Join 3,438 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


I need a "glacial" cooking setting.
October 3, 2011 5:14 AM   Subscribe

I'm a new slow cooker convert -- but most of the recipes I'm finding aren't slow enough for me now. Help!

I have an 11-hour workday these days, and a 40-minute commute on each end of that. So I am away from home 12 hours every day. I got a little 4-quart slow cooker to help appease that some. I also invested in a programmable cooker, which automatically shifts to "warm" when the cooking cycle is done. The problem is, though, that the "warm" cycle turns off after four hours, and all the recipes I'm finding call for only 7 or 8 hours of cooking time -- and the "warm" cycle would run out. Or they call for me to stir something after 4 or 5 hours. In a lot of cases, even switching from cooking something on "high" to "low" also wouldn't help.

I need to find things that call for at LEAST 10 hours of cooking time, and do NOT require any stirring or temperature shifts during the process. I've found only two; anyone know any more? (Ideally, I'd also like to avoid any extra prep work before adding things to the cooker; I'd be scrambling to get to the bus at 6:30 am and would rather not be sauteing onions or browning meat at that time).

Thanks. (I am fortunately done with this job in March and can start using all the OTHER slow cooker recipes finally.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos to Food & Drink (32 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
EmpressCallipygos: "The problem is, though, that the "warm" cycle turns off after four hours, and all the recipes I'm finding call for only 7 or 8 hours of cooking time -- and the "warm" cycle would run out."

Any particular reason this is a problem for you? Anything coming out of a slow cooker after that long has been thoroughly... cooked, and can stand an hour or two at room temperature, if not more.

Alternately, could you cook overnight and just store it? "Fresh out of the slow cooker" is usually not a big benefit.
posted by mkultra at 5:20 AM on October 3, 2011


Any particular reason this is a problem for you? Anything coming out of a slow cooker after that long has been thoroughly... cooked, and can stand an hour or two at room temperature, if not more.
Alternately, could you cook overnight and just store it? "Fresh out of the slow cooker" is usually not a big benefit.


On the first question: it'd have been standing at a just-barely-warm-enough-to-maintain-food-safety temperature for four hours, and I'm concerned about food poisoning if it cools too much.

On the second question: I have only three hours from the time when I get home to the time I go to sleep. Even a 5-hour slow cooker recipe would require me to stay awake until 1 am, and...when I have to wake up at 6 am, there's no way in hell I'm donig that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:23 AM on October 3, 2011


Get a timer and put it between the outlet and the slow cooker, and set it for whatever time you need to make dinner be ready when you walk in the door.
posted by COD at 5:29 AM on October 3, 2011 [10 favorites]


A couple ideas:

1. Most of my meat comes out of the freezer (I buy in bulk/on sale), and you can/should extend the cooking time by an hour or two if you're starting with frozen meat.
2. You can also extend cooking times if you're cooking a larger volume. Things like soup/chili/stew where the crock is almost completely filled with a lot of liquid take FOREVER to reach cooking temperature to begin with and can safely be left cooking on "low" for a really long time. Here's a pretty standard beef stew recipe, for example, that calls for 10-12 hours of cooking on low.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 5:35 AM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pulled pork BBQ can easily be cooked for 10 hours - the only thing is that afterwards, you have to pull it out and separate it, which can be a little annoying (but then you have a ton of pulled pork that you can re-use the next night).
posted by ukdanae at 5:36 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Empress: I have the Sanyo 5.5-Cup Micom Rice & Slow Cooker, which I love. I just checked, and the main cooking phase can be up to 12 hours. It then switches to "keep warm," which, as far as I can tell, lasts forever. I'd agree with mkultra, though, that there's probably no danger in allowing something that has been so thoroughly cooked stand for a few more hours if that were necessary.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 5:36 AM on October 3, 2011


Almost all the recipes I've ever made call for 8 hours of cooking time, and I've always let them cook the entire workday, which like yours usually comes to at least 10. Everything has turned out fine. I would just set it to cook for a little longer than called for so the warming cycle will still be on when you get home.
posted by something something at 5:38 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry to threadsit, but I just realized that some of my objections may be coming from Ignorance About Slow Cookers.

I just checked, and the main cooking phase can be up to 12 hours. It then switches to "keep warm," which, as far as I can tell, lasts forever.

