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Monday, September 1, 2014

Cooking with Crock Pots


Crock Pot Rules


Crock Pots for Slow Cooking.
Get yours at Mertie's This and That.
There are rules for cooking with crock pots. The rules are techniques
for rapidly reaching a safe temperature for cooking foods and staying there until the food is ready to be served. A safe temperature is above 140-145°F, the temperature that stops the growth of harmful bacteria in food.

I suspect that crock pots are made differently now, since the rules provided by Eating Well in 2004. Some other sites actually had recipes that did not conform to the rules, including recipes for meats. I have summarized the rules provided by Eating Well below.

Getting Temps High Enough, Rapidly Enough

  1. Use high moisture foods and recipes that add moisture. The water will make steam that will heat the food faster and keep it hotter than 145°F. 
  2. Defrost all frozen ingredients first. Meats, poultry and fish should be defrosted slowly in the refrigerator since attaining a temperature above 45°F will allow bacteria to grow.
  3. Do not use the crock pot to store uncooked foods because the pot cools slowly. This will delay the change from kitchen-counter temperature to the colder 45°F that prevents bacterial growth.
  4. Fill the crock pot between 1/2 to 2/3 full.
    Heat the boiling water in a teapot from Mertie's this and That.
  5. Preheat meats and poultry. You can do this in 3 ways. One is to sear the meat in a hot pan before placing it in the crock pot. Another is to heat the meat on high in the crock pot for 1 hour, then continue cooking the meat on low. Finally, you can add boiling water or broth to the crock pot of meat and vegetables and cook for the required hours.
  6. Cut up whole chickens and roasts. Large chunks of meat do not raise temperature as quickly as needed. A chunk can be the size of a chicken leg-and-thigh piece.
  7. Leave the lid of the crock pot closed until the last hour of cooking. Opening the pot will lower the temperature. The contents might not reheat in time to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
  8. Do not reheat cooked foods in the crock pot. It takes too long to heat up. Instead reheat the food in the microwave or on the stove. The crock pot can be used to keep hot foods warm.

Cooking Times for Meats, Fish, and Poultry

Herding beef cattle,
as opposed to milk cattle,
gave the cowboy the name.
Get this print at
Mertie's This and That.
Vegetables and meats can be cooked together. You can even add the vegetables during the last hour or two of cooking. A sweet potato can take 5 hours to cook on low. Potatoes, carrots, celery, onion and others can be cooked as long as the meat, but can also be added during the last 1-1.5 hour of cooking. Slice the vegetables thickly.

Different meats have different cooking times. A 4-lb. pot roast can be seared on all sides for 4 minutes/side, then cooked on low for 8-10 hrs, or 5-6 hrs on high. (see also)  A 3.5-lb pork shoulder can be cooked on low for 7-8 hrs. Chicken will be done in 5hrs on low if liquid is added. Fish will cook in 2-3 hrs on low; shrimp in a heated pot on low for 1hr. Fish should be oiled, seasoned and wrapped in aluminum foil. These packets can be placed in the  pot on top of vegetables such as onion slices.

Beans are best cooked long enough to break down the leptin protein, making crock pots ideal for cooking dried beans. After soaking overnight, 1lb  of dried beans covered with 5 c boiling water will cook on high for 2-3.5 hours, depending on the age and type of bean.

Mertie's This and That has crock pots and other kitchen items at reduced prices.

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