Tips for Slow-Cooking Meat Safely & Properly
A slow cooker is a kitchen staple for anyone who wants to enjoy tender pot roast, tasty winter stews or easy game-day dips. If you’re new to the concept of cooking meat slowly, follow these tips to ensure proper food safety and delicious results.
- Choose the right cut: Slow cookers are perfect for producing succulent meals from tougher, less expensive cuts such as chuck roast, pork shoulder and short ribs. Just keep in mind that fattier cuts tend to remain juicy while leaner meats may dry out. You can combat this by adding an inch of water at the bottom of the slow cooker.
- Start with a clean area. Wipe the counter and make sure all utensils, cutting boards and the slow cooker itself are clean and ready to go. Don’t forget to wash your hands as well.
- Delay taking perishables out of the fridge. Bacteria multiply quickly at room temperature. To help prevent food poisoning, keep meat, cheese, vegetables and other perishables refrigerated until it’s time to add them to the slow cooker.
- Keep meat and vegetables separate. To avoid cross-contamination, use a different knife and cutting board to prepare raw meat and veggies.
- Defrost meat before slow cooking it. Because slow cookers operate at relatively low temperatures of about 170 to 280 degrees F, it takes a while for frozen meat to thaw. This could leave it in the danger zone of 40 to 140 degrees F long enough to harbor dangerous bacteria growth. To keep your food safe to eat, thaw meat in the fridge for 24 hours prior to slow-cooking it.
- Know when to brown. Many recipes specifically suggest browning meat on the stove before slow-cooking it. You can always skip this step to save time, but the extra effort rewards you with a caramelized flavor that slow cooking alone can’t achieve.
- Trim the fat. If your goal is to make a healthy meal with silky gravy, remove excess fat and skin from your meat and poultry before throwing in the slow cooker.
- Layer properly. Let your slow cooker do all the work by loading it with root vegetables and meat. For the best results, layer carrots and potatoes on the bottom, and pile meat on top. To ensure everything cooks thoroughly, don’t fill the slow cooker more than two-thirds full.
- Store leftovers safely. It’s easy to cook in bulk when you use a slow cooker, providing you with leftovers for later in the week. For proper food safety, make sure you refrigerate food within two hours of turning off the slow cooker. Shallow containers are best because they help food reach cooler temperatures faster. Eat or freeze any leftovers within seven days.
Stock up on the perfect cuts of meat for your slow cooker at R&R Quality Meats & Seafood. To learn more about us, please visit our website or call our retail location in Redding, CA at (530) 241-7770.