Adapting Your Favorite Recipes for the Slow Cooker
“I wonder if I could cook that in the slow cooker…” Have you asked yourself this before? Many of us with slow cookers have eyeballed them and wondered if we could cook our favorite yummy recipes in them. Often, you can. But before you just throw everything into the slow cooker and hope for the best, there are some general principles you should consider as you adapt your favorite tasty recipes for the slow cooker.
In most slow cookers, “Low” is around 200 degrees F, and “High” is about 300. Cooking takes about twice as long on Low as it does on High.
If the recipe you want to convert calls for a quick baking time, then you can probably get away with a few hours on Low or one to two hours on High. If your recipe calls for long oven baking or stovetop simmering, then you can probably get away with 8-10 hours on Low (a standard cook temperature and time for roasts and red meats).
Slow cookers produce very moist heat. This means your recipe will retain more moisture than it would if it were baked in the oven. So a good rule of thumb is to reduce the amount of liquid in your recipe by about half. However, if you’re cooking rice or some other grain, then you should use an amount of liquid that is just shy of the standard amount.
3. Oven versus Slow Cooker
Here is a handy guide for oven times converted to slow cooker times:
Oven: 20-30 minutes Slow cooker: 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours on High; 4 to 6 hours on Low
Oven: 35-45 minutes Slow cooker: 2 to 3 hours on High; 6 to 8 hours on Low
Oven: 50 minutes to 3 hours Slow cooker: 4 to 5 hours on High; 8 to 18 hours on Low
4. Know What Holds Up
Roasts, brisket, and flat steak stand up well to long cooking, usually requiring 10 to 12 hours on Low or 6 to 8 on High. But vegetables don’t usually hold up so well, especially ones like snow peas and broccoli.
If you want to adapt a meat recipe that has vegetables in it, you can add them toward the end of cooking time. However, if you combine meat and chopped vegetables that are more dense, like chunked carrots and potatoes, then you can usually cook the whole dish for 8 to 10 hours on Low.
Poultry cooks more quickly than red meat, and fish cooks faster than both.