April 12, 2012 at 1:10 pm
by Jennifer Moncayo
During this week’s Slow Cooker Chat on our Facebook wall with our associate food editor Michael Tyrrell, there was a lot of talk about the speed at which new crock-pots cook. As many of you mentioned, the newer slow cookers reach higher temperatures affecting overall cook time. To compensate for the hotter machines, Michael suggests cutting down cooking time. For more tips and slow cooker recipes, read the entire chat, here:
Family Circle: Welcome to our weekly Slow Cooker Chat with associate food editor and slow cooking expert, Michael Tyrrell. He’s here to answer all of your questions, share recipes and give great tips. Please feel free to post your questions for Michael onto our Facebook wall.
Let’s start with: what did you make in your slow cooker this week? How did it turn out?
Michele: I did a corn beef and it was by far the BEST corn beef I have ever made, slow cooker from this point on for me when it comes to corn beef!
Michael Tyrrell: Michele: Brisket also is a great slow cooker candidate, let us get you a link to our brisket 5 ways story.
Family Circle: Hi Michele, try our recipes for beef brisket.
April: I made chili yesterday and it was great! I make at least 1-2 meals a week in mine! My most requested are chili and ribs!
Michael Tyrrell: April: I agree, everyone loves chili. Ribs are my fave thing to do in slow cooker. Our web editor just posted on our blog about my rib recipe for pork ragu. We’ll get you the link.
Family Circle: Hey April, check out Michael’s recipe for pork ragu.
Natalie: I made our Easter ham in the crock-pot. So much easier and more moist than the oven!
Michael Tyrrell: Natalie: Can you tell us what you did with your ham?
Natalie: Michael: The ham was super easy. It was a Hormel 81 spiral cut ham with a packet of glaze. I put about 1/2 cup of water in my large slow cooker (I’m not sure the size, but a big, oblong one). Then I put the ham in, flat side down. I mixed the glaze, poured it over top, and let it cook on high for about 3 hours. Done!
Christine: The last thing I made (before Easter) was a sausage and bean slow cooker dinner (from All Recipes). It was awesome!
Michael Tyrrell: Christine: Was your sausage and bean recipe more like stew? What kind of sausage did you use and did you brown it first?
Noel: I can’t seem to find a good chicken slow cooker recipe. The recipes look good, but then they all come out very bland to me. Any suggestions?
Noel: P.S. and I’m not a big salt or spice person either, so if it’s bland to me, I can only imagine what it tastes like to normal people, LOL.
Michael Tyrrell: Noel: Let us link you to our chicken thighs 5 ways story. All good. Reinforce your seasoning at the end. Also a squeeze of lemon and a dash of hot sauce always pick things up.
April: Noel: I make pulled chicken, just like pulled pork, in the crock-pot. It’s really simple and SO good. Let me find the recipe and I will post it!
Noel: Thanks April!
Family Circle: Hi Noel, try one of our chicken recipes.
Michael Tyrrell: April: pPlease do post your pulled chicken recipe. Pulled anything is always a crowd pleaser. Let us link you to our pulled pork recipe on our May cover.
Family Circle: Hi April, here’s our newest pulled pork recipe from the May issue.
Andrea: Noel: Best chicken recipe with tons of flavor is about 12 drumsticks raw with skin taken off, 1 can tomato sauce, 1/2 c. Soy sauce, 1 clove garlic chopped or 1/2 tbls garlic powder, 2 tbls brown sugar, 1/8 c corn starch an 1/2 c water. Easy: place raw skinned chicken in crock-pot. In bowl mix tom sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar and garlic. Pour over chicken. Cook low 8 hrs. Drain juice into pan on stove. Chicken with mixed water and cornstarch. Pour back into crock-pot when gravy thick. Serve with mashed potatoes!!!!
Andrea: Basically thicken the juices with cornstarch and water and pour back over the chicken. Serve over mashed potatoes or noodles.
Michael Tyrrell: Andrea: Your drumstick recipe sounds good and kid friendly. I bet bone in thighs would be good too.
