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What we love about this kind of cooking is that it gives us the freedom of time, instead of having to stand at the stove for hours. 

At the same time, there is a science to getting the protein, liquids, seasonings and cooking time just right. Follow our top tips to get the most out of your slow cooker or multi-cooker.

pantry essentials

1. Get ahead - Stock up on these essential ingredients:

• Onions
• Canned tomatoes (usually diced) and black beans
• Minced garlic (refrigerated)
• Black pepper
• High quality olive oil
• Pasta and rice
• Lentils (green or red)
• Broth
• Optional: red and white wine!
• Toppings: cilantro, parmesan, parsley, scallions

2. Use the right cut of meat - It makes a big difference to the dish whether the recipe says “breast” vs. “thighs,” or “shoulder” vs. “chuck.” For the best texture and flavor, make sure you follow the specific type of protein -- don’t substitute!

3. Simplify the dinner-time rush - Prep ingredients the night before. Try pre-chopped vegetables -- frozen are great!

4. Pre-measured spices - Use Zen Blends to jump start your flavor foundation.

5. Use tried-and-tested recipes - All our Zen recipes are adapted for slow cooking and pressure cooking to take the guesswork out, so you can be confident with the ratio of proteins, liquid and cooking time.

6. Measure your liquids - It is easy to make your dish too watery or too dry, so pay close attention to the recipe quantities for liquids. Use a measuring cup to measure the exact amounts of water, wine, broth, vinegar and watery vegetables like tomatoes.   

7. Something not quite right - Check our FAQs to help you identify what might be going on with your cooker and how to fix it.

8. Add your own toppings - Finish with your favorite fresh green herbs at the end of cooking to brighten up the dish. Add some texture with croutons or pumpkin seeds, or creaminess with sour cream. It’s an easy way to vary the dish without having to adapt the recipe.