Sally Vaughan-Johnston, who developed and adapted the 200 recipes for the "Best of Bridge Slow Cooker Cookbook," used eight appliances over four months to do the testing. Here are some of her tips for sensational and successful slow cooking.
— Pay attention to the size of appliance called for in recipes. "To get the best out of the machine it's got to be no less than half full and no more than about three-quarters full," she says.
— "Get to know your machine because they do all cook differently. It's just like a regular oven."
— "If you want to make your mom's favourite stew recipe, you have to make certain adjustments, such as reducing the liquid by as much as 50 per cent," she cautions. "If it appears there's not enough liquid, that's probably not the case. Juices come out of the vegetables and meat and there is a natural condensation."
— Milk, cream and sour cream can add a lovely finishing touch, but they can separate if you add them too soon in slow cooking. Vaughan-Johnston notes that evaporated (not condensed) milk doesn't separate and "it adds a fabulous flavour. Try it before you diss it and you will be surprised at how good it tastes."
— Whole herbs like bay leaves, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, cloves and dried whole thyme leaves do the best in slow cookers because they release their flavours slowly and should be added at the beginning. Fresh herbs should be added right before you serve the food.
"But one thing we did find is that certain seasonings such as paprika, cayenne and chili powder can actually become bitter if added at the beginning," Vaughan-Johnston says. She recommends adding them toward the end of cooking, in the last 20 minutes or so.
— When the oven is full and stovetop burners are occupied, the slow cooker can look after side dishes like glazed beets, mashed potatoes and stuffing.
— You can use a slow cooker for mulled wine or as a fondue pot for cheese without the hazard of using flame.
Source: "Best of Bridge Slow Cooker Cookbook" by Sally Vaughan-Johnston & The Best of Bridge Publishing Ltd. (Robert Rose, www.robertrose.ca, 2012).