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

Comments

  1. Someone’s dissing slow cookers? Whoever you are, meet me out the back.

    Serious business though, the slow cooker is the lifesaver in the kitchen. While they are not often the most flashy cooking device, but they don’t need to be. I have got one at home, which is at least ten years old as I type and the girl is still doing me well (one dial going left to right – off-warm-low-high). It is to the point that I ensure, it is a Sabbath tradition: I find a low-fuss meal to prepare the night beforehand (any fuss here does not count, m’kay?) and have it bubbling throughout the night up until around noon after church services. That is when I can go traditional, cheap as a cheapskate, or inventive with fairly basic items.

    Heck, through that method, I have found a way to up the game on taco night. Doing some of those slow cooker meats makes great taco filling, with your carnitas as a good example. Try this: https://bakeitwithlove.com/slow-cooker-crack-chicken/ or this: https://strengthandsunshine.com/slow-cooker-salsa-chicken/#tasty-recipes-20239 as some good examples. Those are taco nights on boss mode. I reserve God mode for Mexicans.

    The slow cooker really shines with getting the worst cuts of meat and turning them into buttery goodness. A good spice rub helps a lot with that. Some of my most well-received slow cooker meals are little more than pulled pork or carnitas. Then the more elaborate meals like French stews get the “it’s fine” treatment. Plus it is not regulated to a single kind of meal – bacon jam as an example.

    It is awesome for those struggling because the smell and aroma are comforting. A long day at work, and getting home needing to think about cooking – but the slow cooker would take care of that – yippie! This recipe would get the most out of that: https://www.slowcookerclub.com/slow-cooker-chicken-bhuna/ Walkthrough that door, or wake up (like it would happen on Sabbath in my house) and the aromas are welcoming. Plus, unlike baking in the oven, cooking on the stove, or anything else, you don’t need to be too wary of time. A couple more hours in the crockpot will not kill the food, but it might make the flavours better.

    Win-win-win-win-win! Long story short, I’m in Queensland Australia, where winter does not exist, and I am team slow cooker all the way.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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,

      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.
      Natalie

    2. 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.

      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!

  5. 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!

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