Though I love the ease and foolproof-ness of my slow-cooker—just toss in your ingredients, set the timer, and walk away—I’ve generally had one problem with the end result: The liquid tends to stay pretty watery even after the rest of the ingredients are cooked. The sauce doesn’t seem to thicken up as much as I’d like it to, and stews end up more like soup. But one of my co-workers shared her secret for creating a thicker, richer slow-cooker sauce—she removes the lid of the cooker about 30 minutes before the meal is done. This allows some of the moisture to escape and lets the liquid reduce a bit, resulting in a less watery, more flavorful sauce.
I wanted to test out this trick, and I’ve been drooling over this Slow-Cooker Lamb, Apricot, and Olive Tagine recipe ever since it came out in the magazine. You definitely want a thicker, more full-bodied sauce to coat the lamb and soak into the accompanying couscous. As usual, I tossed all my ingredients in the cooker and set the timer. But about half an hour before time was up, I took off the lid and let the cooker continue to work its magic. When I checked again later, the stew looked great—the liquid had indeed thickened up nicely, and all my ingredients were perfectly (not over) cooked. The flavors had concentrated in the sauce, resulting in a much tastier meal. Success! I plan to use this trick every time I’m making a slow-cooker stew.