Slow Cooker Secrets: Get More Flavor in Less Time | Learn with Yummly | Stephanie O'Dea | Skillshare

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Slow Cooker Secrets: Get More Flavor in Less Time | Learn with Yummly

teacher avatar Stephanie O'Dea, Slow-Cooking Expert, NYT Best-Selling Author

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Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Benefits of Slow Cooking


    • 3.

      The Braise Formula


    • 4.

      Preparing Your Meat


    • 5.

      Making Your Own Spice Rub


    • 6.

      Applying Spice Rub


    • 7.

      Setting Up Your Slow Cooker


    • 8.

      Checking Progress


    • 9.

      Finishing Touches


    • 10.

      Bonus Lesson: Braising vs Stewing


    • 11.



    • 12.

      Hungry for More?


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About This Class

Eager to get into slow cooking, but not sure where to start? Join New York Times bestselling cookbook author and slow cooking expert Stephanie O’Dea and Yummly for a fun 40-minute class to unlock the secret to tender, fall-off-the-fork flavor — specifically with a delicious pulled pork. 

Stephanie walks us through 5 easy steps:

  • The basics of using your slow cooker 
  • How to "braise" and "stew" with a slow cooker 
  • Prepping meats before you slow cook  
  • Making your very own signature spice rub
  • Proper techniques and timings for maximum flavor and tenderness  

She also shares a variety of helpful tips and juicy tidbits about slow cooking other dishes for your family, friends, or simply meal-prepping for yourself.

By the end of the class, you’ll have the knowledge and skills to make a delicious, old-fashioned BBQ pulled pork at home – and enough to go around!


Yummly is the leading food discovery platform for personalized food content. Its smart and personal approach to food provides recipe recommendations personalized to your own tastes — you can search by ingredient, diet, allergy, nutrition, and so on. Yummly answers the universal question, “What’s for dinner?”

See more popular food and beverage classes on Skillshare here

Meet Your Teacher

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Stephanie O'Dea

Slow-Cooking Expert, NYT Best-Selling Author


Stephanie O'Dea made a New Year's Resolution to use her slow cooker every single day in 2008 and write about it online.

This simple idea resulted in a highly-trafficked website and several books, one of which spent six weeks on the New York Times best-sellers list. Stephanie has appeared on Good Morning America (three times), The Rachael Ray Show (four times), featured in Real Simple Magazine, Woman's World, and She is a contributing editor to Simply Gluten Free magazine and a recipe contributor to She is currently on television multiple times a day in the Ninja Cooking System infomercial, and is a spokesperson for the product. Further information can be found at

If you have a slow cooking question, or a question about housekeeping sh... See full profile

