January 6th

theresa albert - my friend in food


Why Slow Cooker Recipes Suck (+how to fix)

slow cooker

Ever wonder why slow cooker recipes lean so heavily on cans and jars (and are therefore stratospheric in salt)? It isn’t just that slow cookers are the tool of the rushed non-cooks, although that is part of its allure. It’s the inherent flaw in the cooking method that is to blame. There are two important elements missing from slow cooker food that end up begging for the compensating effects of salty cans. (Maybe)

In order to develop colour and flavor in any dish, you need high heat, and lots of it.  The browning of onions, celery and garlic isn’t just a useless, time consuming step, it actually does something critical.  This crucial first effort in every recipe creates a “fond” which caramelizes the sugars in the vegetables and begins to layer in taste.  Without it, there is “something missing”. The second thing that happens over a flame but not in a slow cooker is evaporation which concentrates flavors and intensifies taste.  Without this step, the stew is just pale and thin. (Thus the can of cream of mushroom soup).

So does this mean your slow cooker destiny with either be a salt lick or insipid? Of course not, there is always a third option in life; you just have to look for it.  What we don’t want to do is make slow cooker -step saver recipes laborious, that would defeat the purpose!

All you have to do is precook your vegetables on a day when you actually DO have the time to cook.  You may as well chop and brown six onions as one, right? You are crying anyway.  A whole head of celery is just wilting away in the crisper looking to be chopped.  Do up a whole batch and allow to cool, then, store in ½ cup amounts in the freezer. Use these handy packets to start off any slow cooker recipe.

As for the benefits of evaporation, there is no need to replace this with salt. Just make sure that any liquid you use is a flavorful one.  You may want to search out some dehydrated vegetables in a bulk food or health food store. These can add a ton of taste in place of any dried bouillon powder.

While we are on the subject, the absolute best thing your slow cooker does for you is turn all those bones, scraps and ends into usefully nourishing and tasty broth (that then becomes a flavorful liquid. And the circle, it goes round and round).

Take a look at this video.


Theresa Albert

Theresa Albert

I love food, try to watch my weight, know more than I want to about healthy living (sometimes I wish I knew less so I wouldn’t feel so guilty when I stumble), am a daughter, sister, friend, mom and wife who worries and scurries the meals onto the table. It is for all these reasons that I completed my nutrition, RNCP designation, wrote my book, hosted my Food Network show, consult with food companies to urge them to get it right (or at least better), constantly write about it, research it, all of this so I can cut through the nutrition and food “news” clutter. Happy to share with friends!


One Response

    Paula Schuck
    September 24, 2012 at 10:12 am Reply

    This is a really interesting post. Thanks. My meals in the slow cooker are usually pretty good, but I add stuff like wine if it doesn’t tickle my fancy. I will remember to cook my veggies first as a result of this post and my family will probably enjoy the next meal even more. Thanks!


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