If you see a slow-cooker recipe that has prep or cook time of 4 to 6 hours, your first thought might be: Who has the time for that?
But converting slow-cooker recipes to fit into your busy schedule is possible. The trick is getting organized and doing some prep work ahead of time.
Even if you have only 30 minutes to get dinner ready, it’s still possible to convert those long-cooking recipes and have them taste great.
A little preparation can make all the difference.
Preparing your ingredients before you begin cooking will help keep the process fast and simple, so your slow-cooked meal can be ready when you are.
Keep reading to learn how!
What to do the night before
The first thing to do before you start converting recipes is to get organized. You don’t want to be in the middle of prepping ingredients and realize you don’t have a pot big enough to hold all the ingredients for your recipe — or that you don’t have a slow-cooker.
Put together your ingredients, prep your slow-cooker, and measure out your spices and liquids. Once you’ve done these things, the recipe will be easier to convert.
Converting and cooking times
If a recipe has a prep or cook time of 4 to 6 hours, you can still make it work for you, even if you only have 30 minutes.
The first thing you need to do is look at the recipe and decide how you can shorten the cooking time.
• Cooking with a slow cooker is a process of braising in liquid at a low temperature, usually between 200 and 300 degrees. The higher the temperature of the liquid, the faster the food will cook. So if the recipe calls for 6 hours of cooking on low, you can convert that to 3 hours on high.
• If a recipe calls for cooking on low for 6 hours, you could convert that to 8 hours on low or 10 hours on high. Just keep in mind that the longer it cooks, the more tender the food will be.
• If a recipe calls for cooking on high for 3 hours, you could convert that to 2 hours on low.
Change the temperature of your cooker
If a recipe calls for cooking on high and you only have time to cook on low, you can lower the temperature on your slow-cooker.
Some slow cookers come with a heat setting, while others don’t, so you can place a heat diffuser on the bottom of the slow-cooker to lower the temperature.
Some people use a thick folded towel to cushion the diffuser. Whatever you use, make sure it won’t damage the nonstick coating on the inside of the slow-cooker.
The diffuser should allow the food to cook at a lower temperature but still retain enough heat to cook food thoroughly.
Your recipe will take about 50 percent longer to cook, so for example, if a recipe calls for cooking on high for 3 hours, you would cook it on low for 6 hours.
Adjusting cooking times based on your altitude
If you live in a high-altitude area, you may need to modify the cooking times of some slow-cooker recipes.
Since air pressure decreases with altitude, the boiling point of water lowers as well.
To account for this, recipes for stews and soups may need to be cooked for a bit longer.
One to 2 hours longer may be needed for recipes cooked on low. If a recipe is cooked on high, you may want to shorten the cooking time.
This will account for the fact that hot air rises, so high-altitude recipes cook more quickly.
If a recipe calls for cooking on high for 3 hours, you could convert that to 2 hours on high if you are at a high altitude.
Shrinking recipes to feed a crowd
If you want to convert a slow-cooker recipe to feed a crowd, first decide whether to cook it on low or high.
If the original recipe calls for cooking on low, and cooking on low will take too long to feed a crowd, you can either cook for a shorter amount of time or cook on high.
You can also cut the recipe in half and double the amount of liquid.
For example, let’s say you want to make a recipe that cooks on low for 6 hours, but you need to feed a crowd of 8 people.
You can either cook the recipe for 3 hours or double the amount of ingredients and cook the recipe for 12 hours.
Recipe: Slow-Cooker Split Pea Soup
This classic winter soup is made from dried peas and vegetables like carrots, onion, and garlic that have been slowly simmered in a flavorful broth.
Serve it with a dollop of sour cream or a handful of croutons.
This recipe works best when you start with dried peas, which you then need to cook in water before adding them to the slow-cooker to simmer until soft.
Fresh or frozen peas won’t work.
Slow-Cooker Split Pea Soup Recipe
Yields 4 servings
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 1/2 cup diced carrots
– 1/2 cup diced onion
– 1/2 cup diced celery
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 cups dried split peas, rinsed and drained
– 6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
– 1 tsp kosher salt
– 1/2 tsp black pepper
– 1 bay leaf
– 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
– Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and then the carrots, onion, and celery. Sauté until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Transfer the vegetables to a slow cooker.
– Add the dried split peas, broth, salt, pepper, and bay leaf to the slow cooker and stir until the ingredients are well combined.
– Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or until the split peas are tender.
– Turn off the slow cooker and remove the bay leaf. Stir in the parsley, and season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
As you can see, converting slow-cooker recipes to fit into your busy schedule is possible.
The trick is getting organized and doing some prep work ahead of time.
Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be able to convert even the longest-cooking recipes to fit into your busy schedule.