A slow cooker is one of the most popular kitchen appliances on the market, and for good reason. They’re inexpensive, easy to use, and they can help you create delicious meals with minimal effort!
That makes a slow cooker a staple appliance for any kitchen. Not only will they save you time, but a lot of money as you can skip the drive-through when your family schedule is chaotic!
Here is your guide on how to use a slow cooker, plus the best tips to get the most out of it!
If you want something so tender that you can literally cut it with a fork or if you’re looking for recipes that utilize budget-friendly cuts of meat, a slow cooker is about to become your very best friend.
With low and slow cooking, even the toughest cuts of meat can finish as a gourmet delicacy. The slow cooker, or crockpot, allows you to add all your ingredients into the pot at once before heading off to work for the day. Hours later when you return home, voila! Dinner is ready and your house smells like a fine dining restaurant!
It is as simple as tossing in your food, turning it on, and letting the magic happen.
The first thing you’ll do is gather and prepare your ingredients to layer into your slow cooker. Wash, slice, and dice! It is best to put the things like potatoes, thick-cut slices of onion, or other hard root vegetables at the bottom of the pot. The food that cooks faster should go on the top.
Once you add all your ingredients, secure your lid. While many slow cookers have locks on your top, those are usually more for transporting your food to a different location than actually being used while cooking.
Then you simply turn on the heat to the right temperature. Depending on how long you have until your meal will determine if you use low or high. Low usually takes double the amount of time to cook as high, but yields a more tender final result.
Set it and forget it. Go do other things and let the appliance do its job. There is no need to micromanage your meal so check other important things off your list while knowing that dinner is cover
Once it is finished, stir it thoroughly, scoop your meal out, and enjoy!
- Don’t open the lid! This is just like opening the oven door while you are baking something. While it is tempting to see if your food is thoroughly cooked, opening the lid just adds more time to cook. Know ahead of time when your food will be done, so you don’t have to open the top.
- Don’t underfill or overfill. When you underfill your pot, it can start to burn your food after some time. However, you also cannot overload it or else the food will not cook properly. It is best to have your slow cooker ½ to ⅔ full.
- Meal prep ahead of time. If you are really running low on time, it is best to meal prep before making your dinner. Take a little time on your day off to cut up all your veggies, brown your meat, and put it all into a Ziploc (use amazon affiliate like) bag. This will help you just toss the contents into your slow cooker and get cooking!
- Add dairy last. Dairy can curdle in the heat. If your recipe calls for dairy, it is best to add it to the last hour of cooking. This will keep the taste and not curdle the dairy!
- Take good care of your slow cooker. The pot can crack when it is exposed to opposite temperatures immediately after using it. Be sure not to place it on a cold surface right after cooking and vice versa.
While most foods work great in a slow cooker, a few foods don’t cook as well as others. You will see recipes for all kinds of food, and they will probably turn out okay, but some things are better cooked on the stove or in an oven.
When cooking with wine or alcohol, it will not cook off and evaporate in a slow cooker. If you use some in your slow cooker recipe, be careful not to add too much! A little goes a long way.
There are literally hundreds of amazing foods you can cook in your slow cooker! Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Any type of soup or stew
- Pulled pork or carne asada for anty kind of Tex-Mex
- Chicken breasts or thighs
- Hamburger helper or mac n cheese
- BBQ chicken
- Lentils or Dried Beans
- Roast with potatoes and carrots
Here are a few recipes that we absolutely love:
- Brown Sugar Garlic Chicken
- Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes
- Cinnamon Casserole
- Slow Cooker Vegetable Soup
- Amazing Vegetarian Lentil Sloppy Joes
You can also make some delicious desserts in your slow cooker too! Try to make some cinnamon rolls, cobbler, brownies, cheesecake, or even rice pudding.
With winter around the corner, use your slow cooker to whip up some mulled cider or even hot chocolate. Have a holiday party to hit? Dips and other appetizers work great in the slow cooker as well!
As you can see, the options are pretty endless.
A slow cooker is one of the best kitchen essentials to save you time and money during your busy schedule. The next time you see an insanely busy window coming up in your schedule, dust off your slow cooker and put it to work!