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How to get the most out of your slow cooker: top tips from Nathan Anthony, Bored of Lunch

by Rachel Deeley

published on 4 January 2024

One of the most time-efficient, cost-effective and healthy ways to cook is in a slow cooker – fast becoming a kitchen must-have. Low on energy consumption and easy to use, this super simple appliance is a great way to make sure that there will be a warming, nutritious and cost-effective meal waiting for you and the family at the end of the day.

If you have a slow cooker in your kitchen waiting to be used, but you’re not quite sure where to start, make sure to check out Nathan Anthony’s range of slow cooker books, Bored of Lunch: The Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook and Bored of Lunch Healthy Slow Cooker: Even Easier, for plenty of recipe inspiration. An expert in the art of slow cooking, Nathan has three #1 bestselling books, two of which are slow cooker-based. The latest book, Even Easier, focuses on five-minute prep recipes that are all 500 calories or under and made in a slow cooker.

Now for some hints and tips from the main man:

1. When adding liquid, such as stock, to your slow cooker to create a sauce, always add less than you think. Slow cookers don’t allow for the evaporation of liquid that you would normally account for when cooking in an oven or on a stovetop. If you add too much at the beginning it will be hard to thicken your sauce. Remember, you can always add more later if you need it.

2. When your meal is finished cooking, remove the dish from the slow cooker and portion it onto your plates or into lunchboxes as soon as you can. Slow cookers continue to retain heat even after they have been turned off, so your sauce might dry out if it’s left in the pot too long.

3. To be ultra-energy efficient and save even more money, turn the slow cooker off for the last 20 minutes of the cooking time. The pot will retain enough heat to continue cooking for anywhere up to 45 minutes after it has been switched off, so for example if a recipe says to cook a dish for 4 hours, turn it off after 3 hours and 40 minutes. 

4. Slow cookers are perfect for making curries and stews – the long cooking time allows the flavours to deepen and develop. My top tip for these dishes is to leave out any vegetables until the last 30-45 minutes of the cooking time. Adding vegetables from the start can lead to them being mushy or too soft, so leaving them out until later helps retain a slight crunch and adds a gorgeous texture to the dish. The only exception to this rule is harder vegetables like carrots, onions and potatoes, which can be added from the start.

5. Cornflour is your friend. You can make fantastic sauces in the slow cooker as they hold in a lot of moisture and flavour. Don’t panic if your sauce is too runny; simply add some cornflour and it will thicken up in no time.

6. Save yourself time when making pasta and noodle dishes by adding uncooked pasta or noodles to the slow cooker. They will then cook using the sauce already in the slow cooker (add some extra liquid as well if needed), saving you the time and energy of boiling the kettle and turning on your hob. 

Keen to start your slow cooking journey? Discover some of our favourite recipes from Bored of Lunch: The Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook and Bored of Lunch Healthy Slow Cooker: Even Easier below:

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