See, my concerns with most recipes aren't so much "how long can the cooker cook something" but more "how long can the food stand being cooked." I can program the thing I've got for up to 24 hours of cooking time, but the RECIPES are what's only calling for 6 hours or whatever. I absolutely could program something to cook for longer than what the recipe calls for, but wouldn't that...overcook the food? (I realize that with some foods that wouldn't make a difference, but I'd also rather not have overcooked mush.) If I've got a recipe that says to cook the chicken for 6 hours, but I program it to cook for 10 hours instead, wouldn't that...overcook the chicken?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:47 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been using this book, Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker, which as a collection of recipes is not bad compared with what I saw in random googling. In addition to the recipes, there is a good section about cooking times and settings. Depending on what you're doing, there is really not a lot of penalty for using and 8 hour cooking time and letting the cooker sit for the remaining two hours on its warm setting.

Yesterday, I did the potato leek recipe, which produced a nice, simple, filling, and (I dare say), healthy soup.
posted by plinth at 5:52 AM on October 3, 2011


I think it depends what you're cooking. Something like pulled pork or chicken thighs or real stew beef will still be delicious after 12 hours. I don't know what kinds of veggies hold up best. But fatty/cartilaginous meats often just get more and more delicious the more you cook them.
posted by mskyle at 5:56 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the first question: it'd have been standing at a just-barely-warm-enough-to-maintain-food-safety temperature for four hours, and I'm concerned about food poisoning if it cools too much.

Yes, as well you should be.

Leaving meat in a slow cooker for that long, no matter how much fat it has, will dry it out. However, pork is pretty forgiving. I would go with a pork butt and give that a try next.

Also, if you want to get fancy, you could buy a sous vide temperature control device and bag your food. Most sous vide recipes call for much longer to cook meat since it is sealed.
posted by TheBones at 5:56 AM on October 3, 2011


I usually cook things for longer than the recommended time in my slow cooker. It works out fine. My standard stew (using brisket) consists of everything thrown in a slow cooker and put on low in the morning. When I get home from lab (anywhere from 10-12 hours later it get thickened with a roux and then consumed over the course of a few days. All of the times I've ever used a slow cooker I just see the cooking time as a minimum and am usually well above that time.
posted by koolkat at 6:10 AM on October 3, 2011


Those of you saying that I can just set it to cook longer: I'm somewhat slavish about recipes, so having a good rule of thumb to know when I can deviate would be really helpful.

So here's a for-instsance. Say I want to make this. (Which I do, actually.) It calls for 7-1/2 hours on low, then some stirring and another final half hour. Could I indeed just up that 7-1/2 to 12 hours, and take care of the stirring and last half hour when I get home, and take care of it that way?

I realize I probably couldn't get away with that for every recipe; what's a rule of thumb for knowing when I can get away with it?

Thanks -- so far this cooker has only been used to make pear butter on a lazy Saturday when I was home all day anyway.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:12 AM on October 3, 2011


It would help knowing the model slow cooker you have and what sort of temperature controls are on it. The thing about rice and beans is it is a pretty cheap meal so playing around with a batch or 2 isn't going to kill the wallet. While it will be disappointing to come home and find a gluteny mess, it isn't the end of the world. I would turn the temperature down to just below medium and give that a try over 12 hours with the beans and rice again.
posted by TheBones at 6:17 AM on October 3, 2011


OK .. I know you asked for recipes. But here's what works for me and I have a similarly long day. I tried the route you're going and it just felt like a lot of added stress in the morning putting stuff in the slow cooker. Even doing all the prep the night before didn't help much - I might as well have spent the time making a fresh dinner.

So now what I do is make something in the slow cooker both days on the weekend. I freeze portions, in the sort of container it will eventually be warmed in. Then, in the morning I grab something out of the freezer and put it in the fridge. It doesn't thaw completely but close enough. In the evening, I toss it in the oven or on the stove top, fix a salad or some fresh vegetables, and we're eating in 15 minutes. Clean up is really minimal. And once you've made a few different things in the slow cooker, you've got a stockpile in the freezer and you can get a lot of variety.

Some of my favorite slow cooker recipes come from The Slow Cooker Revolution.

I hope this helps. Once I figured this out, it made my work days a lot easier.
posted by Kangaroo at 6:23 AM on October 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


Most things that are meant to be cooked long and slow can probably stand a bit more cooking without much ill effects -- certainly an hour here or there is not going to make the difference between tender melting-in-the-mouth meat and mush. It might even make it better. You might have to experiment a bit.
posted by peacheater at 7:04 AM on October 3, 2011


Your problem as stated would be addressed by getting a timer and setting it to delay start of cooking by however many hrs you need to delay it given your workday and the specific recipe.

Unless you live somewhere very hot, chilled (from fridge or freezer), assembled ingredients should be ok for a few hrs at room temperature, as the pile of food contained in your crock pot will take a fair while to warm up to room temperature.

