While slow cookers such as Crock-Pots represent a modern convenience for busy cooks, not every dish follows the "throw in and forget it" ideal. Some ingredients need preparation before they are added to the Crock-Pot. Others, such as noodles, turn mushy if left to cook all day, even at low settings. Fortunately, the majority of classic dishes like chicken noodle soup and beef stroganoff can still be put together in the morning, with minimal last-minute work. Cooking the noodles on the stove or in the slow cooker in the last 15 minutes can be done while you set the table and put together a salad.
Noodle Casseroles and Stews
Brown or saute any non-noodle ingredients which need to be cooked before being added to the Crock-Pot. Ground beef, pork or turkey generally requires browning, as do large cuts of poultry and meat. Additionally, some cooks prefer to caramelize onions, garlic, celery or carrots before adding them to the slow cooker.
Add fresh and browned ingredients to the Crock-Pot in the order suggested by the recipe.
Turn the slow cooker to the recommended setting of high or low, and leave the meal to cook for the required number of hours.
Bring a pot to boil on the stove top when your meal is almost ready.
Cook noodles on the stove top to the al dente stage. Usually this firm texture is achieved by cooking noodles the minimum amount of time called for on the package directions.
Strain the cooked noodles and add them either to a serving bowl or to the Crock-Pot. Dishes like beef stroganoff call for placing noodles in a serving bowl and spooning the beef mixture over the noodles.
Continue cooking the casserole or stew, with the noodles, for about five minutes, if you have added the noodles to the slow cooker. This ensures that the noodles and the rest of the ingredients come to the same temperature.
Follow Steps 1 to 3 above.
Test the ingredients to see if they are done. Vegetables should be tender and the juices of meat or chicken should run clear when pierced with a fork.
Remove the meat from the Crock-Pot and keep it covered to retain warmth, if the meat is in large pieces. This step ensures the larger cuts of meat will not overcook while the noodles are cooked on high. If you are already cooking the meal at the shorter time at the high setting, or the recipe contains ground or cubed meat, you may choose to omit this step.
Turn the Crock-Pot setting to high, if if is not already at that setting, and add uncooked noodles. If there is not enough liquid in the pot to cover the noodles, add water or broth.
Cook the noodles in the soup broth on high for about 15 minutes.
Return meat to Crock-Pot. If recipe calls for removing meat from the bone at the end of the cooking stage, do this while the noodles are cooking, then return the processed meat to the slow cooker.
Continue cooking soup for five minutes to allow all ingredients to reach the same temperature. Spoon soup into a tureen or individual soup bowls.
Because of their size and texture, lasagna noodles are not as easily overcooked as other pasta types. Prepare lasagna in a Crock-Pot by layering uncooked noodles with browned beef, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce and whatever other ingredients your lasagna recipe calls for. Cook on high for one hour and low for five additional hours.
While Crock-Pot soups contain enough liquid to cook noodles in the last minutes of the process, you can also follow the non-soup method and cook noodles on the stove, adding the cooked noodles just before serving.
The "high" setting of the Crock-Pot should only be used when you are at home to supervise, warns the USDA. For all day cooking, the low setting is the best option.
Always wait the recommended number of hours before serving slow cooker meals. Even when the food smells appetizing and looks "done," it should not be consumed before the time specified by the recipe. It takes a slow cooker several hours to reach the bacteria-killing temperature.