with Crevolyn” available at J&J Foods. She can be contacted at crevolyn.wiley@jandjfoods.com.


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