The only thing you're left with is stirring - and no, you won't find a solution for that. But I have found that, as long as you stir everything well when you assemble it, you're normally ok if you don't stir it again until you get home.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:10 AM on October 3, 2011


Most "meat in sauce" recipes can be cooked for 10+ hours. The bigger the hunk of meat, the better the results. So pot roast, a whole chicken (you have to pick/strain out bones), pork shoulder, etc. If it's frozen it will take even longer (although I've never tried crock potting a frozen pot roast, that may take even more time than you intend, I don't know. Maybe experiment some weekend?). You put the meat in the crockpot with some kind of liquid, aromatics, and spices. Pot roast is really good with broth and canned tomatoes with their liquid. Chicken is great with spaghetti sauce or some broth/water and a can of mushroom soup. I will often add garlic, onion, and then some salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, etc. Pork shoulder is great with Latin seasonings or bbq sauce.
posted by Kimberly at 7:14 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are two main risks with upping the cooking time on a recipe: drying out/scorching the dish and things getting too mushy.

Thus, one rule of thumb is that the more liquidy the recipe (again, think soups, stews, meats with a good amount of sauce) the more likely you can get away with upping the cooking time, because you are less likely to boil all the liquid out and wind up with burnt dinner.

The second rule of thumb is that starches suffer the most from cooking too long, so things that have, for example, pasta or rice built into the dish can get overly mushy. Dried beans and vegetables are more forgiving that pasta/rice, and meat is the most forgiving of all.

If you want to try that red beans recipe in your 12 hour timeframe, it should be fine cooking for 8 or 9 hours, maybe with a little extra water, then sitting on simmer for another 3-4 hours. (In fact, I'd recommend adding an extra 1/2 cup or so of liquid to any recipe other than soup if you are planning to let it sit on warm for 4 hours). If the recipe called for cooking the rice together with the beans, I'd be more hesitant about recommending the extended cooking process.

The problem with being slavish about crockpot recipes is that there is a lot of variability from crockpot to crockpot in terms of cooking time and other variables, and thermostats can be flakey even on individual units for the same brand. There is necessarily some trial and error involved as you get to know your crock pot on an individual basis.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 7:24 AM on October 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


It would help knowing the model slow cooker you have and what sort of temperature controls are on it.

It's this one.

The thing about rice and beans is it is a pretty cheap meal so playing around with a batch or 2 isn't going to kill the wallet. While it will be disappointing to come home and find a gluteny mess, it isn't the end of the world.

No rice involved in the recipe I linked, however (just beans, water, aromatic veg, sausage and a ham hock). I tend to like cooking the rice separately for red-beans-and-rice anyway, so -- as I think through this -- the beans-and-meat could actually withstand such a long cooking time (the beans part needs to be mushy anyway), so that could work.

If you want to try that red beans recipe in your 12 hour timeframe, it should be fine cooking for 8 or 9 hours, maybe with a little extra water, then sitting on simmer for another 3-4 hours. (In fact, I'd recommend adding an extra 1/2 cup or so of liquid to any recipe other than soup if you are planning to let it sit on warm for 4 hours).

The only problem with that is that i"d have to be there to switch it FROM one temperature setting TO the other, so I couldn't program it to auto-follow to "simmer" after 9 hours. But based on what you've said, I could deal with that by adding a splash more liquid, which may help anyway. (I'd also be pre-soaking the beans; can't remember whether that particular recipe called to do that or not, I've looked at several this morning.) And your overall advice for adapting is keen - thanks!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:33 AM on October 3, 2011


You can always heat up the food if it's cold.

I haven't tried this one, but plan to this week. Put your brisket along with anything you'd normally put into bbq sauce into your slow cooker (e.g. onions, ketchup, tomatoes, molasses, salt, chili pepper, vinegar, etc.). Cook on slow for 12 hours. Next blend the sauce and then heat on the stove with some cornstarch. Pull apart your beef and mix with sauce. Now you have some great BBQ. Serve on a bun with some coleslaw.
posted by xammerboy at 7:35 AM on October 3, 2011


You can always heat up the food if it's cold.

I'm not concerned because "oh dear dinner's cold", I'm concerned because "it's been sitting on the counter for 2 hours, is it safe to eat???"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:37 AM on October 3, 2011


nth-ing pork butts. When you get sick of american BBQ, make pork rilletes!
posted by modernserf at 7:38 AM on October 3, 2011


Ah-- an important note I've just found about beans being cooked on low in a slow-cooker. Some beans, if cooked entirely on "low," will allow for a buildup of a food toxin, but that can be taken care of by boiling the hell out of them for at least ten minutes first before dumping them in. I can deal with doing that, I think (I also "presoak" by boiling the hell out of them for a couple minutes and then letting them soak anyway.)

