The Meat Mistake You Need To Avoid With Your Slow Cooker

If you think you don't like slow cooker meals, you're probably not cooking them right. When used correctly, a slow cooker can be a busy home chef's best friend for making delicious home-cooked meals with little effort. However, if you consistently find your slow cooker meals with meat coming out tough, lackluster, and flavorless, then you may need to reassess how you're prepping your dishes, and you may need to turn down the temperature. If you cook meat at too high of a temperature in your slow cooker, you're likely to overcook it.

When you cook your food slowly at a lower temperature, you unlock the magic of slow cooking. Some of the best cuts of meat for slow cookers are tougher cuts like chuck roast or oxtail. Slow cooking turns these into delectable, tender bites. There's a science behind this. Slow cooking helps make the temperature gradients less steep. What this means is that you won't have vastly changing temperatures if you cook your meats low and slow, this means you get more even cooking, and the connective tissues in the meat can break down easier. When you cook your meat at too high of a temperature for too long, these connective tissues won't break down, resulting in stringy and chewy meat.

Other tips for cooking meat in your slow cooker

If you're able to defrost your meat before you start slow cooking, you absolutely should. Frozen meats cool down everything else cooking in your slow cooker and can result in much longer cooking times. Frozen meat also takes longer to reach a safe internal temperature for eating, and thus can pose more risk, according to the USDA. The excess water from frozen meats can also cause your slow cooker meals to become watery. If you plan on using a frozen piece of meat for your slow cooker, put the meat in the fridge the day before so it can defrost overnight.

Another common slow-cooker mistake is constantly removing the lid to check on the food inside. A slow cooker works by trapping the heat and cooking the food evenly for a long period of time. Whenever you take the lid off of your slow cooker, the heat escapes and makes the cooking time even longer. If you have a step in your recipe such as stirring or shredding a piece of meat, it should typically happen after your meat has cooked fully through.