Before You Add Ingredients, You Need To Preheat Your Slow Cooker

Slow cooker with rice and vegetables
Slow cooker with rice and vegetables - Irine and Andrew/Shutterstock

A slow cooker is a powerhouse tool in the kitchen. While it may have once been associated simply with low and slow preparations like pot roast and hearty stews, and while those still work beautifully with this technique, there are countless ways that modern cooks make use of their slow cookers for inspired recipes with all sorts of intentions, making it a versatile and worthwhile investment.

Although the purpose of this handy device is to make your cooking life as simple as possible, there's a single easy extra step that will be a game changer for your meals. Rather than tossing all of your prepared ingredients into a cool cooker and waiting for everything to slowly warm up together, take a few minutes to preheat the apparatus while you get your ingredients ready. Timing is essential to making any slow cooker meal, and in the long run, you'll actually save 15 to 20 minutes while ensuring a flavorful, satisfying, and still easy-to-achieve outcome.

Read more: 8 Baking Sheet Mistakes You Want To Avoid

Good Preheating Practices

Woman preheating slow cooker
Woman preheating slow cooker - Marioguti/Getty Images

The beauty of this type of meal prep is that you can essentially combine all your ingredients into the slow cooker and step away for a few hours, or even all day. But still, most slow cooker recipes call for a bit of active prep beforehand, particularly when you're working to brown aromatics like garlic or onion, to toast up spices for flavor blooming, and to sear meat or saute vegetables. Those ingredients will be warm and ready once you've finished these initial steps; to then place them in a cold slow cooker cools them down, and it'll take time to then bring them back up to optimal temperature. Instead, preheat your cooker while you're busy doing these other tasks, which won't add any extra time to your overall cook. Another major benefit to this step is that you can actually prevent some dangers associated with food borne illness by minimizing the amount of time your food — in particular, meats and poultry — lingers in the temperature danger zone between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Preheating is as simple as turning on your cooker to the highest setting while you manage other preparation steps. Adding hot or boiling water helps speed up the process, too, which you can then drain prior to proceeding with your recipe. When you're ready to cook, turn the temperature down to your desired level, and rest assured that you'll achieve the depth of flavor you expect while working with a safe and reliable method.

Super Slow Cooker Dishes

Slow cooker with stew
Slow cooker with stew - Ronald Sumners/Shutterstock

It'd be tough to narrow down the breadth of slow cooker recipes out there, although we've counted at least 101 among the best. One of the most exciting things about this style of cooking is the ability to experiment with relatively low risk. It's also an ideal way to cook for a crowd. On holidays you can use this tool to free up your oven, or your hands for that matter, to create other culinary delights.

If you're entertaining, an appetizer like chile con queso dip pairs perfectly with homemade tortilla chips, and Cajun Buffalo meatballs make ideal toothpick snacks. Naturally, the slow cooker calls to mind warming meals like sweet potato kale soup and chicken stew with carrots and potatoes. It's perfect for whipping up satisfying side dishes like cinnamon sugar glazed carrots or classic mashed potatoes without taking up oven space.

Believe it or not, you can even use this method in the morning to create breakfast apple cinnamon French toast in a snap, not to mention desserts like peach cobbler and sippable treats like a spiced pear cider.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.