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1. Introduction: I'm Stephanie O'Dea, and today, we're going to unlock the magic of the slow cooker. You're going to learn how a tough, boring piece of meat can come alive and become fall-off-the-fork tender at the end of a long work day. In this class, you're going to learn the basics of slow cooking, and how to braise, and what that really means. You're also going to learn the key components to create your own signature spice rub. Then we're going to pull it all together and make a beautiful delicious barbecued pulled pork. At the end of this course, you are going to learn all of the tips and tricks to make your slow cooker work for you. If it's still in the box, unpack it, put it to work. At the end of the day, you're going to have to tender, moist, delicious meat. You're really going to be happy. I'm excited. Let's get started. 2. Benefits of Slow Cooking: So, this is a slow cooker. You've all seen one. You might even own one, but it's time to put it to use. So, why I really like slow cooking is it helps me do a few things. First off, it keeps me on my budget and it also helps with time. We're all busy. We're out of the house all day for work. We've got busy families. We have busy lives, and we know that we need to cook from scratch. There's truly no easier way to get healthy meal on the table than to use a slow cooker. So, back to the saving money part, what do I mean by that? Well, let's say you are buying your meat in bulk and you open the depths of your freezer to this frost-bitten and forgotten roast that you bought on sale six months ago, guess what? You put it into this machine, 8-10 hours later, it's like butter. It's beautiful, it's tender, it's moist, and delicious. So, you've just saved yourself, one, the drive-through line or ordering takeout, and two, you've also brought your forgotten roast back to life. Another great thing about slow cooking is it forces you to meal plan because you can't put your dinner on at 6:00 am or 7:00 am, if you don't already have the ingredients in the house. Pretty much every financial expert will agree that the quickest way to trim down your grocery budget is if you grocery shop with a list. So, if you have your list and your recipe in hand and that's all you're buying, that's what you're sticking to. Everything is already in the house. Your pantry is stocked. Your refrigerator is stocked. You know what you're going to make, which means you put it on in the morning, push the button, and walk away. So, at night, you're walking in the door, six, seven o'clock. You're starving. You don't need to reach for the phone and order takeout because dinner is already ready to go. So, some of the criticism that people have about slow cooking is, one, their meat is too wet and kind of sloppy. So we're going to talk about that. The other is that at the end of the day, they think they're roast is dry. I'm going to let you in on a secret. A dry roast doesn't mean you overcooked it, it actually means you under-cooked it. Now, I'm going to show you how to know when your meat is perfect and ready to serve. One of the great things about slow cooking is how forgiving it is. I'm sometimes a little absent-minded and I regularly wander away from the stove or from the oven and then I burn my food. That's not really possible in the slow cooker and so I really appreciate that I can be distracted or I can taste later down the line and add a seasoning here, there, throw in some extra salt and pepper. Because I use my slow cooker so much, I found quite a few different ways to achieve what I'm going for. I can steam fish in foil packets. I can roast a whole chicken. But today we're going to talk about one of my favorite ways to cook which actually involves no liquid and that's braising. Braising is essentially like a pot roast or pot roasting. We're going to make a spice rub and put it all over the meat. I'm actually going to teach you how you can make your very own spice rub. One of the great things about the slow cooker is just how versatile it is. It's nice even moist heat, so all of your American classic dishes that we grew up on, your pot roast, your brisket, your pulled pork, your chilli, your soups, your stews, your rotisserie-style chicken, they're all able to be made in a slow cooker. I bake 12-15 baked potatoes at a time or sweet potatoes. I use it to steam fish. Two hours on high in a foil packet, you've got a delicious moist piece of fish with no stinky fish smell. So, even though you can do so much in a slow cooker, today, I really want to focus on my favorite way to slow cook and that's braising. 3. The Braise Formula: So, there's this old school versus new school way of slow cooking. I prefer the new school and that's because the old school and what you might have remember growing up is soggy, watery meat and that's because if you were making a pot roast or a brisket, a lot of times, you would add an entire can of broth or even a cup of water. So, it would just create this soggy texture. Instead, the new school way, which is what I'm going to teach you, is I like to braise my meat which essentially means that I use a spice rub, some special seasonings and herbs, and I'm going to teach you how to make your own, and then the meat simmers all day in its own juices. So, essentially, braising is another word for pot roasting. You're using a spice rub and you're letting the meat slow cook all day long in its own juices. This creates this fall-off-the-fork tender meat because the meat has had time to break down, fall into the pot, and then reabsorb. In general, the leaner the cut of meat, the less fat it has, and so the longer it slow cooks, the more tender it becomes. So, coming up next, I'm going to show you what you're looking