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Slow cookers and FAT

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I grew up on plenty of slow cooker meals: pot roast and chili, and that dreaded beef soup that I could never get a handle on.

I inherited my dad's Corningware piece when he got a new one, but I've had it for a year and haven't used it but two or three times. And that's only been for pulled pork barbecue!

What's really been keeping my from it is the fat issue. One particular instance that stands out in my mind is my younger brother trying to be helpful and making chicken in the crock pot. It ended up SO drenched in grease that I absolutely could not eat it. (This didn't seem to be as much of a problem with Mom's pot roast; either she was using pretty lean roasts or I didn't care about fat when I was a kid.)

Is this just the nature of slow cooker meat? I don't even mess with it right now because I don't want to dump all sorts of yummy stuff in it and come home to find it an inedible greasy mess.

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  1. occasionally have seen this when cooking pepperoni and tomato sauce... I've gently placed papertowels on the top of the concoction to soak up the grease, use as many towels as needed... alternatively, one could place the cooker into the fridge overnight to let the grease rise to the top and congeal into a solid; lift off in chunks... with chickens this fat is often highly prized as schmaltz!

    i've used

    1. I think it really depends on what you are cooking, but I rarely find my crock pot meals to be greasy. The exception is definitely pork shoulder for when I'm cooking carnitas or pulled pork. I tend to purchase lean and tough meats for using in my crockpot, and add nearly no fat, relying on the time and low temperature to do all my tenderizing. I've done whole chickens with no added liquid, and they make a ton of broth which I then defat overnight in the fridge.

      Stick to lean cuts and you should be fine.

      1. A slow cooker is not significantly different from braising and stewing with respect to how much fat is liquefied in the process. Meats that take well to long, slow cooking tend to be fattier cuts, and slowcooking - like braising and stewing - cooks the meat hot enough and long enough to liquefy much of this fat and then keeps it in the pot.

        Your options:
        - Pour off the fat after cooking
        - Spoon off the fat after cooking
        - Refrigerate overnight after cooking and then remove the solidified fat that gathers on top
        - Use a leaner piece of meat in the first place (note - there are some leaner cuts that take slower cooking reasonably well, but with many lean cuts you run the risk of dry grainy meat after long cooking)
        - Trim more fat off the meat you use before cooking

        6 Replies
        1. re: cowboyardee

          Always thought the fridge thing was a pain. I used my gravy separator last time and kep all the delicious meat broth as a grease free sauce.

          1. re: melpy

            It is a bit of a pain. But on the upside, a lot of braised or slowcooked dishes taste better the next day anyway. Nothing wrong with a gravy separator though.

            1. re: melpy

              A GRAVY SEPARATOR? Why have I never heard of this?! Skimming the fat off of gravy is THE worst part of Thanksgiving.

              1. re: Kontxesi

                I've got this one. http://www.amazon.com/OXO-Good-Grips-...

                It's great for when I cook a pork shoulder. Cook till it's falling apart. Pull the meat out to "pull" it - typically with two forks. Strain the cooking liquid into the separator. Typically concentrate the defatted liquid and pour it back over the pulled pork.

              2. re: melpy

                how is this a pain? the fat congeals overnight and is easily broken off the top of the thing. i used a gravy separator once, for about 5 seconds, lol.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  It is a pain because then I am cooking something else to actually eat that day. I am impatient. The gravy separator is amazing. Why did you only use for a few seconds? Mine is larger and I believe OXO and it is fabulous.

            2. I don't have this problem, but then I think that cooking a whole chicken in the crock pot in it's own fat makes it perfectly moist and delicious.

              1. When I cook chicken in the crock pot I layer the bottom of the pot with chunks of onion and potato, that way the chicken isn't sitting in its own fat. Mind you, I don't find chicken very fatty, maybe it was some other ingredient that caused the greasiness?

                1. When I cook chicken in the slow cooker, I use only thighs, and remove the skin and nearly all fat. Greasiness is not an issue for me when I do it that way.

                  1. Am I the only one who uses a turkey baster to suction grease out of a dish? Squirt it into a jar or can and let the grease separate, then you can pour the tasty flavorful juices back, or use a gravy/grease separator.

