Noob to crock pots needs help !

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by slowcooker53, Mar 30, 2013.

  1. slowcooker53

    slowcooker53

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    Hi, i just got a new crock pot, my 1st. And i've used it once so far and leave it to me to ruin what should be the easiest way to cook. I put a pork butt in with a can of beer (courtesy of a recipe i found online) and some cloves of garlic and onions. It shredded easily, but the taste was very bland and while it had a good amount of fat there seemed to be none in the meat. Usually when you roast a pork butt in the oven the fat permiates the entire roast and it becomes delicious and juicy. This was rather dry and tasteless with no fat in the meat. I felt it was the beer, not so much because it was beer but i felt there shouldn't have been any liquid. That leads me to my first of 2 questions...

    1-from all the recipes i read it seems like everyone uses some liquid. Is there any time you cook meat in a crock pot that you DON'T use liquid? Is that even done?

    2-they seem to always say trim all the fat off. Why? Must I? To me thats what gives meat it's flavor and i have never in my life tasted meat that was extremely delicious that didn't have a good deal of fat. So whats this about removing most or all for slow cooking?

    Also, and very basic tips that are in your opinion important i'd like to hear. And finally, tomorrow morning i will be putting a 2.3 Lb tri tip roast in the CP. Can anyone tell me how to make it come out tender and tasty and not dry or tasteless like that pork?And for the record, i really don't want to load the thing up with all kinds of veggies, as i will have more than enough sides and i don't want to have to go out at 6 am to get veggies. I simply want to end up with a tasty fall apart tri tip. So anything that goes in will be for flavor only. I DO have a can of chicken broth if you are going to tell me there must be liquid in it. I just feel like liquid steams out all the fat. Thats what i felt the beer did to the pork. But you tell me. I'm new to this so maybe i'm way off in my thinking. Thanks for reading and i'll look forward to your advice.
     
  2. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    For me, Tri-tip is always grilled (over oak bark, Santa Maria style B-B-Q) or roasted, I've never braised or wet cooked a Tri-Tip and I've never cooked a Tri-tip past rare->medium rare.

    Maybe there is a way to cook Tri-tip in a slow cooker, I'm just not aware of it.
     
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2013
  3. chefbuba

    chefbuba

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    Back away from the crock pot with the tri tip, you will ruin it. Cook at Pete suggested.

    Is your food bland from the lack of seasoning? I see no mention of salt or pepper in either of your preparations.
     
  4. slowcooker53

    slowcooker53

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    Well, a friend did a tri tip in a CP and said it came out great. However, like one of you i felt it would not be something you'd want to cook wet, but he did using beef stock. As to the pork, i did season it but like i said i have cooked pork butt in the oven many times and it comes out delicious even with no seasoning at all. I had to add a lot of seasoning to the crock pot pork to give it any flavor.

    Anyways, my main reason for buying a CP is that i wanted to cook cheap beef thats usually not very tender and make it so. Around here at least it costs a fortune to buy meat thats good enough to come out tender at all, so i was hoping to be able to take inexpensive beef roasts and the like and make them edible instead of like shoe leather. in any case, can anyone answer questions 1 and 2?
     
     
  5. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    For me, a crock pot implies cooking with liquid.

    Removing fat is a personal decision
     
     
  6. dutch oven

    dutch oven

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    My beef stew cooked while I while I was at work yesterday is great. I use both short ribs and round. More flavor and doesn't dry out
     
  7. french fries

    french fries

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    Did you end up cooking your tri-tip? When cooking a tri-tip with liquid, it's a good idea to first cut some long thin pieces of bacon fat and marinate them in cognac and some herbs if you want. Then thread the pieces of fat inside the roast: they'll keep it moist and flavorful throughout the cooking: 

     
  8. dutch oven

    dutch oven

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    Nice ff
     
  9. slowcooker53

    slowcooker53

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    Well, yes, i did. But it's still cooking at 7 hours. i just threw some taters in it and will go another hour. But when i threw the taters in i stuck a fork in it and it was like butter and i took a bite and it was awesome !  In fact, i may have to take it out now for fear going another hour will ruin it, as good as that bite was ! I could take it out and let the taters stay them throw the tri tip back in just before serving to heat it. But it just falls apart so not sure i can take it out and put it back very easily ! Anyways, about 2 hours and i'll be digging in. Can't wait.
     
