The slow cooker is a magical device. Put a couple ingredients in it, turn it on, leave for work and return to a fully cooked, flavorful and tender meal. You can make everything from French onion soup to carne asada nachos in your slow cooker, but its almost mystical powers don't stop at dinner. You can make healthy breakfasts that will be ready by the time you wake up, like steel cut oats, and you can make snacks, like this easy homemade Chex mix. While many people think that the slow cooker is best-suited for meat, it's also great for making vegetarian dishes -- everything from garlic mashed potatoes to black bean soup. The variety of recipes you can make with this storied kitchen appliance are endless, but the buck doesn't stop at recipes. Your slow cooker has many hidden talents.
If you thought your slow cooker was impressive already, prepare to be even more wowed. Here are five slow cooker hacks that'll blow your mind.
It Can Moonlight As A Double Boiler
Food blog Mommy's Kitchen
solved one of the chronic issues with making overnight recipes in the slow cooker. Namely, for recipes that don't need a full 6-8 hours to cook overnight, you'll wake up to burned meals if you don't wake up in the middle of the night to turn the slow cooker off. Mommy's Kitchen solved the problem of crusty oatmeal by creating a water bath, which makes the oats cook slower. More sleep and better oatmeal? We're in. To turn your slow cooker into a double boiler, simply fill the insert about half way with water, and add the ingredients that would go directly into the insert into a bowl, which will then be set in the water. This will slow down the cooking, for perfectly cooked overnight recipes.
It Can Also Work As A Steamer
Thanks to chef Grant Achatz, we learned that you can actually steam food in your slow cooker
. Achatz, a chef known for molecular gastronomy, actually uses slow cookers more often than you might think. One technique he champions is steaming. He uses two methods. The first is building some kind of platform in the slow cooker's insert, like lemongrass stalks stacked on top of one another, and placing everything from buns and dumplings to vegetables on top of the platform. He fills the insert with water until just under the top of the lemongrass rack, and streams away. Another method he uses is simply placing a bunch of herbs and aromatics directly into the pot, and putting a piece of fish on top of that. The fish steams due to the moisture in the herbs below -- no liquid required.
You Can Poach A Whole Chicken In It
For a "better -- and lazier -- way to poach your chicken," Food52 suggests you put a whole bird in the slow cooker
. Poaching on the stove top, Food52 explains, can be tricky, because you have to watch to make sure the liquid doesn't boil. There's no danger of boiling water in your slow cooker, which makes it a great device for poaching. To poach a whole chicken, simply put the bird into the pot on top of some herbs and aromatics, fill the insert with water so that the chicken is covered, and cook for two to three hours. "Think of it as pseudo sous vide," Food52 says. The main difference there, is that when cooking sous vide, you won't lose any of the flavor to the poaching liquid, which will happen when you place the chicken directly into the water. The upshot is that you'll be left with some homemade chicken stock -- and no one can argue with that.
Speaking Of Sous Vide, It Can Do That, Too
The cheapest way to cook sous vide at home
is in your slow cooker. Cooking sous vide
is a famous method of haute cuisine, which entails cooking food inside a plastic bag in a water bath or another appliance that allows for heating at precise temperatures. Jeff Potter, author of Cooking for Geeks, shows in a video from Chow
how to build a temperature gauge that will allow you to turn your slow cooker into a sous vide machine.
Line The Insert With Foil To Eliminate A Mess And Cook Food More Evenly
pioneer111 via Getty Images
Lining the inside of your slow cooker with tin foil will not only make it easier to clean, but will also help the food cook more evenly, food blogger Lynn ofLynn's Kitchen Adventures
explains. In addition to lining the pot with foil, you could also wrap food in foil. Jack Bishop, from America’s Test Kitchen, told The Consumerist
that wrapping chicken in a foil packet results in more evenly cooked meat.
What tips and tricks do you have for your slow cooker? Let us know!
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