Slow Cookers to the Rescue

We admit it. We’ve been slow to warm up to the notion of slow cookers.

In our younger days, we considered slow cookers to be cheating. Back then, you would just dump ingredients into a clunky Crock-Pot, turn it on, and walk away. (We also, admittedly, weren’t too keen on devoting kitchen counter space to an unsightly machine that seemed good for not much but stew—and lots of it.) In time, though, life got busy, and we got wise. Long, slow weeknight braises dined on over late-night TV turned into the stuff of rush-hour-traffic daydreams. Leisurely trips through the aisles of the grocery store for inspiration were replaced by frantic hustles to grab just what we need for our standby 30-minute recipes. So somewhere between cello practice and the dentist’s office, we begrudgingly decided it was time for a little help, though we weren’t willing to sacrifice our self-dignity—or our supper.

Enter—rather, re-enter—the slow cooker, which in the meantime had become smarter, savvier, a heck of a lot sleeker, and capable of searing and simmering as well as just making stew. Seems we’ve both grown up. And we intend to make up for lost time—ours and yours. In our newly found spare moments, we’ve been tweaking our most tried-and-true recipes—think crisp-at-the-edges carnitas, sure-to-impress coq au vin and, yes, husband-pleasing cider baked beans—in an attempt to perfect them for the slow cooker. And we think you’re gonna like what we’ve found.

No need to worry, there’s plenty of actual cooking left, so you won’t lose your touch—or your bragging rights. Because each slow cooker looks distinctly different from the next, and behaves in similar random fashion, from the behemoth you inherited from your mother-in-law to that sleek stainless steel number that practically programs itself, we’ve left you a little latitude, a little room to exert an executive chef’s dictatorial authority, when making these recipes. You reserve the right to determine whether or not to first sear the meat on the stovetop, to cut back a little on the liquid or reduce it later, and so on. Or you can simply dispense with indecision and follow our straightforward instructions, which worked flawlessly for us.

Do we still consider slow cooker cooking cheating? Not exactly. We instead consider it to be an occasional exercise in excellent time management. The happy consequence? On those nights when you barely have time to breathe, you can still have a homemade dinner on the table in far less time than it takes to toss together even our quickest stovetop suppers. If you think a harried Tuesday night isn’t necessarily the best time to attempt a brisket to brag about, think again.

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

Quick Glance Slow Cooker Recipe List

Carnitas | Mexican Braised and Fried Pork
Slow Cooker Chicken Stock
Braised Chicken with Tomatillos
Slow Cooker Barbacoa Tacos
Appalachian Cider Baked Beans
Bacon Jam
Star Anise and Ginger Braised Chicken
Coq au Vin
Smoked Paprika and Chickpea Soup
Pappardelle with Amazing Slow-Cooked Meat
Coca Cola Brisket
Smoky Chipotle Vegetarian Chili



  1. Looking over these recipes reminds me it’s time for me to make some pork adobo…Filipino-style…pork roast is on sale, too! Definitetly gonna try the pappardelle recipe.

  2. I find today’s slowcookers all cook at a boil and are too hot. Buy a PID controller , and if you have a slow cooker that is not programmable, but has hi, low, warm and off you are in business. Plug the slow cooker into the PID, set the cooker to hi and you can control finitely the temperature and length of time you cook. Stews and braises are particularly good and you can also in a pinch (if the slow cooker is large enough) use it for sous vide. Sous vide recipes for stews and braises but i grossed up for much larger volumes are ideal for the length of time and the temperatures used. This is the only way I cook stews and braises now. The best advantage is that they cook unwatched for hours or days if necessary and never over cook.

  3. I would LOVE to learn how to slow cook in a slow cooker, but which brand and model to get? Any chance of seeing a review on recommended slow cookers by Culinaria? My head is spinning out of orbit after reading rowdy and regretful user comments on slow cookers at AmazonDotCom, Bed Bath & Beyond and Best Buy. Whew! Many thanks!!!

      1. Hi Sherry, I am somewhat of a slow cooker freak. Love, love, love my slow cooker. I don’t use anything fancy, a 6 qt Cuisinart round cooker with low, High and keep warm settings. I use it constantly and find that most recipes are set for this size. Now I know there are fancy ones (depending on your budget) that delay cooking (which could be handy), have timers and more settings. I personally like the simplicity of this one. No programming, super simple, most everything I cook on low anyway and it is pretty accurate for the recipes that I follow for the times they have set out. I also find that slow cooker recipes are very forgiving on the time anyway. A little over (so without the timer it isn’t too bad) really doesn’t cause too many problems. So if your budget is around the $50.00 mark I would suggest this beauty. I haven’t had any complaints yet from the recipients of the mouth watering items that have come from its interior. Bon appetite!

