The Important Step You Should Take Before Putting Meat In A Slow Cooker

It's tough to top slow cooker recipes when it comes to convenience; just dump all of the ingredients in there and go on about your busy day. It's no wonder the appliance surged in popularity when more and more women started joining the workforce in the 1970s, per the BBC, as part of the slow cooker's appeal is saving time by adding the meat, vegetables, and other ingredients all at once before you leave for the day — but are you missing a key step with your meat? 

If you're strapped for time it's perfectly safe to put raw meat in the slow cooker, but Good Housekeeping explains that the low and slow method will prevent meat from browning, giving you a bland meal. This is why Southern Living recommends you take a few extra minutes to brown your meat before putting it in the slow cooker, even if your recipe doesn't call for it.

Reasons to brown you meat before slow cooking

Although it might dirty an extra pan, Southern Living explains this step can boost the flavor, reduce the amount of grease in a dish, and help with cooking times. For example, if you add raw meat and green vegetables to a slow cooker all at once, they will likely be done at different times, resulting in overcooked veg at best.

When you're browning meat, what you're really doing is caramelizing it. The Spruce Eats says that caramelization happens when you heat sugar and amino acids together, and to properly make this reaction happen the temperature needs to be above 300 degrees Fahrenheit. As slow cookers generally max out at 300 degrees, per Iowa State University, it is pretty difficult to brown meat by just throwing it in the appliance, regardless of the other ingredients in your recipe.

And skipping the important step not only means you are missing out on the chance for a more flavorful and balanced slow cooker dish. According to America's Test Kitchen browning adds an appetizing color to the meat and can give you the base for a tasty sauce if you have time to deglaze your pan with broth or wine before heading out the door. While this simple step may take a few extra minutes, it will all be worth it when you taste and see the finished product.