Autumn is in full swing and that means it’s time to bust out the boots, cozy scarves, and of course, the crock pot. But sometimes crock pot cooking isn’t as easy as it’s made out to be! Is your meat coming out too dry? Are some of your carrots mushy and others overcooked? We’ll go through common crock pot cooking problems and how to solve them so you can get back to what’s important – enjoying your dinner.
Problem #1 – Dry or Tough Meats
When you’re cooking beef, pork, or poultry in the slow cooker and it’s coming out dry or tough, it could be one of two things (or maybe both). First: The leaner the cut of meat, the drier it can get. While lean meat may cook beautifully on the grill or stovetop, there isn’t a way to prevent it from drying out in the slow cooker. Slow cookers are perfect for tougher, fattier, and inexpensive cuts of meat; such as stew meats and shoulder cuts. The longer cooking time breaks down the tough connective tissue, and you’ll end up with tender, juicy meat.
If you’re cooking fattier cuts of beef, pork, or poultry and they’re still drying out, you could be cooking for too long. The general rule of thumb for cooking meat in your slow cooker is 1 to 1 ¼ hours per pound when cooking on high, and 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours per pound when cooking on low. Try it out next time and see how tender the meat is!
Problem #2 – Mushy & Undercooked Veggies
Mushy and or undercooked vegetables can be a common problem in crock pot cooking. For example, are your carrots mushy and over cooked while the potatoes are hard undercooked. One solution to this problem is how you prep your vegatables. Take extra care when chopping your veggies into even, bite-sized pieces. Layer potatoes and carrots on the bottom of your crock pot first and then add the rest of the ingredients to ensure these root veggies get cooked through. If you’re using canned or frozen vegatables, add them in towards the end of cooking to heat them through and to prevent them from becoming tasteless mush.
Problem #3 – Too Much Liquid
If your delicious stew is finishing up with far too much liquid, that’s totally common. That’s because very little evaporation happens in slow cookers. Generally, crock pot recipes call for around 50% less liquid than traditional stovetop recipes. So, if you’re finding your dinner is on the watery side, remove the lid about an hour before its finished and crank it up high. This will give the liquid time to evaporate and thicken. Just be sure to uncover only an hour before it’s done. Never cook your meal uncovered for the entire duration otherwise your food will dry out and burn.
Problem #4 – Not Enough Variety with Recipes
Chili and stew are both great, but they can get old after a while. For variety in your slow cooking, take to the Internet or invest in a good book – Crock Pot Dump Meals by Cathy Mitchell is great because all the recipes require only five ingredients or less, which means you’ll probably have most on hand. Plus, you’ll be whipping up everything from delicious pork chops to pizza, there's something for everyone. What will you cook first?