for when you're picking out meat to slow cook all day, the different components on how to make your own spice rub, and then we're going to pull it all together and make a gorgeous beautiful tender barbecued pulled pork. 4. Preparing Your Meat: So, what you have here is a beautiful piece of pork. This is pork shoulder and you can see that it's marbleized with a good amount of fat. When you're trying to pick out meat to go in the slow cooker, if there's a bunch of fat on it, you're going to know immediately that it's usually a lower cost cut of meat and it's okay because all we can do is cut the meat away. A lot of times, if you're cooking meat on the barbecue or in a dry oven, you want the fat because you want it to heat up and liquefy and get back in your meat so it won't dry out. Dry meat? It's impossible in a slow cooker. The slow cooker is a moist cooking environment. The condensation doesn't cook away. It gets stuck on the lid, and then rains back in. So, you don't need to have any of this fat on the meat to get a tender beautiful pulled pork at the end of the day. So, what we're going to do is actually cut this off, and you don't need to be scared. It's actually not that big of a deal. I use scissors. So, if your knife set comes with poultry shears, use those. If you don't have poultry shears, you can just use desk scissors. Just decide, "These are my kitchen scissors." So, don't put it back on your desk, but all you do is open your scissors and you just start cutting away. So, when I'm looking to buy meat at the grocery store, I use the rule of thumb of about a half pound of meat per person. That's all I really try and do, and I end up getting whatever's on sale. If chicken thighs happen to be on sale or drumsticks, I pick those up because pound for pound, I know I can cook them essentially the same way with a different spices and the different slow cooking techniques that I'm going to show you. If a whole chicken is on sale, I'll use that. I actually use the same technique that I do with the scissors and I remove all of the skin from the chicken before I slow cook it because it's not going to crisp up on you, you're not going to get that nice crispy texture that you would if you're going to roast in the oven. So, you might as well cut it all away, and then have a much lower fat dinner. We all know fat tastes good. We all know butter and oil tastes good, but that doesn't mean that it's healthy to eat each and every night, and that's one of the best things that I like about slow cooking is everything stays in the pot. So, if you're cooking vegetable soup, all of the nutrients from the vegetables stay in the soup which is great, but the same thing when you're cooking your meat, the fat isn't going to evaporate away. It's not going to drip away the way it would on a barbecue. It stays in the pot. So, do yourself a favor. Just cut it out. It's not necessary. You don't need it. So, let's say, you're at the grocery store and you're picking out steak to barbecue or to pan fry at home. You're going to go for a rib eye or something with a nice ribbon of fat because the fat is what tenderizes and keeps the meat moist and juicy. You don't need to do that when you use the slow cooker because everything stays in the pot. If you have a dry tough pot roast at the end of the day, that's not because you overcooked it. It's because you undercooked it. What you want is for the meat to actually break down in the pot and then reabsorb the cooking liquid. That's the secret to a moist, delicious, tender, fall-off-the-fork roast. When you're looking at meat and you see the ribbons of fat, the more muscular the animal or the more muscle of the part of the animal that you're eating, the less fat that you're going to see. The fat, a lot of times, equals flavor in cooking, but in slow cooking, it's just fat. It's not necessary because you can get that same delicious tender meat from a very lean cut of meat. It stays in the pot, and it slow cooks in its own juices and whatever spices and herbs and different marinades that you've put in with it. So, this is about five pounds of meat which is great if you've got a large family or if you're entertaining, but it's also great if you just want a whole bunch of already cooked meat ready to go in the fridge. I like to sprinkle it on top of salads. I like to wrap it in a tortilla later in the week. We also can freeze it in tiny little zip locks or little plastic containers, and then you always have cooked ready-to-go meat that you can thaw in the microwave and you've got dinner at your fingertips. I really like how versatile the slow cooker is that you can cook a whole bunch once and then be done for the entire week. So, sometimes, when you take a cooking class, you hear about knife cuts and uniformity. I'm not that kind of person. I just hack away with it because it's all going to slow cook. At the end, we're going to pull it apart with forks. So, no need to get fancy pants. Certainly, you can try. If you're great at chopping onions and really enjoy using sharp knives, go for it. Otherwise, just hack it up and get it done. So, sometimes, people ask me, "Hey, Steph. Why do you spend so much time trimming the meat before you cook it?" It's mostly just for health reasons. I don't want the extra fat in the food and I don't want to serve it to my family. So, if you really want it, it's okay. You're an adult. You can do whatever you want. I'm not in your house. But for me, I just feel more comfortable knowing that the flavor is from something that I added, from the spices, from the sauces, from the different components, not from a whole bunch of fat. All right. So, our meat is ready to go. What I'm going to do is leave it in these large pieces so I can put my spice rub evenly on all sides, and