Flavor and aroma are a big part of creating delicious dishes. There’s onion and garlic; the basil, oregano and rosemary of Italian fare; ginger, lemongrass and chives in Asian dishes; and cardamon, cumin and coriander in spicy Indian foods. Slow cooker recipes often call for sauteeing these flavorsome aromatics before putting them in the cooker and adding the bulk of the ingredients. To ensure those flavors released in the saute process make it into the final dish, preheat your slow cooker.
Adding hot ingredients to a cold cooker means cooking is halted and fragrant flavors subdued while everything heats up again, which could add an extra 15 to 20 minutes to your cooking time. Preheating saves you time.
The best way to preheat your slow cooker is to turn it on high when you start sauteeing your aromatics. The cooker will heat up fast and be ready to turn down to the appropriate temperature when adding your sauteed mix.
Chef Neela Paniz, author of The New Indian Slow Cooker, says preheating makes all the difference. “I found that turning the slow cooker on to preheat while I was sauteeing my aromatics had its benefits,” she says. “I was then adding a hot dish to a hot dish, instead of starting all over again.”
The Indian chef has taken the idea to other cuisines, too. She says she uses it for pot roast, “searing the meat on the stove while the slow cooker is warming up.”
Cooking methods can be all-important in creating fresh and healthy meals, and this one’s a winner. Whether you want to save time or ensure that well-chosen flavors permeate your dish, preheating your slow cooker is worth it, every mouthwatering time.