Get Crocking: Michael, how can I get more flavor our of peppers like jalapenos when I slow cook a dish? Some of my dishes don’t come out spicy enough. Should I only add them the last hour or so?
Michael Tyrrell: Get Crocking: Good question, a few ideas for making the dish spicier. Leave in more of the seeds and membrane, increase amount also taste at the beginning to see how hot they actually are. Reinforcing seasoning at the end always a good idea.
Get Crocking: I just put some chicken tortilla soup in my slow cooker. Can’t wait to eat it tonight!
Michael Tyrrell: Hi Get Crocking: chicken tortilla soup is a family-friendly recipe and so easy. Any tricks you use for your tortilla soup?
Get Crocking: Michael, I usually brown my chicken before putting it in the slow cooker and I always add fresh chopped cilantro when serving to add that extra pop of color and flavor.
Michael Tyrrell: Get Crocking: fresh herbs at the end always brighten things up. Browning will add some extra flavor but I generally don’t brown and am happy with my results.
Sarah: I am waiting as I type for my chicken curry to finish in the slow cooker.
Michele: Doing oxtail stew tonight just got it going.
Michael Tyrrell: Michele: Oxtail is great in the slow cooker. It’s too bad more people don’t try it. So reasonably priced usually and I love the rich flavor.
Rachel: I also did a ham for Easter in the slow cooker. My crock is 5 1/2 quarts, and the ham (with bone in) fit nicely in it. I put down about a cup of brown sugar on the bottom, place the ham in and put another cup or less of brown sugar on the ham (press into place). This time I also put in a can of drained pineapple tidbits. Set it on low for about 5-6 hours and it is moist and fall of the bone tender!
Michael Tyrrell: Rachel: Your ham sounds good, was there a lot of sauce at the end?
Rachel: Yes, there is a nice amount of sauce that you can thicken or just leave plain. I take the ham out when it’s done, slice it up and then put it back in the sauce to stay warm and soak up some of the juice before serving. I also store the leftovers in the sauce to keep it moist when re-heating!
Michael Tyrrell: Rachel: Sounds good and any leftovers with extra sauce sounds good to me.
Crystal: Today I’m making split pea and ham soup with my Easter leftovers. I’ll let you know later how it comes out.
Michael Tyrrell: Crystal: After Christmas holidays I usually have two ham bones left and extra ham as well. Always make pea soup, white bean soup and rice and beans. They are better than the original ham dinners to me.
Katie: My four-year-old son is into baking lately, so I found a slow cooker gooey chocolate cake. Easy to make, but very solid. He enjoyed it though. Guess it was the process, not the product.
Michael Tyrrell: Katie: Let us link you to some of our dessert slow cooker recipes.
Katie: I’m game to ANYTHING that you just throw ingredients into one pot and cook/bake.
Family Circle: Hi Katie, here are some slow cooker dessert recipes.
Kate: I made crock-pot mashed potatoes for Easter. It was so much easier than making them on the stove top, and great because I did all the hard work the night before (peeling and dicing).
Michael Tyrrell: Kate: The other thing about mashed potatoes for a holiday dinner is they can be done ahead and served right out of the crock and just left on warm.
Maria: When I put my slow cooker on low it seems like it’s too high to me. It seems like everything is done as though it was on the high setting when it should be on for a longer period of time. Do I have a problem with my slow cooker? Plus as Noel said my family says they all taste about the same yet I do different recipes all the time in it. Can you tell me why?
Michael Tyrrell: Maria: Slow cookers are cooking at higher temps in general these days. Cut timing back. Also when things seem to all to taste the same, they are probably overcooked- another reason to cut back cooking time.
Barbara: The newer crock-pots that cook so fast are not working mom friendly. Unfortunately, even when I cut back cooking time with my new crock-pot and it automatically sets to warm when it’s done, it seems to continue cooking. My old crock-pot is great but it’s got to be over 20 years old and I don’t know if it still gets hot enough to keep food at a temperature that is safe.
Michael Tyrrell: Barbara: Totally agree, certain cuts like pork shoulder, beef chuck, brisket, bone in chicken thighs can handle longer cooking times. Most recipes can’t. Recently someone mentioned they slow cook when they are home and then reheat stovetop when serving. OK but does defeat the purpose of slow cookers to some extent.