now I'll plop it in. It's going to slow cook for 8-10 hours. So, what I like to do is set the timer for eight hours, and then check it. If the meat isn't as tender as I'd like, using kitchen tongs, I take it out, I cut it into a few pieces, and then put it back in for about another hour or so. Sometimes, I'll flip it to high. That ensures that the meat will break down and continue to tenderize and soften as much as I would like. So, this is pork and that's pretty much classic slow cooker fair, but I like to cook everything in a slow cooker. I cook fish, I put them in foil packets, they steam beautifully with no fish smell. I like to cook a whole chicken. I've cooked duck. I've cooked deer. We'd make a lot of pot roast, but what's really neat is that it's foolproof. Sometimes when you're cooking a large hunk of meat in a dry oven or on the stove top or even on the barbecue, it can get a little dried out. That's just not as easy to do in the crock-pot because the lid is on. All of the moisture stays within the pot and it rains back down. So, remember the rule of thumb when it comes to meat in the slow cooker. If at the end of the day, it's not quite as moist and juicy as you'd like, that's not a sign of overcooking. It's actually a sign of undercooking. Put it back in. Put the lid back on, walkaway. Go for a walk around the block. What you want is the meat to cook so long that it actually falls apart and then reabsorbs the cooking liquid. That's the secret there. All right. So, our meat is ready to go and put in the pot. But first, what we're going to do is we're going to infuse some flavor here. So, let's learn how to make a signature spice rub. 5. Making Your Own Spice Rub: All right. We're going to learn how to make our very own signature spice rub. You've all seen them in the grocery store. It seems like pretty much every celebrity, everybody has their own version of a spice rub and you can make one, too. It's actually super simple. There are five key components in pretty much every spice rub. There's sweet, salty, pepper, a transition spice, and then a key pop of flavors spice or herb. Today, we're going to learn how they mix and match and how you can create your own spice rub. So the first rule of thumb is to not just start blindly pouring things into the pot. Get a little mixing bowl and play around with the herbs and spices and get a flavor that you'd like from your finger first because if you don't like how it tastes on your finger, trust me, you're not going to like it later after it's cooked all day on your meat. So, I always start with a sweet component first. So, that could be a brown sugar, a white sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup. So I put that in the bowl first and then to balance it, we always need a salty component. So you can do kosher salt, sea salt, Himalayan salt, there's a whole bunch of really fancy salts on the market. You can also use soy sauce here. If you wanted a wet rub or marinate, soy sauce has that salty component as well. Then you move on to peppers. So, you can mix and match your peppers. You don't need to have only one. So, there's plain old black pepper, there's white pepper, there's red pepper which sometimes is called cayenne pepper. So play around with it. Obviously, if you're trying to go for a chilly or a spicy dish, you want more pepper. The next component in a spice rub are your transition spices. That's your garlic powder, your onion powder, your cumin, chili powder, and that's chilli with an I not chilli with an E because that would be a pepper. Chili powder which is a nice base for a lot of your soups, stews, and chillis. It's actually not all that spicy when you taste it on its own. Then the last very important ingredient in your signature spice is your signature spice. So what is it you're trying to make here? What are you trying to do? Are you having a Thai-inspired dish? Are you having a Chinese or an Indian spice dish? That would change what your signature pop up flavor is. So there's a big difference in flavor between curry powder and dill. You're not going to put dill in your Indian food recipe but you will sprinkle it on your tilapia. So that's where you can play around with it, give it a taste. Whereas some of the others, you can have a few different varieties of salt or a few different kinds of pepper. You really don't want to mix around with your signature spices all that much. So sometimes, people write to me and they say, they don't really like ginger or they don't really like dried mustard, and that's what's fun about creating your own spice rub and having a signature taste. If you don't like ginger, don't use ginger. Use something else that you really like. The same way, you wouldn't put a really flavorful spicy like rosemary on a bland dish. Rosemary is a powerful signature spice, so it pairs well with lamb or roast of some sort, but you wouldn't necessarily put it in a soft delicate soup or a bisque or something like that. If you're lucky enough to be able to grow your own herbs or have access to fresh herbs, by all means, use them. In general, when I write my recipes, I talk about dried herbs because they're easier to come by and you can find them in every corner grocery store. The rule of thumb is double the fresh herbs for the dried herbs. The fresh herbs have the water content in them still, so they're larger and they take up more space. So if your recipe calls for a teaspoon of dried basil, up it to two teaspoons of fresh basil chopped, that kind of thing. So let's talk a little bit about salt. I did include salt in the five-part spice rub component but if you're on a low sodium diet or if you're worried about salt, its okay to omit it right now and then season to taste at the table. So let's just say you did make