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“Fix and forget” may be the watchwords of slow cooking, but that doesn’t mean one should be thoughtless. Just a little prep work and forethought can be the difference between a flavorful stew and an insipid pile of mush.
If you’re already searing your meat before you chuck it in the crock pot, good—you’re halfway there. Browning simply does not happen in a slow cooker environment, as the appliance doesn’t get hot enough, and there’s too much moisture.
But even though meat is (mostly likely) the basis of your dish, attention must be paid to the vegetables as well. According to The Kitchn, layering is the key. Slow cooker recipes have (obviously) long cook times, and it’s the meat—not the carrots—that benefit from it. By placing the protein at the bottom (closest to the heating element), and vegetables at the top, you can keep your plant parts a little more toothsome, while ensuring your meat is fall-apart tender.
It also helps to rank your vegetables by sturdiness. If you want an ingredient to fall apart—like tomatoes for instance—place it closer to the bottom. Place starchy potatoes under more delicate carrots, and cut more fragile ingredients into larger pieces. Also—don’t forget that you can add vegetables in at the last moment. I loathe an overcooked pea, and always add them to my stew at the last moment, just before serving.
This article was written by Claire Lower on Skillet and shared by Claire Lower to Lifehacker from Lifehacker and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.