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Dec 5, 2012 09:11 AM

newbie has dumb questions

I am now the proud owner of a 6 qt digital slow-cooker/crockpot. Although I've always wanted one, I
didn't realize how little I know about using them. The thing looks like a spaceship to me. All I have to work with right now is a 1.5 lb piece of bottom round, 2 cans of beef broth, and some seasonings. I put the meat in a fry pan with some oil and seasonings for a few minutes on each side, then put it in the pot with my 2 cans of beef broth. It looks so small in there...
Anyway, I put it on low and set it for 4 hours. Is this going to even come out edible?
Next time, I won't shoot first and ask questions later. Any help is appreciated!

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  1. I might get slammed for saying this but I have to tell you I despise those things. Besides a select few dishes like stew or possibly osso bucco I cannot see any other purpose for these slow cooking dishes that all come out like mush.

    Based on your post yes I think you will have very flavorful edible mush. Bon appetite!

    1 Reply
    1. re: jrvedivici

      If all I used mine for was my chicken stew, it would be worth it for that alone.

    2. You have to start somewhere. A six-quart slow cooker is pretty big, so you'll want to make a big batch of something that will refrigerate well. It's not much more trouble than a small batch. I would have made beef barley soup with those ingredients. You can still do that if the meat turns out to be nothing special. Just refigerate the meat, find a beef barley soup online which seems suitable for your crockpot, cook the barley with other ingredients (carrot, onion, seasoning), dice up the cold precooked meat and throw it in.

      1. Even though its little, It would probably need to cook longer than 4 hours on low in a crock pot. Especially when it's in one that's way too big. Try high or plan to cook it longer if its still tough after 4 hours..

        1 Reply
        1. re: C. Hamster

          I thought I was the only slow-cooker hater out there! The only interesting use I've seen for it comes from a kosher kitchen whose owner said it was perfect for making beautiful amber-colored hard-boiled eggs in advance of the Sabbath:

          They are truly delicious - almost a meaty taste, which will console you when you've thrown out the bottom round :)

        2. Unlike others in this thread, I love crock pots but only for certain cuts of meat, not a bottom round. It needs to be a fattier cut with connective tissue that breaks down with long slow moist cooking. Think meats you'd braise, chuck roast, short rib, pork shoulder. You did a good thing by searing first, at least. If you keep a close eye so it doesn't overcook, you might be able to slice it thinly against the grain and it would be edible.

          15 Replies
          1. re: chowser

            Crockpots overcook food almost by design.

            If the OP wants to thinly slice against the grain they should get it out of the crockpot and into a hot oven and cook to mid rare.

            1. re: C. Hamster

              They work for slow braises because they don't get hot and they keep the food moist. I prefer a dutch oven or stove top but some days, I'm out of the house and get home at 8. There's nothing better than having dinner ready to go. If you understand your crockpot (I mean that generally not specifically) and have a timer so it turns off at the right time, you can get a good meal. But, it's not made for all cuts of meat, eg the bottom round. But, since the OP has already put it in and let it go, it's too late to change so I was giving a suggestion on how to best utilize it.

            2. re: chowser

              Be careful with those cans of beef broth! If they are not low sodium, you could wind up with a very salty dish, especially if you add any salt or salty sauces.

              I rarely use my slow cooker, but I have had good results with lamb shanks and oxtail. I agree fully with other posters that have stated that fattier, sinewy cuts fare better in the slow cooker. I once tried to do a whole chicken. It basically melted off the bones. Not pretty. A meatloaf attempt was grey and unpleasant looking, but tasted okay.

              Upcoming potential uses for my slow cooker: curried goat, braised short ribs.

              1. re: 1sweetpea

                The whole chicken was one if those crockpot disasters. DO NOT ATTEMPT.

                1. re: melpy

                  Yeah, people repeatedly talk about doing whole chicken in the crockpot and how it's wonderful because the meat falls off the bones. Chicken meat should not fall off the bones.

                    1. re: chowser

                      That's so true! Only do this if you want the juices that leak out to be 100X more flavorful than the meat!

                      1. re: chowser

                        Chickens dry out and disintegrate in a crockpot. But people either dont get that or dont care,

                        1. re: C. Hamster

                          Chicken breasts do, but thighs do very well in a slow cooker. I always use thighs on the bone, but skinned.

                        2. re: chowser

                          Whole chickens done in the crockpot are bereft of crispy skin. A sacrilege.

                          1. re: LindaWhit

                            When I tried the whole chicken bit, even the soggy, pale skin was falling off the bone. Very ugly sight.

                            1. re: pine time

                              Just the thought of the flabby pale skin on cooked chicken squicks me out.

                            2. re: LindaWhit

                              Exactly--rubber skin. And that's why that recipe that I posted above from crockpot365 was so unappetizing. She wrapped cornish game hens in raw bacon and then crockpotted it. Rubber skin and rubber bacon!