a mistake with the salt and when it's close to cooking time, you think you're sauce or your meat is way too salty. There's a trick, don't throw it out. Instead, peel a raw potato, throw it in the pot. It acts like a sponge or like a magnet to salt. It'll suck it all up and you'll be ready to go. 6. Applying Spice Rub: All right. So, we learned the five different components that go into a spice rub. So, let's make one. We're going to make our own here and we're going to start with the base of brown sugar. So, this is about five pounds of meat. So, I usually start with the brown sugar or some sort of sweetness. The rule of thumb is, you eyeball it. That's what's fun is you want enough mixture to go on all sides of the meat. So, we'll start with about a quarter cup here and then add to it and near the end, we'll end up with close to about a half cup. All right. So, about a quarter of a cup. It's okay if it's mounded. Not a big deal. Then, we're going to use a tiny bit of salt. Not all that much. Probably only about a teaspoon or so, just for a tiny bit of texture and a salty component. Then we're going to add our pepper. This is cayenne pepper and it's kind of spicy, so we're only going to use a teaspoon. We're going to move into our transition spices. I'm going to use a few here. I've got garlic powder, paprika, and cumin. I really like cumin because it has kind of a smoky component. So, we only did a teaspoon of cayenne. But for these spices, we're going to go ahead and use an entire tablespoon. All right. So, the spices are in there. It doesn't have to be perfect. If there's a little extra, a little under, it really doesn't matter. The last thing we're going to add is the tiny bit of pop of flavor. For this, I'm going to use cinnamon because I'm using pork and pork is naturally kind of a sweet meat and the cinnamon is really going to make all of this transition spices and the smokiness kind of pop a little. I may use a teaspoon again of the cinnamon. All right, there you go. I don't know if you noticed, but I was pouring into versus dipping that dirty mixing spoon into the seasoning. So now, we're just going to mix it all up. What you want is the sugar and all of the seasonings evenly dispersed so you don't have a pocket of something really spicy left on your meat. All right, we're ready to go. We've got our spice rub. We've got our meat all trimmed and it looks beautiful. We're going to incorporate the two. First, I'm going to take off my rings because I think it's a little gross. All right. So, there's really no rules here. But I end up just kind of pouring it on top and then smearing it around with my hands. So, what I'm trying to do is create an even paste all over the outside. We've got a few different pieces here. I want to make sure that each one gets covered and you get into all the little nooks and crannies. We want to make sure the meat is evenly covered in all areas because that's where all the flavor is. All of the flavor is in your spice rub. So, don't let it go to waste. If you've got any extra left in the bowl, dump it all in. Okay, this is it. We are ready to go. We're going to put all of this in the slow cooker. I'm going to dump it all in, and guess what? No liquid is needed. 7. Setting Up Your Slow Cooker: All right, it's the best part. Let's put the pork in the pot. You can be fancy. You can use tongs. You can use a kitchen fork. I use my hands. I just pick everything up, plop it right on in. There's no rules here. You just want to make sure everything is below the rim line. So, any remaining rub or crust, just sprinkle it on in. So, what we're going to do is put the lid on and I'm not adding any water. There are plenty of recipes that add a lot of water and they drown the meat. That's why old school slow cooker recipes were soggy and bland. It's because they added so much liquid, that all of your sauce components, all of your wonderful spice rub just got washed away and ended up in the bottom of the pot. Instead, this is going to ingrain itself in each bite of meat. You're really going to be happy with the finished product. So, if you're in the market for a new slow cooker, I really like this one because it has a rubber gasket. It keeps all of the moisture and all of the heat within the pot. I also like that this particular cooker has clamps. You don't really need the clamps while it's cooking, but it's funny, a friend of mine says that she uses it to keep the cap from breaking in, so there's that. But what I like is we travel with our slow cookers. We get invited to potluck dinners or different church functions and it's nice to be able to bring a hot meal but I don't want chilli or soup or stew sloshing allover the van, so I do like the clamping lid. You're also going to notice that this is a programmable slow cooker. The first ones that were invented weren't as technical as they are now, but what I really like is these programmable models is you can set the cooking time in 30-minute increments. So, let's say your recipe calls for cooking for 4-6 hours but you're actually out of the house for 10 hours. Don't set it for ten hours, set it for four hours. Because when that time has elapsed it will automatically flip to a warm temperature so your food is still hot and ready to go when you walk in the door but it hasn't been cooking and falling apart all day. We're going to set the timer and for this recipe, we're going to do low for about eight hours. So, I'm going to set the timer here for eight hours and then we'll check it. The reason I'm picking eight hours is because slow cooking is a range and the low and slow method is usually about 8-10 hours for a very full pot. This is five pounds of meat, that's a lot of food. The slow cooker is pretty full. In general, I like to keep the