Did you know that you have a secret weapon in your kitchen? One thing that will help you make delicious dinners, tasty breakfasts, feasts for game day and impressive treats for your in-laws? You do – it’s called a slow cooker. Here’s our guide to getting that humble appliance out on the counter and making delicious meals for you and your family.
If said slow cooker is still in the box that your mother-in-law dropped it off in, you might need a primer. Slow cookers are super-easy to use, but there are a few things to remember. First of all, slow cooking is…slow. Yes, you can turn the heat up to high and cut the cooking time to four hours or so, but that’s often not the best strategy. Plan ahead! Remember also that if you’re cooking with kidney beans or other dry beans that contain high levels of phytohaemagglutinin, a toxin that can cause powerful stomach cramps and nausea, that you need to prepare the beans properly by boiling. A slow cooker will not get hot enough to neutralize the toxin.
Almost everything that will come out of a well-planned slow cooker will be delicious, but there are some basic rules to follow. Brown meat prior to adding to the pot to get a lovely caramelized crust. Don’t peek once things are underway – you’ll only lengthen the cooking time. Don’t add too much liquid. The slow cooker lid will prevent evaporation, so you only need a touch. Also, skip the prime rib and head straight for the chuck; the prime rib won’t stand up well to the long, slow heat.
One last tip – coat the inside of the slow cooker with a small amount of vegetable oil before putting food in there. It makes clean-up a snap.
[More at Jamie Oliver]
Get The Basics Down
First things first: stews, chilis and soups. Start with a beefy chili recipe, like this tasty Chowhound recipe (top with scallions, sour cream and cheddar cheese, naturally). Be sure to add a delicious turkey option to your arsenal and a healthy, fiber-filled veggie option (great for lunches!).
Get some serious mileage out of cheap beef with an Irish stew, and be sure to bookmark this collection of delicious soup options (Moroccan tomato soup, anyone?). Slightly more involved, but so worth it? This slow cooker chicken tikka masala (perfect for dinner after a fun family-focused day outside).
[More from Allrecipes]
Save Time, Money and Your Sanity
Always short of time, money or both? Your slow cooker can help with that.
Take an hour on the weekend to prepare some emergency dinners: frozen meals that you stock up in preparation for life’s craziest moments. When you’ve completely run out of time, just pull a bag from the freezer and dump it into the slow cooker. There is a great starter collection of pre-organized meals that you can just ‘dump’ in your crockpot here.
Slow cookers are also a great way to save money. You can get the best out of cheap ingredients and also make lots of leftovers, so you can avoid spending money on takeout lunches. To get started with dollar-stretching cooking, check out this great collection of tasty recipes, including sausage and kale cassoulet and easy jerk chicken.
[More at Greatist]
Think Beyond The Chili
The biggest mistake you can make for slow cookers? Thinking that you can make chili and stew but nothing more.
Let’s start with breakfast. You can wake up to a delicious bowl of oatmeal (try this tasty pumpkin spice recipe). Not an oatmeal fan? What about cinnamon rolls, French toast casserole with Nutella and caramelized banana or a ginger-chicken congee? Or a delicious sausage and cauliflower hash?
When you’ve finished with the most important meal of the day, you can cook up pizza, bread, baked potatoes, chicken stock and yogurt. Looking to get a little more involved? Make up a big batch of apple butter or bacon jam (great gifts!).
[More at Buzzfeed]
Entertaining Kids, Your Friends and Even Your Mother-In-Law
No matter if you’ve got a party of two or twenty, your slow cooker can help you be the host with the most.
Got everyone coming over to watch the game? Then look no further than this collection of party-ready snacks (also good for when everyone is coming over for book club or family movie night). Heading to a potluck? Try a slow-cooked pizza casserole or chocolate lava cake. Just take the ceramic pot out of your slow cooker and haul it to the party.
Don’t overlook the power of barbecue when you’re entertaining a crowd. Try a delicious slow cooked brisket or this back-to-basics take on pulled pork. If you really want to throw down, consider meltingly delicious baby back ribs with this definitive guide.
[More at Crock Pot Ladies]
Eating healthy, home-cooked meals is much easier with a slow cooker and a library of delicious recipes. Almost any mealtime challenge can be met, and you’re only limited by your imagination. Let’s eat!