Cooking with a Crock-Pot is a great way to save time and energy, since you can just add the ingredients to the pot, turn it on and let it cook for hours without any fuss. You may miss some of your favorite recipes, however, if they were designed for the oven and not the slow cooker. Thankfully, you can convert oven recipes to Crock-Pot recipes by adjusting a few ingredients and the cooking time.
Reduce the liquid in the original recipe, generally by 1/2 to 1 cup. Because condensation forms on the inside of the slow cooker lid and then falls back down to the food, recipes in a Crock-Pot will lose far less moisture to evaporation than recipes in the oven. To test out a recipe, add half the liquid to start, then add more later if the food looks too dry.
Adjust the seasonings. Dry herbs and spices can develop a bitter taste during long Crock-Pot cooking times, and fresh herbs can lose their flavor. For the best balance of flavor, wait to taste and season your food until an hour before the end of the cooking time.
Increase the cooking time. A dish that bakes in the oven for 15 to 30 minutes will generally take 4 to 8 hours in a slow cooker on low; 30 to 40 minutes in the oven will take 6 to 10 hours; and 50 minutes to 3 hours in the oven will take 8 to 18 hours. In general, a dish will take about half the time to cook on high as it would on low.
Test the temperature of the meat. Recipes with meat and vegetables generally require cooking times at the longer end of the range. If you're not sure that meat is cooked all the way, test it with a meat thermometer. It should have a minimum temperature of 145 degrees for beef or pork, or 165 degrees for poultry.
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- "Chicago Tribune"; Three Rules for Slow-Cooker Recipes; Carol Mighton Haddix; October 2008
- "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook"; Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann; 2005
- RecipeTips.com: Slow-Cooker Conversion Chart
- FoodSafety.gov: Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures
- University of Missouri Extension; Crockpot Tips for Tasty Family Meals; Susan Mills-Gray
- Lifting the Crock-Pot lid to adjust liquids and seasonings releases heat, which increases the cooking time. Avoid lifting the lid more than is necessary, and add about 20 minutes to the cooking time for each time you remove the lid.
- You may need to test a recipe several times and make further adjustments before it works well in a slow cooker.
Mara Shannon is a writer whose work appears on various websites. Shannon also blogs about gaming and literature. Shannon holds a Bachelor of Arts in music with a focus on performance.