The Easy Trick For Prepping Slow Cooker Meals Ahead Of Time

The whole point of a slow cooker is to make your life as easy as possible — and to whip up tasty meals that fill your house with delicious smells all day, of course. But most of us don't have time to assemble 10 different ingredients and cut up an array of veggies in the morning before work, which many slow cooker recipes require. With just a little planning ahead, however, you can set yourself up for both a yummy dinner and an efficient morning.

The night before you want to make your slow cooker dish, get all your prep done. This means chopping your veggies, browning or searing your meat, sautéing your onions, or completing any other steps that require slicing or cooking before the ingredients go into the Crockpot. Then, toss everything in your slow cooker's pot, cover it, and keep it in the fridge overnight. 

In the morning, all you have to do is plug in your device and let it do its thing. Keep in mind, though, that you may have to add an extra half hour or so of cooking time since you're starting out with a cold dish. Or, to circumvent this issue, pull your pot out of the fridge about a half hour before you leave and let it warm up on the counter while you get ready.

Tips for prepping slow cooker meals

While you can let your prepped ingredients warm up a little before turning on your slow cooker, make sure you don't leave them sitting out for too long. Two hours is the absolute max you should leave your food on the counter, or one hour if it's above 90 degrees Fahrenheit out, per the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines. 

And, while it's typically fine to assume your poultry or meat will be safe to eat after hours in the slow cooker, if you haven't browned it ahead of time, use a meat thermometer to check that it's okay to consume — because, again, food that starts out in the fridge may need a little extra warming time. If you really want to get a jump on prepping your slow cooker meals, you can also use the freezer. 

It's not advisable to put your whole slow cooker in the freezer, but you can prep most of your ingredients, freeze them, and dump them in your device when you're ready to cook. Just make sure to never add frozen meat to your slow cooker, and instead thaw it in the fridge the night before. With a little thinking ahead, you can achieve both a stress-free morning and a tasty meal when you get home.