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

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