Slow cookers are tempting due to their easy, oven-like features removing the need for constant stirring and flipping, but it's important to keep their effects on herbs in mind. We all know how leafy greens tend to wilt within minutes of sautéing. Well, imagine what happens when fresh herbs are added to a slow cooker. That's right, they'll be severely overcooked, leaving the dish without the flavor you wanted in the first place. Fortunately, there's an easier (and cheaper!) way to get the flavor of herbs without overcooking them: Use dried herbs instead of fresh ones.
The benefit of using dried herbs isn't just their lower price point, it's also their longevity. One small shaker of dried basil can last you months while buying fresh basil every few days will certainly add up. So dried herbs being better suited to slow cookers than fresh herbs also helps cut down costs on your grocery bill.
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Use More Dried Herbs To Get The Same Flavor
Long cooking times with a slow cooker tend to mellow out the flavors of dried herbs, so it's recommended to increase the amount of dry herbs you use. Let's say a stove-top recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of dried oregano. You'll want to add much more than that, even three times the amount, to a slow cooker because its sealed interior causes moisture to build up. This type of environment softens the dried herbs and dulls their flavors which are lost to the long cooking time. So start off with double the amount of dried herbs and add more as needed throughout the slow cooker's cycle. You'll want to keep tasting through the cooking process to see how much more dried herbs to add.
While slow cookers call for more dried herbs than cooking methods that take less time, you're still saving money over fresh herbs because dried herbs are much cheaper overall. Regularly making a quick stove-top dish with fresh herbs takes a toll on your wallet, while adapting that same dish to a slow cooker won't.
How To Store Dried Herbs To Get Your Money's Worth
Proper storage can take dried herbs from lasting several months to several years without losing too much flavor, which also saves you money over time. Store-bought dried herbs usually come in an air-tight shaker but if they're sold in a generic zip-top packet, transfer them to an airtight container, preferably a glass bottle shaker so that as little air as possible is able to get in and spoil the herbs over time.
It's also best to purchase whole or flaked herbs over ground herbs, and to store them away from light and heat, so anywhere by a window or near the stove is a no-go. Heat, light, and air all degrade the flavors of herbs and lessen their effectiveness over time. This is because all three of these elements release oils from the dried herbs which is what gives the herbs their flavor. Keeping these tips in mind should help dried herbs last for several years.
If you're in a situation where you have a surplus of fresh herbs and need dried herbs for a slow cooker recipe, a good technique is the microwave hack for dried herbs. Once you've dried them in your microwave, use your coffee grinder to chop the dried herbs for a quick sprinkling or easier dispensing from a shaker. Whether you purchase dried herbs or dry them at home, you'll be saving money over fresh herbs, and making the same flavorful meals using your slow cooker.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.