                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                If I'm stewing chicken, I take the skin off first and toss it in a baggie in the freezer. Then, occasionally, I make a batch of roasted or deep fried chicken skins. Win-win!

                      2. Thanks for all the great feedback, everybody! I'm so outta my league here. To be honest, I've not done too much cooking, living alone and all. But I like a good meal like everyone else. I really want to move on from shake-n-bake to doing some real cooking. I though the slow-cooker would help. So much to learn...

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: gizmos

                          There's so much you can do with a Dutch oven, a small pot, a heavy duty frying pan and perhaps a good quality nonstick pan. I consider slow cookers to be non-essential extras, like a fondue pot, panini press or raclette maker, all of which I own, by the way. Each gets used about once per year, and that includes the slow cooker. The pots and pans get use pretty much daily. One item I find handy is a cast iron pan, but it is by no means essential.

                          1. re: 1sweetpea

                            My cast iron pans are essential in my house. :) One of these would be an excellent addition to the OP's kitchen. Inexpensive, too!

                            What type of raclette do you make most often? Love the stuff!

                            1. re: chefathome

                              +1, for cast iron. Have a set of cast iron, stainless pots, lids, and even a dedicated since new non-stick 10" omelet / crepe fry pan. Find my 12" cast iron skillet, mine is a Lodge, gets used most (also have a 10" and a 14" the larger is almost too big to handle, clean, or heat on a stove top and would not recommend). A 12" fry pan can be had for $20 - $25. Also have a dutch oven can brown on the stove top then finish in the oven. With cast iron especially at first do not use soap, do not let set with water or food bits. When properly seasoned and then you have something that will work great last a lifetime.

                              For stainless pots I like Regal-brand. I get mine used at second hand stores for a few dollars each to build my set. Great for browning then getting a pure clean pan sauce (when do not want to use cast - example if using tomatoes or other acid will hurt a 'seasoned' cast pan). In stainless my two quart just bigger than a small burner with lid and my 12" with lid get used most. Even though Regal lids and handles appear plastic find they do handle mild oven temperatures. My grandma, a nurse for 50 years, lived to be 97 cooking on mainly cast iron and stainless Regal pans (NOTE: she would not knowingly eat food from microwave ovens or Teflon - hated both).

                              1. re: smaki

                                When I moved into my own place my mother gave me her well seasoned 10" cast iron pan. It, along with my Dutch oven, are my most beloved kitchen essentials.

                          2. re: gizmos

                            Don't be discouraged. Though I don't use my slow cooker very often I do like to use it to keep things warm but not so much for cooking. This website may give you ideas. Tons of people love slow cookers and swear by them. If you have one you may as well use it!

                            1. re: chefathome

                              I'd be leery of that crockpot365--there are decent recipes but many aren't. I know she scored a cookbook deal off of it but the gimick is what sold it, not great recipes.

                              1. re: chowser

                                Ah. OK. I don't use the site myself but a few people I know have. Thanks for pointing it out!

                                1. re: chefathome

                                  I kind of assumed you didn't since I've read your posts and you don't seem to be the type to think something like this would work.


                                  I can't imagine bacon wrapped cornish game hens in a moist environment. Ruber-y bacon! People do recommend the site often.

                                  1. re: chowser

                                    Whew! You've read me right. Someone I know was gushing about it just the other day. Before posting I should have at least taken a cursory glance at this site. That'll learn me! :)

                            2. re: gizmos

                              There are quite a few books on cooking in crockpots and the like, and no doubt plenty of recipes online too. If you're new at cooking for yourself, or just new at using the slow cooker, start with some recipes, then buy the food you need to make them.

                              1. re: gizmos

                                Good luck with your experimenting. I think the biggest mistake people do w/ crockpots is thinking of them as a short cut to cooking a meal. You really can't just put everything in and hope it turns out well. I find it takes more time to use the crockpot but I wouldn't dismiss it was useless IF you're busy and want to come home from work or wherever w/ dinner ready to go. We're on the go, kids at different activities, coming home at different times. I can make a meal in the crockpot, mid morning when I have time and everyone gets a hot meal.

                                If you want something to start out with, try these two recipes. They don't require as much work as searing the meat, sauteeing the vegetables, etc. and the results are pretty good.

                                Caroline style pulled pork:

                                chalupa dinner bowl:

                                1. re: chowser

                                  I agree with chowser. There are plenty of tasty dishes that can be made in a slow cooker. You can get a pretty damn good braise in a slow cooker.....just make a bowl out of foil over the top, then a flour paste to seal the lid. The item can be placed atop chopped vegetables without liquid so it doesn't boil the item. Puree the mushy vegetables into sauce, and add more vegetables at the final stages of cooking.

                                  1. re: rudeboy

                                    A immersion blender is perfect for pureeing the vegetables--it's a great way to thicken the sauce and get kids to eat vegetables.