cookers about two-thirds to three-quarters of the way full and that's how I write my recipes and how I pick the timing. So, a full pot which again is two-thirds to three-quarters of the way, is about eight hours on low or four hours on high. I always prefer the low and slow method. So, if I have time in the day to choose low and cook it for a long time, that's what I would prefer to do. So, like I said earlier, I don't really like rules when it comes to slow cooking. Some of the older recipes cautioned against testing or lifting the lid and they said that you would lose valuable cooking heat and cooking time. I haven't found that to be the case and the newer parts actually heat from the sides, along with the bottom. So, go ahead. You can taste it, you can poke at it. I would wait until probably around the five or six-hour mark for this amount of meat because you want to make sure it's fully cooked before you taste it. Now, we pretty much have eight hours to kill which is great. So, that's my favorite part about slow cooking. I like it that I can put the food on early in the morning and then go about my day. That's truly when the magic happens in slow cooking. 8. Checking Progress: All right. We have an almost complete slow cooker here with barbecued pulled pork. I made this earlier in the day and it's been plugged in for about seven hours. So we're going to give it a check. First, what you're going to notice is this wonderful condensation beaded up on the lid. I'm going to carefully open it away from my face because the steam comes out, and dribble the moisture right back into the pot. One of the first things you're going to notice is that the meat trunk, where did it go? This is this same poundage but all of the moisture from the meat dribbled out of it and so you can see, even though we didn't add any liquid, there's a whole bunch of delicious moisture and gravy and good stuff at the bottom of this pot. So, let's give it a poke. So this little piece here, I can already tell with my kitchen tongs, is nice and soft and tender. I'm going to leave it alone for a second and check this one on top. This one is a bit more firm. You can see that it's not quite as tender. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to actually flip it over and then kinda break it up just a tiny bit and that will let it continue to cook in the juice and suck up all of that moisture. This one is already pretty tender. We'll leave that guy alone. So I can tell it's tender because the tongs truly just fold right into it. If I had like a soup spoon, it would just sink into this piece of meat. In this one, there's more resistance. I can feel that there's just a tiny bit more resistance. So I'm going to leave it alone. I've got about an hour or so before dinner. So, I'll put the lid back on. So we're going to leave it alone and let it continue to cook for about an hour. Now that tiny piece of meat that's already cooked, I'm just going to leave it alone. It's fine. Everything's going to be shredded and pulled apart between two forks and stirred in with some delicious barbecue sauce. It's all good. 9. Finishing Touches: All right, let's check out how our pulled pork looks. I am hungry and it smells delicious. All right, I'll let all of that moisture drip back in. All right, and you can see how the meat is just falling apart and tender. You're also able to see there's an awful lot of cooking liquid in here. Remember, we didn't add any liquid. So, this is the meat's own juices that have just accumulated in the pot. So, it's up to you. You can leave all of that juice in the pot, or you can drain it. I'm going to drain a little bit of it and that's because after I shred the meat completely, I want to use some prepared barbecue sauce because I'm going to serve these in sandwiches and I don't want all of this sloppiness in my sandwiches. So, I'm simply going to ladle out some of this liquid before I stir in my barbecue sauce. There's also an awful lot of extra oil and liquid fat which is tasty but isn't necessarily the healthiest. Whether or not you do omit this extra fat and grease is completely up to you. I think we've all seen barbecue competitions where they add a stick of butter at the very end. That's a great way to win a cooking competition but it's not necessarily the healthiest and best way to feed your family, night after night after night. All right, let's pull this pork, you can see how it just truly falls apart. Look, just like that, it's just falling right apart. So again, this is the slow cooker, there's no rules here. You want to get fancy with your shredding technique, go for it. I've seen people put in immersion blenders and all that stuff. I just use two forks and pull it apart. All right, our pork is nicely pulled apart and we're going to add some barbecue sauce. I'm going to use store bought barbecue sauce today. But if you have your own homemade favorite, go ahead and do it. Usually barbecue sauce is equal parts brown sugar and ketchup with your own secret seasonings and spices and blends. I know it's original theme, but today we're going to use store bought. I've got a spicy and a not so spicy. So, I'm going to go with the spicy one today. I'm just going to pour a whole bottle in. All right, we're just going to stir it around again. I've already unplugged the crock pot so, it's really not cooking anymore. You can serve it just like this. So, you can put it on top of rice. You can put a dollop in a tortilla. But today we're going to put them probably in some toasted buns. All right, so we're ready to go. What I really like is entertaining with the slow cooker. So, let's say you've got a house full of people, you can probably feed 12 or so with this amount of meat. So, again, this was about five pounds of meat and the rule of thumb is usually about a half pound of meat per person. So, you can put it in a toasted bun and serve a bunch of people that way. I like to make an assembly line and we've got sliced halapenos, and red pepper, and cheddar cheese. In general just slow cooking, it lends itself to entertaining. It's great because instead of slaving away in the kitchen, you can actually enjoy your guests and be a part of your own party. 