Using a slow cooker offers plenty of benefits, but speedy cooking isn’t one of them. To take advantage of the lower electricity use, hassle-free meals, and tender textures you get with slow cookers; you also have to accept that your meals aren’t going to be ready in a hurry. However, there are a few tactics you can use to move the cooking process along faster so that the meals in a slow cooker will be ready more quickly.
Ways to speed up slow cooker time include using the ‘high’ setting instead of the ‘low’ setting, cutting your food into smaller pieces, and covering the cooker with foil. Here we explore in greater depth how you can encourage slow cooker meals to be ready sooner.
Ways to Make a Slow Cooker Speed Up
One way you can speed up your slow cooker time without sacrificing taste or texture is by chopping your food up into smaller chunks. Food which is smaller will cook more quickly, no matter what appliance you are cooking it in.
Since slow cookers use low heat over a long time, it can take many hours for a large slice of carrot to reach a stage where it is cooked right through to the middle. If you dice your carrots instead, then they are going to be fully cooked much more quickly. By slicing your meats and vegetables into smaller chunks, you can save as much as half the time in cooking.
This hack is super easy and can drastically cut down your slow cooker cooking time with no extra effort at all. All you need to do is pull a piece of foil from your aluminum roll, ensuring that it is a few inches bigger than the lid of your slow cooker. Now lift the lid off your slow cooker, place the foil over the top of your dish so that it hangs over the edges, and then put the lid back on top of the slow cooker so that the lid is holding the foil in place.
Although a slow cooker lid does a fairly good job of retaining heat and keeping the warm air inside, most slow cooker lids are made of relatively thin glass, allowing some heat to escape. The foil will reflect the heat back onto the food so that it cooks quicker, maintaining a more consistently high temperature.
Slow cookers only have two settings; high and low. Most dishes will have better results when being cooked on low since these will spend longer at a lower temperature to break down meats and vegetables for increased flavor and tenderness. However, if you’re short on time and your recipe calls for using the ‘low’ setting, you can adjust this to speed things up. The ‘high’ setting on a slow cooker will cook things at double the speed of the ‘low’ setting.
This means for every hour, a recipe should be cooked on low; you can cook it for 30 minutes on high instead. By using the high setting, you can effectively cut your cooking time in half but be warned that your food may not taste as good as when it’s cooked on low. You can also mix up the cooking time by using the settings for varying amounts of time.
For example, instead of cooking a meal for 8 hours on the low setting, you could cook it for 2 hours on the high setting (which is the equivalent of 4 hours on the low setting) and then cook the food on the low setting for the remaining 4 hours. This will save you time but also ensure your food is full of flavor with a tender texture.
Many slow cooker recipes advise that meats and some vegetables, such as onions, are seared in a pan before being added to the slow cooker pot. This will give the food some color and help it to caramelize, which also adds extra flavor and texture to the whole dish.
If you usually skip this step, you’ll notice a real difference in the results of your meal when you start searing food first, and you’ll also benefit from a faster cooking time. Since some of your food will already be partially cooked from pan searing, it won’t need to spend as long in the slow cooker.
Once all of your food is in your slow cooker pot, you should fix the lid in place and leave it for the remainder of the cooking time. It can be very tempting to take a look beneath the lid to see how the food is cooking or to give it a stir, but removing the lid will release a lot of hot air, and this will take a long time to heat up again.
Every time you take the lid off your slow cooker, you will need to add an extra 20 to 30 minutes to your total cooking time. If you take a peek at your food four times throughout the day, this could add a whopping 2 hours to your total cook time! Leaving the slow cooker to work its magic without interference will help it to maintain temperature and cook faster.
Should You Speed Up a Slow Cooker?
Although there are plenty of ways you can make a slow cooker cook food more quickly, that doesn’t mean you should necessarily use them. For many people, the beauty of a slow-cooked meal is the intense flavors and delicate textures you get from food that has been cooked at a low temperature over a long period of time.
When you speed up a slow cooker time, you might be sacrificing the end results. However, if you are short on time and simply need your meal to be fully cooked and ready to eat in a hurry, then it’s useful to know how to make a slow cooker work a little faster.