Tips for Slow Cooking Your Paleo Meals

By Kellyann Petrucci, Melissa Joulwan, Patrick Flynn, Adriana Harlan

Whether you’re a busy parent or just a busy person on the Paleo diet, do yourself a favor and get a slow cooker. Making meals this way is both convenient and wholesome. The slow cooker frees your oven and stove top for other uses, and it makes cooking for large gatherings or holiday meals easy! Sauces and gravies cook really well in a slow cooker too.

Even at the low setting, internal temperatures of foods are raised well above 140 degrees, the minimum temperature at which bacteria are killed. If you’re concerned about food safety, bring the food up to temperature by cooking on high for the first hour. (In most slow cookers, one hour on high is equal to two hours on low.)

Here are some general tips to get you fired up on slow cooking; be sure to also consult the user manual for your particular slow cooker model:

  • Working with a new slow cooker: When using a new slow cooker, keep an eye on it during the first few uses. These slow cookers can have a mind of their own on high and on low — they can actually boil food, burn food, or just overheat — so don’t leave one unattended until you have a better idea of its idiosyncrasies. Place the cooker on a cookie sheet, a granite countertop, the stovetop, or a similar surface that won’t burn; the bottom can get pretty hot on some models.

  • Cooking fish: Fish and seafood generally aren’t good candidates for the slow cooker. If you use them, put them in at the very end of cooking.

  • Cooking dense carbohydrates: Cut Paleo-approved dense carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, and turnips, into small pieces (about 1 to 1 1/2 inches). In most dishes, you should layer these root vegetables on the bottom of the crock, under the meat and other ingredients, so they begin to cook as soon as the liquids heat.

  • Browning meats: Browning many meats helps reduce the fat content and can enhance the flavor and texture of dishes, but doing so isn’t necessary. However, you should cook ground meats in a skillet before adding them to a slow cooker.

  • Using spices: Stir in spices during the last hour of cooking. They lose their flavor if you cook them with the rest of the food or for a long period.

  • Stirring: Try to refrain from lifting the lid to stir unnecessarily, especially if you’re cooking on the low setting. Each time you lift the lid, enough heat escapes that you should extend the cooking time by 20 to 30 minutes.