Cooking in a Crock Pot Question: Need answer not-too-fast!

Let’s say I’m cooking a mess of stuff in a crock pot (I am, actually). Are you supposed to stir the mixture periodically, or are you supposed to leave it alone and not be taking off the lid?

Got chunks of pork, onion, 2 kinds of peppers, some kinda sauce got in the discount bin, and half-can of beer. I’m going for Carnitas. It’ll be close enough, I think.

So, the question is To Stir With Love, or Stir? Crazy!?

Don’t open. When you remove the lid it takes a long time to get back up to temperature. Leave it closed until the end, when can then add any last ingredients and give a good stir.

For carnitas, throw under the broiler or crisp up in a pan when done. Yum!

I suspected that was the case. Can’t be letting the heat out all the time. Seems legit. Hope this melange turns out okay. Kinda funky looking so far. Guess I’ll try it over rice.

^ This. For most crock pot / slow cooker dishes, you’ll start on high for a few hours (to get to temp asap) and then cook on low until whatever target doneness is reached. Different people say add 20/30 minutes to planned cooking time each time you take the lid off during the cooking.

For me, the best pot of slow cooker dishes is reallllly long cooking times. I will frequently make green chile pork, where I brown the ingredients and roast the peppers before bed, and throw everything in the pot to cooker overnight on low (no high head stage). In the morning, I can easily shred the pork chunks with a fork, stir, add a bit more beer to bring up the fluid, and leave on low until I’m home after work, where I add the last bits (fresh lime, diced additional chile, and cilantro) before serving.

Of course this works great for dishes where you want you meat in ‘threads’ or the equivalent, when you’re pouring it over something, but if you want it more distinct you can do something similar, just throw the prepped pot in the fridge overnight, and set it on low to run for a 10 hour (commute and lunch included) workday and it’s good to last minute prep and serve when you get home.

Served it up on rice and it was… totally underwhelming. Didn’t add enough Zing. Kinda bland and flavorless. Even with all the peppers and stuff. Oh well.

The cilantro was the best part. Or maybe I’m just hella drunk? It’s been a hard day.

Make sure not to use too much liquid. Meat doesn’t need to be submerged- it’ll release liquid as it cooks and the lid helps it braise. Too much liquid can dilute the ingredients.

^This. You’ll be surprised at how much liquid is released from meat and veggies. I don’t use a crock pot, but I will sometimes slow cook something on the stove in a Dutch oven for hours, and when I make something like a Hungarian goulash, I add maybe a 1/2 cup of water for a three pounds of meat and a pound to pound and a half of onions. That is plenty for something where I want a stew as opposed to a soup. I find a lot of recipes call for way too much liquid for my taste, and it ends up diluting the final product. And especially in something like carnitas, which you don’t want soupy at all to begin with: just enough liquid so it doesn’t burn. The meat and veggies will release enough of their own.

In addition to the fine advice about not over diluting your slow cooker with extra fluid (and as additional note, why add water when you can add homemade or store bought stock, beer, or other flavorful liquid?), check how much salt and other spices you have compared to the volume of meat. While as Americans we tend to over salt our food, it is easy when making big batches in a slow cooker to under season.

For example, if I’m using a 2-3 lb pork roast, but only salt the surface, it’s gonna be undersalted, not a problem if I add salt at the table, but it will contribute to the bland. Another, related issue is the amount of meat. While it’s not a hard or fast rule, I want at least 1/3 amount of ‘flavorful’ ingredients to the volume of meat when slow cooking. So again, 3 lbs of pork roast will (IMHO) require at least a pound’s worth of chiles.

Anyway, lots of techniques and options, and then you’ll dial it in to your own personal taste.

I’ve been telling this to people for years and getting scoffed at. Among other things it makes the contents too hot and you can end up with a dried out pot roast or similar dish.

That’s also a good point. A lot of times “bland and flavorless” does translate into “underseasoned” meaning mostly undersalted. I don’t want to fight with the low salt people but, for me and most people in my experience, salt is at least a partial solution to this problem. A bit of acid, like, say, lime or vinegar ior even whatever hot sauce you use on your carnitas n this case, can also help add some of that “zing” that is lacking. With stuff like pulled pork or carnitas, I add additional salt and seasoning to the meat after I shred it. As said above, when you just salt the surface, that’s usually not enough for that amount of meat.

Maybe you should get an Instant Pot and try that instead.

It won’t improve your cooking any, but you won’t have to wait nearly as long to be disappointed! :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

Has anyone else noticed that newer crockpots seem to cook faster than their old counterparts? I have an older model I inherited that still cooks low and slow and finishes in 8 hours or more. The newer one I have rarely goes past 6 hours before food is done and liquids are boiling away. Thing remains hot even on “keep warm”. Sometime I think all the heat settings are the same, but maybe I’m just paranoid.

I think I read somewhere that companies are increasing the temp on crock pots (even on “low” setting) so people poison themselves less with food borne bacteria.

I have found that in crock pot cooking, less is more with respect to how many ingredients you try to cook all together. If I’m slow cooking a roast, ribs, chicken or turkey breast, I use little to no additional liquid unless it’s highly flavorful and/or acidic (red wine, cider vinegar), and only a quarter to half a cup max. I season generously and leave it to release and cook in its own juices. I have found adding root vegetables, peppers, etc, to be mostly pointless (aromatics being the exception) because they are always going to be overcooked, tasteless mush that does nothing for the final dish.

I can’t answer definitively, but I’m pretty sure that it is not your imagination and that I’ve read that crock pots run at higher temps (on the order of 10-20 degrees) than their historical counterparts.

There are two times I add liquid in a crock pot: When I make beans, and when I make corned beef & cabbage. Any other meat has plenty of liquid in them.

For carnitas, I would have marinated the pork and then cooked it low-and-slow in the oven.