Now that you’ve successfully become master of your crockpot or slow cooker using the handy tips we picked up from America’s Test Kitchen, what’s a kitchen conquerer to do when she can’t finish all those soups or stews in one sitting? Because we don’t want to let your hard-earned gains go to waste, we’ve got a few tips that will extend the life of your leftovers.
While we were on the topic of achieving crockpot greatness, we had a natural follow-up set of questions for ATK’s Jack Bishop — for example, if you’re cooking for only one or two people but using a regular-sized crockpot, there might be leftovers that need freezing.
Presenting, The Right Way To Do Crockpot Leftovers (or really anything soupy or liquidy):
1. Use the appropriate sized container: Head room, notes Bishop, because the more air there is between the food and the lid, the more ice that can develop.
“You don’t really want it overflowing, but you don’t want one cup of levers in a gallon container for instance,” he says.
2. Use foil or plastic for added ice protection: So what if you don’t have the Goldilocks of containers? Or maybe you’re still worried about ice building up. Simply place aluminum foil or a piece of plastic wrap on top to make the container closer to airtight.
3. Always defrost in the refrigerator rather than a counter top: This is a safety issue, if not a palatability issue, Bishop explains. If you set something to defrost on the counter, you’re growing bacteria. And from the palatability side, things can get really mushy because they’re too warm on the counter.
Bishop suggests pulling your leftovers from the freezer and setting them in the fridge before you leave for the day, so they should be defrosted or close to it by the time you get home and are ready to eat.
4. Adjust seasonings when you reheat: There’s nothing worse than that chili you froze a few months ago tasting less awesome than it did when you first made it. A few simple seasoning adjustments will help revive flavors that may have dulled during the chilling and reheating process, Bishop says — and not just adding some more salt and pepper.
“A lot of times something acidic — a little lemon juice, a shot of vinegar (balsamic, red wine, etc) — will perk up the flavors and make something that seems a little dull a whole lot less dull,” he suggests.
Fresh herbs are also a good idea too, and can make something that’s reheated a lot fresher than it really is.