  10. mezzaluna

    mezzaluna

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    Slowcooker, if you cook in the slow cooker in liquid, you'll pull liquid out of the meat- including the fat. It's the principal of osmosis. Trust me- I know whereof I speak. If you want meat, even fatty meat, to stay moist and get tender in the crock pot, put it on a rack (or a substitute for a rack- I'll say more later) and don't add any liquid. Keep that lid on and for the love of Pete (or chefbuba or anybody else) don't lift the lid until the cooking time is up, or you'll set yourself back 20-30 minutes for every time you peek.

    I learned this by hard experience. I needed to use a slow cooker (a/k/a "crock pot") to make meals when I was working full-time or was away from home all day after I retired a few years ago. I use it now, but I'm wiser- and still learning. 

    If you put even a rather tough-ish piece of beef, like a rump roast or a top round roast in the slow cooker, put a rack under it and do NOT put any liquid in there. If you have time, season it by dry-rubbing it with herbs and spices (but not too much salt), overnight if you have time. If you don't have a rack, you can turn a couple of ramekins upside down and place the roast on them. Failing that, try a saucer. or even some tightly-crunched aluminum foil made into a "rope, then formed into an oval. (Remember, there's no heating element in the bottom of the slow cooker.)

    Put the roast on top of the rack or rack substitute. Put the cooker's cover on- and make sure the cover sits firmly closed. Set the controls according to the directions. DO NOT OPEN THE LID. When the cooking time is over, let the roast rest before slicing. I've had rump and top round end up pink inside after 6 hours on low. I slice them thinly and they're nicely tender. There's enough juice and fond in the pan to make gravy, or to add stock to make Italian beef sandwiches. 

    Just remember: if you cook meat in liquid in a slow cooker, the juices in the meat will go from inside the flesh (where there is lower concentration of moisture) into the pan (where there's higher concentration of moisture) and the flesh will be dry and stringy. Any seasonings you added to the meat will flow along with the juices, leaving the flesh bland.

    If anybody with more training can improve on this or set me straight, I'm good with that. I'm a home cook with a lot of years putting meals on the table (and a very little in a restaurant kitchen), but what I've described is based on eating a lot of failed slow cooker recipes, many of which were found online. 

    By the way, Slowcooker, please stop back at the New Users' Introductions Forum. I answered your intro thread and gave you a Chef Talk welcome. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/bounce.gif

    Mezzaluna
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2013
  11. slowcooker53

    slowcooker53

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    I knew it !  I felt thats exactly what was happening and you confirmed my suspicions. Liquid  draws the meat's juices/fats OUT of the meat and into the liquid in the cooker. Thats what i theorized was happening, so i'm glad to hear you say basically that. Tonite the tri tip was good, but theres a texture to it i can only describe as tender but "sandy"  that i feel is due to the fats and juices being drawn out of the meat into the pool of liquid. I will try just way you said, a small rack. Plus that way if i want to throw some taters or other veggies in i can put a small amount of water or stock in the bottom where it won't touch the meat and put the veggies there. Or not, if you think best not to. I trust your opinion because i can see you have spent time experimenting and because your results tend to perfectly coincide with mine.

    That said, i will be doing a corned beef next weekend and i think that considering it's one of the few things that is traditionally cooked in water i should do it like that. that is, unless you have a better idea. And i would listen if you do. Thanks for your time, I truly appriciate it.
     
     
  12. genemachine

    genemachine

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    With all due respect, that dismisses the whole Austrian and Bavarian "Tafelspitz" tradition out of hand. You can perfectly well cook it in liquid - You will need a strong broth to do it, so as not to leech the flavor out. Serve in the broth, garnish with fresh horseradish. This would actually be a pretty nice way application of the slow cooker.
     
  13. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    I always add just a bit of water to my crock pot when cooking.  Usually only 1/2-1 cup of liquid, a bit more if I have a lot of vegetables in with the meat.  One big thing I have found though is, I feel that most slow cooker recipes call for cooking the meat way too long.  Many recipes call for cooking for 8 hours or more.  I find this to be too long and often end up with mushy and/or dry meat with all the juices and fat taken from it.  I find 4-6 hours is plenty of time for almost every thing I have made.  Also, if time permits, I will brown my meat in a skillet first before adding it to the slow cooker.  With proper seasoning and not overcooking, I have had great success with our crock pot and we use it quite often as a result.
     
