Getting your cooking times right can make a big difference in how your meal turns out. Though each one of our meals comes with instructions and online support pages, we find that our customers use a wide variety of slow cookers, sizes, and features, causing a need to adjust cooking times occasionally.
In this post, we explore some of the signs you need to know and adjustments you can make so that you can enjoy great slow cooker food.
How do I know that I need to adjust my cooking times?
Signs that you’re overcooking and need to decrease your cooking times:
- Meat is dry, tough, or chewy
- Too much liquid dissolves
- Dairy is curdling
- Ingredients taste overcooked
Signs that you are undercooking and need to increase your cooking times:
- Internally meat temperature has yet to reach 160 °F
- Meat not easily shredding
- Meat is rubbery or has unpleasant taste
Size of your Slow Cooker
When troubleshooting a meal-gone-wrong, often our first question is “How big is your slow cooker?”
The size of your crockpot can affect the outcome of your meal. If your crockpot is smaller than what we recommend, you may need to cook your meal a little longer. If it’s larger than what we recommend you may need to shorten the cooking time. Here are the slow cooker sizes we recommend for each meal size to help cook your meals just right:
- Smaller Portion (SP) - 3-Quart Slow Cooker
- Regular Portion (RP) - 4-Quart Slow Cooker
- Bigger Portion (BP) - 6-Quart Slow Cooker
We often compare this to baking brownies, if the recipe calls for an 8x8 inch baking pan but you only have a 9x13 inch baking pan, you’ll need to adjust the cooking time as the extra surface space will cause the brownies to cook much more quickly than instructed.
This is the same with slow cookers. If the recipe calls for a 3-quart slow cooker but is cooked in a 6-quart slow cooker, you’ll need to adjust for the extra surface space or the meal may become overcooked.
Depending on the size of your meals and the size of your slow cooker, you may be able to make adjustments to the cooking time by adding or subtracting time. Decreased cooking time for slow cookers bigger than recommended and increased time for slow cookers smaller than recommended.
As you do begin to experiment with new times, it becomes important to know what the meal should look like when finished cooking. All meats will become easily shreddable or “fork tender.” Visit our website at beehivemeals.com for complete step-by-step images of our meals during the cooking phase.
High vs Low Temperatures
While most slow cookers have LOW and HIGH temperature options, generally speaking, it is better to cook your meals on a LOW setting. For most meals, cooking on LOW ensures that the meal is not only cooked thoroughly but also that flavors marry together to provide you with tasteful seasonings.
All Beehive Meals are instructed to be cooked on LOW for the defined time. Though setting the temperature on HIGH will speed up the cooking process, the results may not be as good in flavor (overcooked or burnt ingredients) or texture (tough, rubbery, or chewy).
Though it’s not fully recommended, if needed, you can adjust from LOW to HIGH temperatures as one hour on HIGH is approximately equal to 2 to 2 1/2 hours on LOW.
Strategies in Adjusting your Cooking Times
As you begin to experiment with adjusting times, we recommend keeping a close eye on your slow cooker and being proactive to avoid overcooking the meal. Keep in mind that you can always cook something longer but can never uncook something that's been overcooked.
When decreasing cooking times, we typically begin by dropping the time by one hour and checking the meat. You can check meat with a food thermometer or try to shred the meal with a fork. All meats will become easily shreddable or “fork tender” when done. If you feel that more time is needed, replace the lid onto your slow cooker and check again in 30 minutes.
When increasing cooking times, we recommend that watch the meal closely and check it every 30 minutes above the original instructed cooking time. Be careful to avoid overcooking.
In you have any additional questions regarding cooking times, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-589-0591.