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How to adapt recipes for a slow cooker

With a few tweaks you can adapt soup, stew and curry recipes for a slow cooker.

A slow cooker cooks food slowly at a low temperature. The low heat means that cheaper and leaner cuts of meat become tender and shrink less producing cost-effective and tasty meals. As slow cookers are relatively cheap to buy and run, and all you need to do is put in all the ingredients and leave them to cook, they are a great way to save time and money.  

What is good to cook in a slow cooker?

It’s easy to adapt recipes for the slow cooker especially soups, meat dishes (beef, lamb, pork and chicken) and vegetarian meals. We've collected some suitable recipes here.

Change the amount of water and type of flour

Slow cookers do not allow water to evaporate when cooking so they need roughly one third less liquid than you would use in the same recipe cooked normally. If the recipe uses milk, add this at the end once the vegetables are cooked.

If you add too much liquid, use cornflour to thicken your sauce at the end of the cooking time. Mix one tablespoon of cornflour with an equal amount of water and add to the slow cooker pot, and turn to high. You can do this as many times as you need, until the sauce reaches the consistency you want.

For beef, lamb & pork, if the recipe includes flour do not use it. Use cornflour at the end if you need to thicken the sauce. If the recipe includes barley, lentils, pasta or rice, add these to the slow cooker 1 hour before serving.

Changing the time to cook your food

Slow cookers cook for longer using a lower heat. Here’s our guide to adapting a recipe’s cooking time for a slow cooker. 

Normal cooking time Slow cooker on low Slow cooker on high
15 - 30 mins 4 - 6 hours 1 - 2 hours
30 mins - 1 hour 5 - 7 hours 2 - 3 hours
1 - 2 hours 6 - 8 hours 3 - 4 hours
2 - 4 hours 8 - 12 hours 4 - 6 hours

Steps to successful slow cooking

  1. Prepare the ingredients according to the recipe.
  2. Add all the ingredients to the slow cooker pot and stir well to combine.
  3. Add the stock - use either fresh warm stock or add stock cubes and boiling water.
  4. Wipe around the inner rim with a piece of kitchen roll before switching on to avoid burning on the surface of inner pot.
  5. Add the lid and cook for the required time on low or high, depending on when you want your dish to be ready to eat. There is no need to stir during cooking.
  6. Do not remove the lid while your meal is cooking as this will reduce the temperature inside.

Cooking food safely in a slow cooker

  • Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using a slow cooker.
  • Thaw frozen meat and poultry on the bottom shelf of your fridge before putting them in the slow cooker.
  • Frozen vegetables are safe to cook in a slow cooker.
  • Only reheat food cooked in a slow cooker once. Make sure the reheated food is piping hot the whole way through before serving.
  • You can freeze food cooked in a slow cooker, once it has fully cooled.
  • Don’t leave your slow cooker on overnight and to close the kitchen door if you’re leaving the house.

Read more: 9 reasons to use a slow cooker

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