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Today is November 25, 2020

Versatile slow cookers make meals fuss-free

By Susan Collins-Smith

Slow cookers can make dinner time fast and easy any day of the week.

The small countertop appliance can cook almost anything — from meats to desserts. Slow cookers come in various sizes that are handy for different dishes.

They work by cooking foods low and slow, reaching temperatures between 170 and 280 degrees, according to the U. S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service. Even at such low temperatures, foods cooked properly are safe because of the extended cooking time, the heat from the pot and the steam created.

However, cooks should follow the same food safety guidelines that apply to other cooking methods, said Natasha Haynes, a family and consumer science agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

“Meat and poultry should always be thawed before cooking it in a slow cooker,” Haynes said. “But be sure to thaw these ingredients ahead of time in the refrigerator. Never thaw meats on the counter or in hot water.”

 

For quick cleanup, Haynes recommends trying slow cooker liners.

 

Check out these other tips from USDAFSIS for using a slow cooker safely:

• Store preprepared items in the refrigerator until ready to cook. Use separate containers for raw meats and other items, such as vegetables.

• Cook foods according to recipe directions and use a slow cooker of the correct size for the amount of food to be cooked.

• Keep the lid on during cooking to keep the temperature steady.

• Remove leftovers from the cooker and store them in shallow containers in the refrigerator within 2 hours after cooking is done.

• Throw out any food cooked during a power outage if not at home. Foods completely cooked when the power goes out will be safe in the cooker for 2 hours. Otherwise, finish cooking the food by another method, such as a gas stove or outdoor grill.

• Always reheat leftovers in the microwave, in the oven or on the stove. Be sure foods are reheated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

 

Slow cooker barbecue chicken sliders

INGREDIENTS

Nonstick cooking spray

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Spray the slow cooker insert with nonstick cooking spray. Place chicken in the slow cooker and sprinkle with spices. Add the sliced onion and water. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or until the chicken is done. Drain water from the slow cooker, and shred chicken with two forks or a hand-held mixer. Mix in the barbecue sauce, and heat for 15 minutes. Assemble sandwiches using extra barbecue sauce and other toppings as desired.

These barbecue chicken sliders are quick to make in the cooker. Depending on the barbecue sauce used, they can be healthy, too. Look for tomato or vinegar as the first ingredient in the sauce, not sugar.

 

INGREDIENTS

2 1/2 cups all-purpose fl our, divided

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 eggs

1/2 cup whole milk

1/4 cup canola oil

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 cups frozen mixed berries or berry of your choice

In a large bowl, combine 2 cups fl our, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder and cinnamon. Add the eggs, milk and oil. Stir until moistened (batter will be thick). Coat the slow cooker with cooking spray. Spread the batter evenly into the slow cooker. In a separate large bowl, combine the salt, remaining fl our (1/2 cup) and remaining sugar (1 cup). Add berries and toss to coat. Pour over batter in the slow cooker. Place the lid on the slow cooker. Cook on high for 3 hours or until a toothpick inserted into the cobbler comes out clean. Serve immediately.

 

Susan Collins-Smith is a writer for the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

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