Do you have a Crock Pot? It is one of my top kitchen appliances. It gets weekly use and we would not have eaten nearly as well as we did when I was in graduate school without it. It is a busy cook’s best friend. Today, I am going to give you some of my knowledge that I have gleaned of my years of use of a crock pot. I am also going to give you some of our family favorites.
Which Slow Cooker to Purchase:
I have used the cheapest model and more expensive ones. I am happy with the results of all of them. Cooks Illustrated has a buyer’s guide on them, and I recommend that you use that as a guide, or just buy whatever is cheap at Target/Walmart/Amazon.
Crock Pot General Tips:
- The crock pot doesn’t lose moisture so if at the end of the cooking time, you think it is has too much liquid, just crank the heat to high and leave the lid off for 20-30 minutes (or as needed, just make sure you are checking on it, you may want to stir it periodically).
- On the liquid note, don’t feel weird when you are mixing a bunch of ingredients that are solid, especially if there is meat, because the meat will release a bunch of juices that mix with spices, etc.
- Dairy is weird in the crock pot, it can separate, so it’s best to add it at the end.
- Do not take the lid off during the cooking, it loses a lot of heat and it adds a lot of time to the cooking. [As tempting as it is to peek.]
- On the whole, crock pots are very forgiving. Set it to whatever the recipe says and most cookers will automatically switch to warm at the end of the time [you need to double check your machine]. Don’t worry if you get home later than you planned. If it is on warm, you are ok for food safety and it’s probably not overcooking.
- Flavors mellow a lot in the slow cooker. I have found I can put what I think is a lot of heat into the machine and at the end of a long cook time, the meal is much less strong. With that said, I have had inedible bean soup that was way too spicy and I like to salt most dishes at the end of the cook time.
Adapting the regular recipes for the Slow Cooker
- I have frequently used the crock pot in recipes where there is a long period of simmering on low heat. I just do all the steps as prescribed and then throw the food in the slow cooker
- I had a lot of success with this, especially The Pioneer Woman’s Burgundy Mushrooms.
- Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches from Tasty Kitchen
- Crock Pot Pork and Apples from Eat Live Run
- Slow Cooker Jerk Chicken from Bakers Royale
- Barbecue Pulled Chicken from Eat Live Run
- Slow Cooker Balsamic Chicken from Skinny Ms.
- Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup from Cooking Classy
- Slow Cooker Texas Chili from Tasty Kitchen
- Paleo Slow Cooker Enchilada Stew from PaleOMG
- Black Bean Soup
- Chicken Cacciatore
- Real Simple has a great article on slow cooker food safety. [The FDA used to have a great resource on food safety and slow cookers. I am a nerd and I read this when I first got mine.]
- The Kitchn has a lovely little list of recipes and the comments are always full of fantastic tips from their smart readers!
- Crock-Pot.com is a commercial website but full of reader submitted recipes and information on different uses.