                    1. No, baby, no! Fatty is NOT how crockpot cookery has to go! :)

                      Cowboyardee has nailed it in his post w/varied ways to reduce fat. And GH1618 is right about removing chicken skin. I trim fat aggressively for the crockpot: remove chicken skin and fat, corned beef and brisket fat, pork roast fat, etc.

                      Crockpots/slowcookers have a reputation for "dump-n-go" meals, but that's often a way to make tasteless crap. It's too bad because it's a great tool, but if you dumped all meal ingredients into a saucepan, casserole or stockpot and expected to come back to perfection you'd get the same results. Please DO try "messing with" your slow coooker -- search a bit on the site for great suggestions. My current obsession is NO-style red beans and rice.

                      Oh, and here's a bulletproof beef and barley stew:
                      http://www.uaf.edu/files/ces/publicat...

                      1. I'm starting to think that the skin was the issue. Pretty sure it was always skin-on when cooked at my house.

                        I have several whole chickens in the freezer awaiting some delicious fate.... I'll skin one and toss it in the cooker this weekend and see what happens! Thanks for all of the advice. :)

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Kontxesi

                          Try this just once. It tastes like deli rotisserie chicken.
                          Delistyle chicken in crockpot

                          1 chicken
                          spray olive oil
                          Lawry's seasoned salt -no substitutes
                          Aluminum foil

                          Clean chicken inside and out. Spray with olive oil spray. Sprinkle with Lawry's. Spray inside of crock with pam.
                          Note: Do not put any water in the crock

                          Roll some wads of aluminum foil into balls and put them in the bottom of the crock. The chicken is going to sit on these.

                          Put chicken back side down in crock on top of aluminum balls.

                          Cook on High (will not come out the same on low), 4-6 hours.
                          * Use the aluminum to get the deli taste.
                          This chicken tasted very close to one you would buy, precooked, in the deli section of your supermarket.
                          *the taste won't be the same if you cook it on low

                          1. re: laliz

                            I often cook whole chickens in the crockpot this way (although I use plain sea salt and other herbs & spices - I like rosemary, or paprika) - sitting the bird on those balls of aluminum foil helps a lot because it holds the bird up above the pool of juices & fat.

                            1. re: laliz

                              I used to work in a deli and was in charge of the rotisserie.... We actually spritzed the birds with soy sauce, not oil, before adding the herbs. I have yet to taste any rotisserie chicken as good as that. I'll have to try it both ways.

                              If I hadn't already read the thread here about water in the slow cooker, I would seriously doubt you guys about cooking this dry!

                          2. I agree, as a general rule, if you're planning on consuming the liquid as part of the meal, you have to start with leaner meat. 93% and 85% lean ground beef make good chili, and you can use 97% lean beef or ground chicken or turkey breast if you add fat. For beef stew, just making a reasonable effort to trim the meat should be enough. For chicken, if you're cooking it submerged in liquid, you'd want to pull out the pieces before they've completely fallen apart. If you're making pulled chicken, shred them on a cutting board rather than in the liquid. Bone-in, skin-on thighs will probably give the greasiest result, but you can also use breasts (it's ok to take the skin off, but make sure there's some visible fat- hand trimmed white meat is no good for the crock pot). And the chicken cooked on foil balls mentioned above shouldn't be any greasier than a normal roast chicken.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: jvanderh

                              Thanks!

                              As for the chicken breasts.... What ARE they good for? :p I've rarely had one that wasn't a dry mess, regardless of how it was cooked. Frying seems to be the only exception to that rule.

                              1. re: Kontxesi

                                I usually just cook them in a skillet in a little oil. Poached is also good, especially if they're thick, and you can always brown them in a very hot pan afterward. The main thing is to stop cooking them once they're come up to temperature.

                            2. Are you by chance a fat phobe?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: sandylc

                                Absolutely not. I love fat. I just don't want it to be the only thing I taste. And I don't want to be stuck in the bathroom for the next 48 hours because my innards are completely lubricated with grease.