  14. slowcooker53

    slowcooker53

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    Thats another thing i was thinking too. Theres that kind of sandy texture both attempts so far have and i was suspicious that 8 hours was too much. Even when cooking a corned beef i find them coming out tougher than they should when i follow the times i read online. I think next time i will try 6 hours then try it and if it needs more i'll let it continue. I bet like you said tho, it won't.
     
  15. wendy riddel

    wendy riddel

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    Corned Beef in the Crock Pot/Slow Cooker.

    Layer bottom of CP with thickly sliced potatoes, add a large handful of mint,leaves and stalks, then one lemon sliced.

    Place Corned Beef on this "pad"

    Add tablspoon of black peppercorns, sprinkle with a couple of teaspoons of powdered ginger, two more lemons sliced lengthwise.

    Put on lid and cook.

    This method is my favourite way of cooking Corned Beef.

    I find the meat comes out tender, not very saltly, and is great sliced cold.

    There seems to be heaps of liquid that comes out of the meat, if liked you can add a little malt vinegar and honey  half way though the cooking time if you like that flavour profile.

    I discard all the bits and liquid and just use the meat.
     
  16. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    It's really silly when you think about it, but it's easy to forget that the tri-tip wasn't "invented" in California; and especially easy to forget here in California where it's repeated so often.  There's a whole mythology which can be traced to a Sunset Magazine article written sometime in the sixties that until the late fifties the only thing butchers ever did with tri-tip was grind it into hamburger.  But then two butchers at the Santa Maria Safeway came up with the idea of putting it in the rotisserie and the magic happened. 

    It's all BS of course, but it's one of those things which got picked up by the internet and crowded out the truth. 

    BDL
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2013
  17. genemachine

    genemachine

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    Nothing against grilling it. But grinding it /img/vbsmilies/smilies/eek.gif

    In Germany and Austria it is sometimes called the "Bürgermeisterstück" - the "mayor's piece", because the town butcher would reserve it as one of the best cuts for the mayor and refuse to sell it to the common folk.
     
  18. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    Now doesn't braising meat (this calls for added liquid) fall to the same fault?   Why is liquid permitted in braising and not in a slow cooker?
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2013
  19. mezzaluna

    mezzaluna

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    Kokopuffs, if you brown the meat before braising and don't cook it six or eight hours, you're okay I think. Also, braises are usually fattier meats, aren't they? A lot of slow cooker recipes call for tough cuts, but many of those are very lean these days (top round, etc.). They get stringy and dry, even when cooked in liquid. Believe me, I say this from experience! I've slow-cooked lean pork and had the same outcome. Browning helps some, but it's the lack of connective tissue and fat that causes the worst of the problems when combined with too much liquid. Pete says he adds little liquid and a lot of veggies. The veggies contribute more liquid, but then he reduces cooking time. My guess is his cuts of meat may be better-suited to the method, too.

    There's another factor, which is that the cooker's thermostat may not be reliable. There've been plenty of reviews of slow cookers over the years that have reported unreliable thermostats, bad timers, poor insulation, etc. You have to get to know your machine to be able to trust it. I used to have one with a crockery insert. My new one has a cast aluminum one, so the game is quite different. There's no timer, either (which is why the model has been discontinued, I think). It has other virtues I like, but it has taken some getting used to.
     
  20. slowcooker53

    slowcooker53

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    As to the dry vs liquid debate, i have a theory. Liquid in my case i really believe came out as it did because as Mezzaluna said the liquid drew the juices out of the meat.  But some say liquid IS proper in a slow cooker. Maybe it's like this....either way can work, but the timing is the crucial thing. If liquid is used, typically mentioned cooking times of around 8 hours as Pete said are usually too much. Maybe if cooked 4-6 as he said the meat will be plenty well done and the meat will not have had the chance to dry out. On the other hand, maybe those who use a no liquid method because they found the 8 hour recipes to dry the meat out like I did figure that dry is the way to go and never thought to use liquid but for a much shorter period. So in short, maybe the trick is do it either way, but success is going to rely in a big way on the cooking time. Also, i read that slow cookers in recent years in many cases are coming out with too high of a heat level even on low which could also account for shorter cooking times being necassary.

    Personally i'm going to try both...dry for 8 and liquid for 4 to 6, testing at 4 or 5 and continuing if needed, stopping if done.
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2013