Simple Steps to Perfect Slow-Cooker Meals

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The slow cooker captures the essence of the season with the first sniff of simmering comfort food. Convenient, economical and versatile, slow cookers are becoming popular again. Here are some tips for preparing perfect slow-cooker meals.

Plan ahead. If you want to use your slow cooker first thing in the morning, cut and trim meat, chop vegetables, measure out dry ingredients and prepare sauce the night before; then refrigerate ingredients in separate containers. Don't refrigerate in the slow-cooker insert, as a cold insert takes too long to heat up, affecting cooking time and, potentially, food safety.

Check your temperature. For safety, food being cooked needs to reach 140 degrees. If you're at home while your meal is cooking, use a meat thermometer to check that food temperature is at least 140 degrees, after four hours of cooking on low.

Use cheaper cuts of meat. Not only do you save money, but these cuts are actually better suited to slow cooking, because they have less fat. Fat causes slow-cooker meals to cook too quickly, and can have an unpleasant texture.

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