(Leaving here for other people checking this out, and to remind myself.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:51 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I routinely cook everything in my crockpot for 8-10 hours on low with no problem. I lean heavily towards stew-ish sort of meals, which means plenty of liquid, and I've never, ever had a problem. As SomeTrickPony said, long cooking time is really only going to be a problem when a) you're cooking with not a lot of liquid, and exposed bits could dry out or burn, or b) you're cooking with rice, beans, and other things prone to disintegration.

The nice thing about crockpots and (most) crockpot recipes is that they're remarkably forgiving. A few more hours is unlikely to ruin your dinner. I'm a recipe slave, but when it comes to crockpot cooking times, I get hacky (frozen-solid roast? sure, throw it in! Got home, but not hungry yet? Meh, leave it cooking for a few more hours, can't hurt anything!), and the only times I've managed to ruin things have been when I didn't have enough liquid in the pot to cover things.

Side note: ideally, your crockpot should be running between 1/2 and 3/4 full when you cook in it, for optimal cooking magic - if your recipe barely covers the bottom of the pot, you're in a lot more danger of burning things.
posted by badgermushroomSNAKE at 7:57 AM on October 3, 2011


Your choice of what cut of meat to cook matters a lot. Don't try to overcook white meat, such as chicken breasts. Chicken thighs withstand overcooking much better. Don't overcook a pork loin; cook a pork shoulder roast, instead. The best cut of beef for overcooking is chuck roast. The gristle in tough, cheap cuts of meat turns to smooth gelatin when cooked long and slow. The muscle in more tender cuts of meat turns dry and tough.
posted by Ery at 8:17 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's a well-tested and received recipe that I posted to AskMefi a few months ago for Chicken Makhani (Butter Chicken).

I have let this go for 10 hours with no downside. It uses frozen chicken thighs which helps. I would also consider COD's timer trick from above if you are concerned about overcooking.
posted by jeremias at 8:25 AM on October 3, 2011


I'm fond of using the slow-cooker overnight instead of during the day. Prep the ingredients in the evening, turn it on low right before bed, 8 hours later turn it off and spoon out into tupperware (and freezer or refrigerate as necessary) before work.

I can confirm that this works well for chili and pot roast, which is the most adventurous I've yet gotten with my slow cooker.
posted by namewithoutwords at 11:00 AM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Your genes have been around for 16,000 generations, and survived 15,997 generations without refrigeration That's three meals/day x 40 years x 2 parents = more than 1.4 billion unrefrigerated meals that each of your grandparents survived.

It is absolutely OK to assemble any combination of any ingredients in the morning, let them sit at room temperature for four hours, and then cook them for eight hours. Trust your genes on this one.
posted by FLAG (BASTARD WATER.) (Acorus Adulterinus.) at 2:35 PM on October 3, 2011


Flag, I've had food poisoning twice now -- and while I do know I'd live, it's still an experience I'd rather not live through a third time, if it's all the same.

I knew it wouldn't be fatal, but it was an experience my best friend once euphemistically described as "two exits, no waiting".

posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:37 PM on October 3, 2011


Start with cold ingredients; you could even add ice cubes instead of water, or freeze some v-8 cubes. They'll add to the cooking time, and they'll be fully cooked in a closed container, so not a danger. Frozen meat is a big variable, but frozen veg. would cook okay, and extend the cooking time. Buy the really cheap, tough, cuts of beef - they'll be incredibly tender and tasty after very long times. Things with the bone in develop great flavor with long cooking - oxtail soup, for instance, and you can use similar cuts. The stirring usually seems to be needed in case part of the dish isn't quite cooked through, which will not be a problem. Some vegetables, like onions, kind of dissolve after a very long time, but they add flavor. I layer my slow-cooker pot roast - onions on the bottom, then meat and potatoes, then carrots, and cabbage on top. Comes out fine, though if anybody's home, it never lasts 12 hours before getting raided.
posted by theora55 at 4:03 PM on October 3, 2011


I regular cook stews for 12+ hours as well. Gives you a good excuse to buy the cheap cuts that need all that cooking. Nthing that starches are what does not hold up in the cooker -- leave the potatoes out, boil or roast them when you get home, add to stew while you're fussing with it/reducing sauce.

Stirring? Huh. I guess i manage to poke at it with a wooden spoon somewhere around the halfway mark. Sometimes.
posted by desuetude at 11:31 PM on October 3, 2011


« Older When we talk about general mag...   |  I just saw this YT video in my... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.