10. Bonus Lesson: Braising vs Stewing: So now, we learned about braising, and that's how we cooked our pulled pork, which means that the pork essentially cooked in its own liquid. We didn't need to add anything extra to the pot. It cooked in the spice rub. Whereas stewing, your meat is actually cooking all day long in a very flavorful broth. So like beef bourguignon or coq au vin, both of those use an entire bottle of red wine, which is an awful lot of liquid, but the liquid imparts so much flavor onto the meat. That's really what the main difference is. So if you're making a beef stew or a minestrone soup, what you want to do is make sure that the broth tastes delicious all on its own, and then that helps bring out the flavors of your meat and your vegetables. So the basic building blocks of a stew is you start with a liquid, you start with a broth or the base. So again, you can use juice, beer, wine, beef broth, chicken broth, vegetable stock, if you want to keep it all vegetarian, and then add in your meat and your vegetables and some pantry staples like canned beans or dried beans. One of the really nice things about slow cooking is it lends itself to so many leftovers. At about once a week, I make what I call kind of a clean out the pantry or clean out their refrigerator minestrone soup. So, I start with about a quarter or so, so that's about four cups of liquid, and then I just start adding things that I see in the refrigerator. So if I have some leftover chicken from the week or some sliced sausage, I throw it in. I throw in some basic root vegetables, your celery, onion, carrots, and put that in the pot. My kids really like canned beans, so I usually have quite a few on hand, but not necessarily enough to make a full bean meal, so I'll throw in a can of black beans and a can of garbanzo beans and maybe some diced tomatoes here in there. Then it slow cooks all day, if I want to book it up a bit with some grains like a pasta or rice, I don't put it in early in the morning because I found that slow cooking pasta or rice all day just sort of disintegrates, so instead about an hour or so before cooking, I put in about a half cup of dried pasta noodles or dry white rice, and then set table, walk the dog and dinner's ready in about an hour. So like I said, with braising, if you're doing a pot roast or like our pulled pork, you know it's done when it's fork tender and kind of falls apart. How do you know when your stewing is done? Well first off, if you're using raw ingredients, raw chicken, raw pork, raw beef, make sure it's been in the pot for a good six hours or so before you start taste testing. You want to make sure your meat is fully cooked. But then, it's personal preference. Do you want your celery and your different vegetables more in the al dente side or more on the super smushy side or somewhere in the middle? So usually, if your pot is about two-thirds to three-quarters of the way full, bet on eight hours on low, four hours on high, but then taste it, use your own personal preference. Also, there's different humidities and different altitudes throughout the country. So, six hours at your house may be completely different than six hours if you're in a desert state or in a really high humidity area. So, braising and stewing are both classic cooking techniques that you really can do beautifully in the slow cooker and the main difference is the amount of liquid. In braising, truly, no liquid is needed. The liquid is really the star of the show with stewing and that's where all of the flavor comes from. You've got a really flavorful broth, that's what's going to season your chicken. Whereas in braising, it's your spice rub that is going to infuse flavor in your chicken because you don't need to add any extra liquid. So there's a few classic dishes that really sort of lend themselves to one cooking style versus the other. For ribs, for instance, I like to braise my ribs. I don't want to drown them in a whole bunch of cooking liquid, whereas a soup or a stew or beef bourguignon, that lends itself to stewing. All of the flavor comes from the cooking liquid and the cooking liquid should be something that tastes good when you drink it. So not just plain old water, although I know water is good for you, add some flavor, add the beef broth, add wine, add beer, add something that you really want to taste because that's where all your flavor is going to come from. Okay, so we learned the difference between stewing and braising and the cool part is, now that you know the difference, you can kind of play around and realize your own favorite dishes. Do they lend themselves more to braising or more to stewing? Then you can realize there's so much you can do with the slow cooker. You don't have to make the same thing night after night. It really is a very versatile cooking tool. 11. Conclusion: All right, thank you for joining me. Today, we learned all about slow cooking and the difference between two kind of universal cooking styles that really come to life in the slow cooker, braising versus stewing. We also learned the components to make your very own signature spice rub. I'm excited to see what you've come up with. Please share below in the project gallery your slow cooker creations or your very own spice rubs. I'm Stephanie O'Dea, and thank you so much for joining me. 12. Hungry for More?: