Read our handy slow-cooker tips to get the most out of your winter staple dishes.
1. Sauté onion and garlic in a pan before
Most slow-cooker meals start with the basics: onion and garlic. Get the most out of these flavoursome foods by sauteing in a pan beforehand with butter or olive oil.
It brings out the sweet, caramelised flavours and reduces unwanted moisture in your slow-cooker.
2. Browning meat brings out the best flavours
“Meat in stews is always better if you brown it first to get that lovely caramelised crust,” recommends Jamie Oliver.
If you’re making a Bourguignon, try browning floured beef. Lamb shanks are also wonderful when browned, bringing out rich, aromatic, caramelised flavours.
Similarly, lighter meats like chicken and turkey should be seared with oil to preserve the flavours and cooked for less time to retain moistness.
3. Add strong flavours at the end
While slow-cooking adds a great depth of flavour to meals, you might find you need an extra flavoursome kick to finish it off.
Adding herbs, crushed chilli or a squeeze of lemon can do wonders to elevate your slow-cooker meals.
Make sure you understand how flavours work. Lighter lemon and herby meals do well with a citrus kick, while rich, spicy and garlic-infused ones can be improved with some chilli and freshly-grated garlic.
4. Avoid cheap wine
For slow-cooker recipes that require a glug of wine, people often opt for the cheapest.
But just like the vegetables and meat, make sure you’re choosing quality wine that you’d actually drink.
“A long cooking process is not going to make up for a bad product,” says Laura Frankel, author of Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes. “It’s like baking a cake and using cheap chocolate — you have to use the good stuff.
Dry wines with a high alcohol content are great for slow-cooker meals as they add complex flavours to the dish.
5. Too acidic? Salty? Quick fixes
Some slow-cooker tips every cook should know are how to fix it when the flavour’s not quite right.
Most soups, stews and slow-cooker meals can be fixed with a few handy ingredients. If its too acidic, neutralise it with a sprinkle of baking soda.
If you’ve over-salted your dish, pop in a peeled potato and it will absorb the extra salt (about 10 minutes).
6. Don’t overfill your pot
Getting the right measurements is key to a successful slow-cooker meal. Avoid over-filling your pot as to prevent any food-safety hazards or cooking issues.
The standard rule of thumb is to leave your slow-cooker no more than two-thirds full. This varies from brand to brand, so its best to check your manual for cooking instructions.
7. Let it do its thing
The main thing to remember with slow cookers is to leave them alone! As tempting as it may be, resist the urge to open the lid frequently as moisture escapes.