Nothing makes me crazier than investing money and time in a recipe only for it to fail. Even chefs aren't immune to kitchen disasters. I took upon a challenge to come up with some simple recipes for cooking grains in the slow cooker. Well, after lots of testing, reading about how other people do it and talking to my "chef" friends, I've come to the conclusion that cooking plain rice or pasta all day long in the slow cooker is not a good idea.
But if you're a slow cooker lover, don't fret. Not all hope is lost. I was able to cook brown rice in the slow cooker using a "stalling method," and I found that oats and quinoa steam nicely in the slow cooker, too.
The slow cooker provides a moist environment for cooking. It's wonderful for simmering cheaper cuts of meats that have tough connective tissue; I love it for keeping warm mashed potatoes, and its genius for making soups that are waiting for you as you walk in the door after a long day.
That cozy, warm, moist environment is exactly what made it a bad choice for cooking whole grains. Brown long grain rice after three hours was sticky and clumpy--a real mess.
So what does work? If you soak brown rice for one to two hours, then place it in the slow cooker with boiling water and some seasonings set on low, it is perfect after 2 hours. Chef Meg's Seasoned Slow Cooker Brown Rice cooks without much attention from me, which is a huge help on busy nights.
Nutrition tip: Dietitian Becky tells me that soaking all grains and rice makes more of the nutrition available for your body!
I have named this technique the "stalling method." It's perfect for those days that you come home and then have to rush out for a couple of hours before dinner. Soaking the brown rice opens the outer layer of the bran and allows the rice to cook evenly. Word of caution: Don't soak rice for more than 24 hours unless you want it to sprout. And another word of caution: Spray the inside of your slow cooker insert with nonstick cooking spray. You'll thank me when you do the dishes. It makes clean up much easier.
Give my slow cooker brown rice a try on a day that you are heading out to the gym after work and want a rice side to go with dinner a couple of hours later. (This is also a great task to entrust to tweens and teens after school. All they really have to do is boil water and turn on the slow cooker.)
(No slow cooker? Soaking rice for 6-8 hours before you cook it on the stovetop can cut 15-20 minutes off the cooking time, meaning it will take about 30 minutes instead of 45 or 50.)
Question: When do the slow cooker and grains get along?
Answer: Here are my top 3 slow cooked grain techniques.
When adding rice to a dish at end of the cooking process.
If I want to add rice to a slow cooker recipe before serving, I use instant brown rice. Because it has been parboiled, the bran will already be open and the end result will be light and fluffy. This is a great way to soak up excess liquid in a slow cooker recipe. Measure out your rice, stir it into slow cooker, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes.
Quinoa and the slow cooker do get along nicely, but it also needs a little help from its friends. Use at least one cup of quinoa and two cups of water plus 2-3 cups of added vegetables. Cook on low for 2-4 hours. (You can use more quinoa, but keep a 2:1 water-to-quinoa ratio.)
Morning will go much smoother when you preplan the night before with a hot oatmeal cereal prepared in the slow cooker. Key step: spray the liner with non-stick pan coating!
Chef Meg's Apple and Cinnamon Slow Oatmeal is so fluffy and creamy, thanks to the evaporated milk, that you'll think you're eating pudding. This is one breakfast that the whole family will enjoy.
Do you use your slow cooker for grains? Which ones? Do you have any tips to share?
Want more healthy recipes from me and fellow SparkPeople members? Be sure to subscribe to SparkPeople's Recipe of the Day email. Click here to sign up!
Did you know SparkRecipes is now on Facebook? Click here to "Like" us!
Like this recipe? Then you'll love "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight."
More From SparkPeople