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How To Use A Slow Cooker: All Your Questions Answered

By GreenPan Australia

The value of slow cookers lies in their versatility. They can simmer a hearty stew, slow-cook a succulent roast, or even bake a loaf of bread. From setup to serving, we have all the slow cooker tips and tricks you need to perfect your meals.


How To Use A Slow Cooker: All Your Questions Answered

Somewhere between all the disco dancing, free love, and protests of the 1970s, a humble kitchen appliance rose to prominence, transforming kitchens all around the world. Known back then as the crock pot¹, this unassuming device quickly became a beloved staple, giving people an easy way to prepare juicy, succulent meals.

Fast-forward to today, and the crock pot—now more commonly referred to as a slow cooker—has evolved from its retro roots into a modern marvel. Our lifestyles seem to become busier each year. However, our desire for home-cooked meals will never diminish. The slow cooker allows us to strike an otherwise impossible balance, enjoying rich home-cooked flavours without having to invest too much time in the kitchen.

The value of slow cookers lies in their versatility. They can simmer a hearty stew, slow-cook a succulent roast, or even bake a loaf of bread. From breakfast to dinner and everything in between, there are few things your slow cooker can't do.

For the newbies in the audience, let’s start with an introduction:

What Is A Slow Cooker & How Does It Work?

Slow cookers and Dutch ovens have much in common. Both encase the food in a ceramic or porcelain pot. However, in the case of slow cookers, the heat source is an electrical element in which the pot nests rather than a traditional oven. Most slow cookers also utilise a glass lid, which helps you to visually check the food and make any adjustments necessary.

Slow cookers generally have multiple heat settings, which give you greater flexibility in managing your cooking or keeping food warm until you’re ready to serve. For many slow cooker meals, such as stews and casseroles, all you need to do is throw your ingredients in the pot, add water and switch it on. A few hours later, you can enjoy the delicious flavours and rich aromas of your favourite dishes. The longer cooking time allows extra opportunities for the chemical reactions that make our food taste great to take place. The result is more complex, layered flavour profiles that would take far more contact time and effort to achieve with other styles of cooking.

Think of how wonderful it would be to toss a bunch of ingredients in a pot and flick a switch before heading off to work, then return home in the evening to a mouthwatering, cooked meal waiting for you. Sounds pretty fabulous, right?


Slow Cooker Benefits

For most people, the "set and forget" power of the slow cooker is pure magic. Along with freeing up your time for other tasks, these devices use less energy than a conventional oven, making them the eco-friendly choice. Perhaps most importantly, they make it easy to enjoy nutritious, home-cooked meals even on the busiest days. With a diamond-infused ceramic non-stick coating, GreenPan’s slow cookers boost the health benefits even further. Tough, sturdy, and easy to pop in and out of the device, the cooking pot is PFAS, PFOA, lead, and cadmium-free.

GreenPan’s slow cookers come with intuitive one-touch presets, making it easy to unlock their full potential. Still, there are some tips and tricks you can use to elevate your cooking. In the following sections, we cover all the details of how to use a slow cooker, including our favourite hacks for getting the most out of these incredible appliances.

How To Use A Slow Cooker For The First Time

If you’re using a slow cooker for the first time, here are the steps to follow:

  1. Prepare: To maximise the time-saving benefits of your slow cooker, it’s best to chop up all the fresh ingredients you intend to use throughout the week, throw them into sealable containers, and pop them into the fridge. Then, for each meal, throw everything you need into the slow cooker, fill it with the required amount of liquid, and you’re good to go.
  2. Start with fresh or thawed meat: For best results, thaw frozen meat before placing it in the slow cooker or stick with fresh cuts.
  3. Brown your meat: Sear and sauté meat (and even vegetables) until the outside is seared and sealed. This is a great way to add flavour, and GreenPan’s slow cookers have an automatic searing function, making it an easy step to achieve.
  4. Trim excess fat from meats: This may take some extra time, but you’ll be rewarded with silkier sauces and gravies.
  5. Put all ingredients (except dairy) in at the same time: Most ingredients can be added at the same time. Dairy products are the only exception – add them closer to the end of cooking.

Slow Cooker Tips And Tricks

Here are our favourite slow cooker tips and tricks that can help you get the most out of your appliance:

  • Layer your ingredients: Put the slowest-cooking food in first, and layer sequentially with the fastest-cooking ingredients at the top.
  • Fill to perfection: Your slow cooker will perform best when filled between one-half and two-thirds.
  • Save money by using cheaper cuts of meat: Inexpensive cuts of meat are often high in fat or connective tissue, both of which break down during long, moist heat cooking methods. This helps keep the meat juicy and tender.
  • Add dairy at the end: Milk, cream, and other dairy products tend to coagulate if overheated. So your best bet is to stir them into the slow cooker in the last 15-30 minutes. This gives them enough time to heat through without coagulating.
  • Always thaw first: You technically could place frozen foods in your slow cooker. However, they would increase the time needed for everything to come up to a safe temperature. This makes it harder to properly time your meals and can increase your risk of foodborne illnesses.

How Long Does A Slow Cooker Take?

Speaking of timing your meals, it’s important to note that the total cooking time can vary greatly depending on the recipe and the setting you use. If you want to leave your slow cooker on all day and have a perfectly cooked meal waiting for you when you get home, the low setting will be your best friend. On low, slow cookers generally take between 7 and 12 hours to reach maximum temperature (depending on the meal). If you’ve only got 3 to 6 hours up your sleeves, the high setting will work perfectly for you.


Why Choose A GreenPan Slow Cooker?

GreenPan’s stylish devices come with features designed to further enhance the slow cooker's inbuilt benefits. You can use the programmed presets to sear your food to start, then cook it low and slow to draw out maximum flavour. From slow cooking and roasting to browning, sautéing, and steaming, there’s a preset for every cooking need.

The ultra-tough cooking pot pops out and rinses clean easily, and it’s dishwasher safe, so you’ll never have to deal with tough messes. Most importantly, the diamond-infused ceramic non-stick coating is free of PFAS and PFOA chemicals and heavy metals like lead and cadmium.

Proven to be eco-friendly and energy-efficient², a slow cooker is like having your own personal chef who cares about saving you money and delivering healthy, flavourful meals for you and your family. Whether you’re a first-time user or a seasoned pro, we hope these tips and tricks help you get the most out of your slow cooker.

End Notes

1. Smithsonian Magazine: A Brief History of the Crock Pot https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/brief-history-crock-pot-180973643

2. University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Research and Development: Slow Cooker - Convenient and Energy Efficient https://www.uaex.uada.edu/counties/miller/news/fcs/food-safety-preservation-appliances/Slow-Cooker-Convenient-and-Energy-Efficient.aspx#:~:text=They%20are%20reported%20to%20use,any%20substantial%20amount%20of%20time.