    1. Hi Sherry, I have 2 Crock-Pots. The older of my 2 is a 4.5 quart Rival with a removable (decorative) round pot. This one has only HI, Low and Warm settings, so I use it for things like stew or soup or stock that don’t need to turn off and a little more cooking won’t hurt. It’s also nice to be able to remove the pot and take it straight to the table. The newer, and fast becoming a favourite, is the 8.0 quart Deni programable slow cooker. This is a ferrari of Crock Pots. It browns, steams, slow cooks and pressure cooks on 3 different pressures. It has a locking lid so no chance of peeking. If I need to only slow cook something for 4 or 5 hours I can program it to do just that amount of time and it shuts off so no risk of over cooking. I can also delay the cooking for up to 8 hours so everything is ready when I want it. The only down side with this one is that it takes up a lot of room on the counter, and the removable pot is not terribly attractive being steel with a baked non-stick ceramic coating. I know they have smaller versions of this brand so that might work for you too, my Mom has a smaller one. I hope this is helpful.

    2. Hi Sherry,

      About a year ago, my husband bought me a Crock Pot SCVT650-PS 6 1/2 quart programmable touchscreen slow cooker. While they are touch more expensive than your department store variety (about $80 on amazon), I have found mine to be worth every penny. It is super easy to use, and cooking times are very accurate. This is the 4th crock pot I have owned and is by far the best. Happy cooking to you.

  4. Oh my, but for years we looked down our noses at them, now didn’t we? I have however seen the light, and I embrace my Crock pot wholeheartedly. For everything from pork cooked in milk to a hearty beef stew, my Crock pot does me proud. I am glad to see them getting the “ink” they deserve.

    1. I couldn’t agree more, AdriBarr. I have endured much eye-rolling when I mention my Crock pot. Its time to pull them out of storage!

  5. I have nothing but good to say about slow cookers. Slow cooking, whether in a “Crock pot,” a low oven, or an ancient pot buried in coals, is a long-standing and well-regarded method for creating wonderful flavors. Not to mention the convenience. I’d much rather be able to leave home for errands than to tend a slow-cooking pot for hours on end. Thanks for bringing a positive light to these very useful appliances.

  6. What a great post about the pleasures of a slow cooker. I still recall my first one, an orange- and brown-striped round beauty that I used in the swinging ’80s. I love my slow cooker even more now. I prep most of the ingredients the night before and sauté the last bits in the morning before I toss it all together, click the switch, and go. When I arrive home in the late afternoon, it’s as if someone has been cooking all day! When I discovered Laura Frankel’s cookbook on Jewish slow cooking, I resolved to think and cook out of the box in categories like appetizers and breakfast. For kosher keepers, a cookbook on the subject that’s essential and that I highly recommend is the one by the executive chef at Wolfgang Puck’s KOSHER resto at the Spertus Museum in Chicago.

    1. Liz, terrifically helpful information, many, many thanks for sharing. Tell us, if you could make just one thing in your slow cooker for the rest of your life, what would it be?

      1. As much as I love exploring and writing about new twists on kosher friendly foods, I would resort to my roots and slow cook a garlicky brisket with rosemary and plenty of red wine!

  7. I’m glad to see some great slow cooker recipes. I use my Crock Pot at least once a week and make a variety of entrees (it is a great sanity saver, as Lindsay points out, when you can’t be everywhere at once). I can’t remember the last time I made a soup or stew in mine, since I always seem to have something else cooking, to the point that you made about soups have moved to the stove top! Looking forward to trying some of the new ideas.

      1. Hi Renee, one of the more unusual cold-weather items I like to make is a ham (I always use leftovers) and potato dish with a cheddar and white sauce with dijon mustard that cooks into the ingredients that is crazy good. When the green chilis are ripe in the fall, I always fix a green chili pork roast that falls apart and is perfect on warm tortillas. Then there is the Greek chicken pieces cooked with garlic, oregano, and potatoes that I serve with feta and fresh radishes and parsley. And of course we have to have our roasted beast with root vegetables :-) I could go on and on (as you can tell), but will spare you for now. Thanks for asking and I look forward to some more intriging receipes to come from here.

  8. I’m still using an avocado Crock Pot that was given to me at my wedding in 1974 & hate to use it because the crock can’t be removed so it’s a pain to wash. I’ve also got a tiny Crock Pot for dips, and recently bought an oval 5-quart slow cooker which is still in the box. I’ve been looking for a recipe to christen it. You’ve given me some options.

    1. Ah, avocado green from the ’70s. We know that color well, Martha. Lovely to hear we were able to be of use. Look forward hearing which recipes become regulars in your rotation.

  9. I love my slow cookers! Yes, that was plural. One I use every time I make spiced cider and it keeps it nice and warm without boiling or burning it. The other is an oval shape and I love it for stews, soups, etc. I often brown the meat first–but there is nothing like walking into a home that smells wonderful and dinner already cooking!

    1. Abbe, if I did–after all these years of railing against the machine (if you will)–you can, too. I never, ever thought one of those would defile my kitchen, but I have to say as I write this I have the chicken stock recipe cooking away.

      1. Too freaking cold is right, Debie. I love in the South and snow is in the forecast. Time for some soup in the slow cooker.

  10. Oh my word… It’s literally 3°F out and I can’t quit staring at the pictures of that gorgeous slow-cooker food you have up there, most especially the papparadelle and slow-cooked meat. I almost want to sit in a slow-cooker full of that stuff. Too much? Sorry. I’m cold and hungry. :-)

    1. Heh. Not, not too much, Rebecca. We are right there with you in terms of wanting to slink into a slow-cooker of lusciousness. Let us know which recipes become your favorites…

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