Judy: I did not like the way my new fancy programmable cooker was cooking and even boiling my food so I finally bought a new one with only ON, OFF, WARM, LOW, and HIGH. Love it now.
Michael Tyrell: Judy: Even on low most slow cookers seem to be cooking at much higher temps than in the past. Shorter cooking times are the only sure answer to me.
Get Crocking: My slow cookers always cook about 2 hours quicker on low. I just have to compensate for it. I don’t think I have ever been able to cook anything longer than 6-7 hours, even if calls for 10 hours in the recipe. It does kind of take the “slow” out of slow cooker and makes it difficult for working moms and dads to not overcook their meals.
Michael Tyrrell: You really have to experiment with your slow cooker and cooking times. Like getting to know how your oven or even your grill cooks. In general as I have said before, very few recipes can go for 10 hours on low.
Kristine: I haven’t used mine lately but low-fat recipes would be great since I’m trying to lose some pounds and train for my first ever 1/2 marathon.
Michael Tyrrell: Kristine: Check out my story in April in our Healthy Family Dinner column. We’ll give you the link.
Family Circle: Hi Kristine, here are some low-calorie slow cooker recipes.
Kate: I also made my Easter ham in the crock pot. Stuck it in the crock-pot with a can of cola on low for 8 hours. It was so moist and tender!
Michael Tyrrell: Kate: Coke or root beer soda always a nice addition. Just a warning for everyone, don’t use diet soda! Leaves a funny taste.
Faith: Hi all!! I made Easter ham, sweet potato casserole, ham and potato soup, applesauce, queso blanco, to name a few in my cooker this week.
Faith: Oh! I tried a cheesecake, but it failed.
Michael Tyrrell: Hi Faith: All sound good but tell us more about your sweet potato casserole. Also let us link you to a dessert slow cooker slideshow. Don’t know about cheesecake being there but some fun recipes.
Family Circle: Hi Faith, here are some slow cooker dessert recipes.
Faith: Here’s the recipe for the sweet potato casserole I made….so tasty.
Michael Tyrrell: Faith: The apples seem like a good addition to the sweet potato casserole.
Faith: I made this with pork cutlets instead of chops, and just reduced the cook time. Served over noodles, my toddler gobbled it up!
Michael Tyrrell: Faith: The pork recipe appeals to me. The amount of salt looks like a typo. I wouldn’t think any additional salt would be necessary.
Faith: I didn’t add any extra salt to mine either.
Judy: I made King Ranch Chicken with egg noodles. If a recipe says to cook boneless skinless chicken breast on HIGH four hours, do you think that is a typo??
Michael Tyrrell: Judy: first, tell us more about King Ranch Chicken recipe. About the boneless breasts cooking time, 4 hours on high sounds ok to me but it depends on the thickness.
Maria: Michael, in the May issue I was very interested in cooking the pulled pork sandwiches and was just wondering if the boneless pork shoulder roast is boneless is there really skin on it to be removed? I’ve never seen that before. And since my slow cooker seems too high when on the low setting can I still set it at low setting but cook it for the 6 hours the recipe calls for on the high setting?
Michael Tyrrell: Maria: I think you might find some skin to trim sometimes. Try it on low for the 6 hours and check if it shreds and seems tender enough. If not put back in for the recommended time and add 15 minutes to compensate for opening the lid.
Maria: Thank you so very much Michael. I shall try this. I saw the recipe in the magazine on the front cover and had to try it. I can’t wait. Hopefully it will have more flavor than all the other recipes I’ve made in it. I want to use the slow cooker more often but hate all the complaints about it having the same taste as all other slow cooker recipes. Maybe as you said it’s the fact that it cooks too long at that temp for low setting.
Family Circle: Thanks for joining our weekly Slow Cooker Chat, everyone! Please come back again next week from 1 p.m. – 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday to talk more with our associate food editor and slow cooking expert Michael Tyrrell. Happy slow cooking!
Jennifer Moncayo is web assistant for FamilyCircle.com.