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Nov 22, 2013 09:52 PM

Help - what went wrong in my crock pot???

I tried a Jerk Tempeh and Sweet Potatoes recipe from "Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker" cookbook. Jerk sauce smelled DELICIOUS! It included fresh sweet onions, jalepeno, 6 or more various spices (cinnamon, pepper, don't remember), marmalade, molasses, soy sauce...

I coated the tempeh and sweet potatoes, threw it in the crock pot...waited over four hours...tender to the fork...and... BLAND! SO BLAND! What the???!??

It has been years since I've used my crock pot because my food was bland when I tried it before. I have a very old crock pot, like original brown and gold pattern on the outside old. But it seems to function fine, the bottom layer of the tempeh and potatoes were crusty, the top layer just soft.

What could I be doing wrong?

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  1. How was the sauce before you cooked it?

    No tempeh experience, but I have found in my meat crock pot/slow cookery that the sauce needs to be thick, as the moisture given off by the veg/meat/protein/whatever will dilute the sauce as things cook. Thus diluting flavors. If a sauce is involved, if possible, I offset the lid for the last half hour for some evaporation action. And I try to stir every hour if I'm available.

    3 Replies
    1. re: autumm

      Interesting. It was not particularly thin, but not particularly thick. It was VERY flavorful!

      I was told by someone that you should leave the lid on because the flavors "escape" if the lid is off... I only lifted the lid once to check the dish for this reason.

      1. re: alegramarcel

        Lol, flavors don't 'escape' via lifting lid (lovely, lovely scents do). It may be that liquids released from the sweet potatoes diluted the sauce enough that the bite was lost. As autumn said, liquid control in the slow-cooker is key.

        Flavor also depends on the ratio of spicy sauce to solids (sweet potatoes, tempeh). What sauce you made was spicy at entry to pot, but was then diluted in the total mass. (I don't know the source recipe, sorry.)

        Also, size of recipe needs to approximate size of cooker. A slow cooker should run at half to 3/4 full (or even to 7/8 full for thin liquids) for best results.

        (Please don't give up on your slowcooker. There's so much wonderful that it can give!)

        1. re: DuchessNukem

          I know, as soon as I wrote that thing about the flavors escaping I knew it sounded hokey. But until I saw it in writing, I really thought you should keep the lid on as much as possible! Ha!

          I WANT to love my crock pot! I thought this thing would be easy... I won't give up just yet. I did just buy that book after all.

    2. What did the sauce taste like before cooking? What was the consistency (dry, soupy) after?

      Looking at this recipe, I'm guessing it is undersalted. And compared to most jerk sauces, low on the hot chile. '1 hot green chile'? What kind? Habanero is the typical chile for jerk.

      The low temperatures of a crock pot do not develop flavors. Flavor comes from what you put in the pot.

      1 Reply
      1. re: paulj

        Thanks, paulj. That is the one. Sauce was sweet and spicy (spiced, not hot-spicy). I did not double the chile because I wanted my toddler to be able to eat it (no go despite the lack of spicy heat). I used a jalepeno because that's all they had at the store. Probably it needed more salt. I left out the allspice because I had run out. I added more paprika.

        Luckily I doubled the jerk sauce recipe thinking I'd save it for another time, but threw it on raw at the end and ate them as wraps instead... they were good enough, but not what I'd envisioned when I was making my own jerk sauce!

      2. I find that for a lot of crock pot recipes, I have to add more dried spices than called for to get the flavor I want. Usually takes a few times of seasoning it along the way before I know just what I want to put in at the beginning.

        I have an older-style crockpot (1980s) that I bought in a thrift store to cook certain recipes. The older ones do cook at a lower temp than the newer ones, and I think that some of my meals get a better result when cooked in the older pot.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jw615

          Ok jw, I will add more next time!!! Thanks to everyone for all the great tips!