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How To Make a Standout Slow-Cooker Meal

Created January 10, 2017
Make sure your slow-cooker feast is a standout with our easy tips on when to add ingredients and how to top your dish!
How to Make a Standout Slow Cooker Meal

The beauty of a slow cooker is that it does the heavy lifting for you—no stirring over a stove for hours or fussing with a lot of cleanup. That being said, there are always easy ways to ensure your slow-cooked meal stands out from the rest. Learn how adding ingredients at certain times can improve the overall flavor and appeal of your meal; plus, try any of our easy toppers to dress up your finished dish.

We love slow cooking because most ingredients can be put into the machine right at the start. But it’s helpful to note that some foods can benefit from being added a little later on:

slow cooker country french beef stew

  • Some herbs (such as basil and oregano) lose flavor when cooked too long. It’s best to stir in fresh herbs during the last hour of cooking.
  • Ground red pepper (cayenne) and red pepper sauce can become bitter when cooked too long. Use small amounts at the beginning and taste recipe during the last hour of cooking before adding more. 
  • For the best flavor and color, add tender vegetables (like fresh tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini) and thawed frozen vegetables during the last 30 minutes of cooking.
  • Dairy products such as milk, sour cream and cheese, can easily curdle. It’s best to stir them in during the last 30 minutes of cooking.
Long slow cooker times can also cause colors to dull and flavors to meld. To dress up your finished dish, try one of these easy toppers:

Slow-Cooker Spicy White Chicken Chili

  • Chopped fresh herbs, whole herb leaves or herb sprigs
  • Chopped or sliced avocados, onions, bell peppers, chilies or tomatoes
  • Citrus zest or strips
  • Cubes, diced, shaved, shredded, crumbled or grated cheese
  • Coarsely broken or crushed potato, tortilla or corn chips
  • Whole or coarsely crushed croutons
  • Small-sized savory snack mixes
  • Crumbled, crisply cooked bacon
  • Toasted or untoasted nuts
  • Sour cream or plain yogurt