Crock-Pots and slow cookers became extremely popular in the 1970s. Subsequently, they dwindled to near extinction before recently undergoing a revival. The best thing about the resurgence of this handy appliance is that now, there are so many more options in slow cooker design (e.g. both manual and digital models, ceramic or stoneware insets, availability of non-stick coatings such as Teflon, portable models and even choices in lid design). During seasons when the weather is cold, and at busy times around the holidays, slow cookers can be invaluable for the following reasons:
- Nutritious and balanced one-pot meals can be prepared inside a slow cooker, cutting down on meal prep time.
- Slow cooker recipes can be set up hours in advance, allowing a hot meal to be ready and waiting for you when you come home from work or school.
- Crock-Pots and slow cookers don’t heat up a kitchen the way an oven can. They also utilize less electricity, cutting down on your energy usage.
- The slowness of the cooking process helps to tenderize less expensive cuts of meat.
Obviously, for people with hectic schedules, the timesaving aspects of slow cooking can be a huge benefit. You may be surprised at the number and variety of mouth-watering recipes that can be made with this relatively low-cost appliance. Below are some suggestions on making meat, soups and stews, and desserts in a slow cooker, and a few yummy recipes to check out:
- All types of meat can be slow-cooked, even whole chickens and large cuts of beef, but for better taste and texture, choose meats that have a firmer texture and are higher in fat, such as chuck roasts, short ribs, pork shoulders, lamb shanks and dark meat chicken. The extra fat makes the meat tender and flavorful when cooked with the moist, low heat of a slow cooker. Leaner meats like chicken breasts and pork tenderloin tend to dry out with when slow-cooked.
- Another tip with meat is to trim the excess fat; otherwise, you’ll wind up with your meal stewing in an unappetizing, greasy liquid. This includes removing the skin from chicken, too.
- If you are cooking meat along with vegetables (potatoes, carrots and onions work well in a slow cooker), make sure you layer the vegetables on the bottom of the cooker and put the meat on top.
- Finally, consider browning your meat and sautéing the vegetables before you put them into the slow cooker. The payoff is food with an extra layer of rich, caramelized flavor.
Try these delicious meat recipes:
Slow Cooker Turkey — Perfect for holiday meals.
Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Meatballs — These make a delicious appetizer or holiday potluck dish.
Crock Pot Ham with Brown Sugar Glaze — Another holiday meal crowd-pleaser.
Soups and Stews:
Combine colder weather with an active family and a crockpot, and voilà — delicious slow cooker stews make the perfect mealtime solution. Stews can be a combination of meat and vegetables, as in Slow Cooker Beef Stew, or tasty vegetarian dishes like Classic Lasagna and Slow Cooker Stuffed Peppers.
- Remember, avoid opening the lid of your cooker while in operation, as this can add considerably to the cooking time required.
- Regarding cooking time and slow cooker settings, it generally takes twice as long to cook a dish on the “low” setting as on “high.” Different recipes call for specific settings to yield the best results.
Soup is another Crock-Pot-friendly dish which can be made using any of countless recipes, with or without meat. To make it even easier, consider using a pre-prepared soup mix, possibly even adding a few additional ingredients of your own. A couple of holiday soup classics to make in a slow cooker include Healthy Crockpot Potato Soup with Chicken and Easy Crockpot Vegetable Lentil Soup.
There is no skimping on decadence when using a slow cooker to make desserts. Crockpots are excellent for making moist cakes and crumbles, and even some kinds of pies, cookie bars and fudge. People with experience using slow cookers to make desserts comment on how easy it can be: “Just dump all the ingredients in and let the slow cooker do the work.” Of course, we love that.
Since the holidays go hand-in-hand with sweet indulgences, check out these recipes:
Slow Cooker Hot Fudge Turtle Brownies — Fulfills every sweet-tooth
Slow Cooker Blueberry Cobbler — Serve a la mode with vanilla ice cream or your favorite whipped cream.
Cookies and Cream Slow Cooker Fudge — Perfect homemade gift
If you threw away your slow cooker sometime during the ‘80s, it’s time to get a new one and try some of the recent recipes made possible with improvements in this appliance. Think of all the gift-wrapping and Santa-letter-writing you could do while your dinner or party recipe is taking care of itself inside your Crock-Pot.