How to Successfully Slow-Cook

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Magazine, December 21st, 2011

The slow cooker is our friend in the test kitchen, and we’ve discovered some helpful tips to create the perfect dish every time:

1.    Pick the Right Cut of Meat: Use cuts of meat that are best for slow braising, like pork shoulder, and try to avoid leaner cuts, like pork tenderloin, that don’t hold up as well.

2.    Spend Some Time Up Front: All you need is 30 minutes or less to brown your meat. Make a quick pan sauce or reduce wine before adding to your slow cooker — it makes a big difference in flavor.

3.    Choose Your Alliums Wisely: Onion, garlic and shallot all belong to the same genus and when they’re added raw to a slow cooker, sometimes they create a metallically after-taste. We prefer to use leeks (also in same genus), which are milder. We also love to toast thinly sliced garlic in butter or oil and stir in at the end (like in Food Network Magazine’s Vegetable and Lentil Slow Cooker Soup, pictured above).

4.    Quick Add-Ins: Adding freshly-chopped herbs or hot sauce at the end can really brighten up your dish.

5.    Think Beyond Beef Stew: Your slow cooker is capable of more than braised main dishes. We all love this simple and delicious Cranberry-Cornmeal Cake.

Cranberry-Cornmeal Slow-Cooker Cake
Spray a 5-quart slow cooker insert with pan release; line bottom with aluminum foil and spray again. Combine 1/2 stick melted butter and 1 cup brown sugar; spread over foil.  Combine 3/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup cornmeal, 2/3 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon each baking powder, salt and orange zest.  Whisk together 2 eggs, 1/2 stick melted butter, 2 tablespoons milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Fold wet into dry ingredients until combined; evenly spread over sugar mixture.  Sprinkle with 1 cup cranberries (thawed if frozen).  Drape a double length of paper towel over insert opening.  Cover and cook on low until set, about 3 hours.  Allow to sit for 20 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate.

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Comments (49)

  1. irish98588 says:

    I watched a whole 10 minutes of Bitchin Kitchen and couldn't take that gal any longer, scraping the bottom of the barrel for shows to put that one on the air. As far as I am concerned it is sickening. Bring back Tyler.

  2. hattie says:

    Ina is the best thing you have going. She uses simple and fresh ingredients and gives great direction and tips. I have all of her cookbooks and have yet to make anything that wasn't terrific. I am eagerly awaiting a new cookbook from her. Don't know if she has anything in the works.

  3. Nancy says:

    I have to agree with many comments above. I personally enjoy Diners Drive-ins and Dives, Chopped etc, but they are all completely overdone. Gone is the weekend line-up that I as a working person looked forward to where I could see realistic cooking shows that gave me many good ideas to try for the weekend when I have time to cook. Those other challenge shows are fine, but they seem to be set up to placate and promote the ridiculous egos of the chefs that are judging them. I watch less and less.

  4. Linda says:

    I agree with all the others, this is supposed to be the “cooking” channel! Let’s get back to shows that have cooking and not multiple hours of competitions! And I’m sorry I still love Paula but Bobby’s new show is great for those that want Paula’s dishes slimmed down. Go Dean’s!!

  5. Kathi says:

    We need some healthy, creative low-fat & sugar programs!

  6. jackie says:

    I agree DDD was fun the 1st year but is a snore now – don't watch. Aarti Party is the best new cuisine you have – I use many of her recipes, my favorite is Sloppy Bombay Joes. Aarti is a great teacher. I want to explore ethnic recipies, you used to have a wonderful (young woman) on Saturdays that showed us how to make easy/affordable Mexican dishes – where did she go? I love Alex! Great instruction – clear, consise, and linked back to normal life. Please bring back new recipes with accomplished chefs – like Ultimate.

  7. Betty says:

    I have almost stopped watching your network. I want to see cooking shows,not contests and advertisements for diners. Bring back Emeril,the Neeleys and Tyler or any one who helps you to learn something about cooking.

  8. Lana Lane says:

    Yes! What the heck happned? I used to spend at least one or maybe every Saturady in the winter watching my favorite cooking shows all day. Now I feel it is like the local networkss had good line upof shows then switched to having too many reality shows.And now the Food Network went from cooking shows that were the bomb to contests and competitions. Contests should be seasonal and I miss my cooking programs. WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED?

  9. Mary says:

    I agree with everyone else about the contest. Bring back the chefs. Love Paula! Please don't get rid of her. I also enjoy the Neeleys.

  10. Kay Gellerstedt says:

    I miss the FUN shows like the game shows from the earlier days of Food Network, such as Supermarket Sweep and the one were audience members would compete to make dishes with a chef and then taste and vote who did best. The latter was my favorite…hysterically funny! I would love to see more shows that teach about stocking a kitchen, how to use what's in one, making the most of appliances, and the list goes on. Food network helped me to tap into my "inner chef"; It's lost it's appeal with all the chef competitions. Let's get back to cooking and making it fun!

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