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Cooking With A Crockpot Is Convenient And Great For Busy Days
1. If you don’t like the taste or texture of the meat from simmering in its juices, set the meat on a layer of vegetables (like potatoes, onions or carrots) or set it on foil balls high enough to keep the meat out of the juices.
2. Spray the crock lightly with non-stick spray, olive oil or vegetable oil to prevent the dish cooking or burning onto the sides of the crock, you’ll also find plenty of crockpot cleaning tips here.
3. Make sure the crock is half full of food ingredients to keep the dish from burning or overcooking…don’t fill the crock too full, you want it no more than 2/3 full or the dish will need to cook longer to prevent it from being undercooked. If you can, have both a smaller and larger size slow cooker on hand to accommodate various quantities and recipes. Slowcookers can be found really cheap at garage sales and it’s worth it to have another one on hand.
4. Carefully remove the lid from the crock by lifting it straight up then over. This will help prevent much of the condensation running back into the dish which just dilutes the sauce consistency and flavor.
5. Unless the recipe instructs you to do so, do not lift the lid to stir or peek at the dish. This lowers the temperature inside the crock pot and the meal won’t be fully cooked within the alloted time.
6. Prevent half cooked carrots and potatoes by layering them on the bottom of the crock first then adding the rest of the ingredients. Cut them in about 1″ chunks or so, this helps them cook faster.
7. Use fresh vegetables rather than canned or frozen since they’ll retain their flavor and texture better (as well as add flavor to the meat). If you do use canned or frozen vegetables, add them to your crockpot toward the end of cooking time, just long enough to heat them through. This way they won’t be tasteless mush.
8. For more flavor, first brown any meat, onions, garlic and some of the flavorful veggies (like onions and green peppers).
9. Trim off as much of the fat on the meat as you can as well as remove the skin from chicken, this helps prevent much of the fat melting into the sauce.
10. Cook with thawed meat rather than frozen (unless recipe instructs otherwise). The dish will need longer cooking otherwise and will affect the rest of the ingredients.
11. Choose cuts of meat that will fit in your slow cooker easily. If the cut of meat is too big and you cram it in, it won’t cook through as well and will likely need longer cooking time (affecting the rest of the recipe’s ingredients as well). Trim off excess meat and freeze to use later in soups or stews.
12. Choose cheap cuts of meat where possible since the meat turns out quite tender when cooked slow. Slow cooking is a great opportunity to economize.
13. If the sauce or gravy is too thin, remove the lid from the slow cooker the last 1/2 hour and turn up the heat to try to thicken it. You can also add potato flakes to thicken the sauce.
14. Dry herbs and spices can lose their flavor when cooking so long, if possible–try adding them the last two hours before the meal is ready to help keep the flavor. Use fresh herbs when possible, these can be added first thing since they’ll hold their flavor better when cooking for hours.
15. For better pasta and rice, cook these separately about an hour before the meal is ready. Once they’re barely cooked, throw them in with the meal to simmer in the sauce.
16. You can cut cooking time in half by cooking on High instead of Low, but cook according to directions whenever possible since the recipe results might differ otherwise (meat may not be as tender, etc.).
17. If your slow cooker doesn’t come with a timer, you can buy an appliance timer for just a few bucks (check Amazon for “Appliance Timer”, some are quite low in price). This is really nice to have since you can start the crockpot later in the morning, in the middle of the night or set it to turn off in case you’re late getting home from work.