I admit it. For a long time, I denigrated the slow cooker, all the way back to its first iteration as the Crock-Pot. I considered it the lazy cook’s appliance.

In my defense, when I was growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, the Crock-Pot was nothing more than a receptacle to cook bland brothy bean soups. Whenever any friend’s mom aimed higher and made a pot roast, green bean casserole, or poached pears in wine, it was just a plate full of simmered, blechy mush.

Nowadays, though, the slow cooker has become smarter, savvier, and a hell of a lot sleeker. They’re capable of searing and sauteing, which means saying hello to caramelization and layers of flavor.

As cooks, we’ve become savvier, too. We understand more and demand more of our equipment. We know that even though a slow cooker meal is mostly unattended, there’s still plenty of actual cooking to do. So we won’t lose our touch—or our bragging rights. As a result, I am a happy convert to slow cookers.

Is it taking the easy way out? Kinda yes. But it’s hardly cheating. See for yourself.

The word "David" written in script.
Three slow cooker French dip sandwiches on a cutting board
Stephen DeVries
1 of 9

Slow Cooker French Dip

These tender slow cooker French dips are so simple to make that you'll be having them every week. Flank steak is so underrated but this recipe will show you just how incredible it is. And don't forget the pickled onions!

Delicious. Family loved these slow cooker French dips.

A slow cooker insert filled with shredded slow cooker pulled pork.
2 of 9

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

This slow cooker pulled pork is easy to make with pork shoulder, aka pork butt, onion, beer, sugar, and spices, and it capably feeds a crowd. (Just be certain to stash some in the back of the fridge so you have leftovers.)
A wooden bowl filled with lentil soup with kale, topped with parsley and sour cream.
Andrew Thomas Lee
3 of 9

Lentil Soup with Kale

This easy slow cooker lentil kale soup is healthy, nutritious, and satisfying. Perfect cold weather comfort food.
A rack of slow cooker ribs on a cutting board with four single ribs cut off.
Keller + Keller
4 of 9

Slow Cooker Ribs

These slow cooker ribs will feed a crowd and leave your oven free with these lip-smacking beauties.

Very easy to make and delicious to eat. I will make these slow cooker ribs over and over again and will pass this on to my daughter.

simpson h.
Four bowls of slow cooker chicken tagine, served over couscous with olives, and garnished with parsley.
Jeremy Simon
5 of 9

Slow Cooker Chicken Tagine

This chicken tagine brings an incredible international flair to your dinner table. Dates, cinnamon, cumin, and tomatoes make this slow-cooker stew irresistible.
A tray of unbaked bbq meatballs with a set of measuring spoons beside it and a bowl of barbecue sauce in the background.
Jerrelle Guy
6 of 9

BBQ Meatballs

These BBQ meatballs are tossed in the crockpot or oven (translation: no stovetop spattering to clean up) and slathered in a homemade molasses barbecue sauce. Here's how to make them.
Four Brie and bacon jam crostini
Linda Xiao | Brooks Walker
7 of 9

Bacon Jam

This bacon jam, made with bacon, maple syrup, and coffee, is a sweet condiment slathered on burgers at the Skillet diner in Seattle–and just about everywhere else these days.

I loved this bacon jam! My house smelled heavenly all the time it was cooking. Easy and delicious! Everyone who tries it wants the recipe. Big hit!

elizabeth e.
A white bowl filled with slow cooker split pea soup on a napkin.
Ryan Szulc
8 of 9

Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup

Slow cooker split pea soup with ham is traditional winter comfort food made easy. Just toss everything in a Crock pot and walk away. You’re welcome.
Four wine poached pears in a shallow white baking dish.
Jennifer Davick
9 of 9

Wine Poached Pears

These wine poached pears are an easy, elegant dessert made by gently cooking peeled pears in white wine and then drizzling them with a creamy butterscotch sauce.


Will all of these slow cooker recipes work in an Instant Pot?

Yes. Each of these easy slow cooker recipes will work with the slow cooker function of a multicooker, such as an Instant Pot. In our experience, the slow cook function on some multicookers does take longer than in a regular slow cooker.

Is it ok to stir the contents of my slow cooker frequently?

Not really. If you need to stir your slow cooker applesauce or beef chili every couple of hours, that’s ok, but it’s best to leave the lid on and let the cooker work its magic. The steam created in the Crock Pot creates a perfect braising environment, and every time you lift the lid, all of that steam escapes.

So many slow cooker recipes call for browning the meat first. Do I really need to do this?

If the recipe calls for it, then yes, it’s best to take the time to sear your meat, particularly if you’re making beef stew, pork posole, or slow cooker chicken. The dark crust that forms on the meat adds an incredible amount of flavor to your finished dish.

If you’re using a multicooker, this can be done in the same pot using the sauté function.

If you’re using a traditional slow cooker, you need to do this in a separate pot, skillet, or Dutch oven. Don’t forget to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan into your slow cooker along with the browned meat.

What’s the difference between the HIGH and LOW setting on a slow cooker?

The difference between the two settings is the amount of time that it takes for the contents of the slow cooker to reach a simmer. Since the HIGH setting allows the slow cooker to reach temperature more quickly than LOW, the food cooks faster.

We love the convenience and hands-off cooking that the slow cooker provides, but we know it’s not the only tool that can save us on a busy weeknight. For more weeknight inspiration, check out our collection of Instant Pot recipes and air fryer recipes.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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  1. Can’t have a good selection of slow cooker recipes without a pulled pork one in there – no offense to our Jewish and Muslim friends. When I started utilising the slow cooker to get my cooking abilities up to scratch, I frequently went to that as a dinner option. It was among the easiest, and got some of the best reception. I even recall a recipe which used root beer as a basting ingredient.

    I would write a whole list of “what about [this recipe], why not [this recipe]” but I have so many saved up it would just be a backlog of my cooking and proposed adventures. Instead I will say this: another benefit of the slow cooker is after emptying it and taking it to the sink, it makes for a good wash-tub with the rest of the washing up. Still need to get those dishes clean, and less water used. It gets the baby clean while you’re at it.

    I stand by the slow cooker being my top appliance. With maybe a cast iron skillet being the next competitor.

    1. Thanks, Mikey. There are many, many things to love about it. And I’m with you on the pulled pork!