Get that Slow Cooker to Work for You

The slow cooker is one of my best friends. Who else will prep a hot meal for you, while you go galivanting about? Truly, a must-have in your kitchen.

Now, years ago, I started looking for recipes that were crockpot friendly. I was sorely disappointed in what I found. And I must say that not everything you toss in the pot comes out tasting good. We’ve had lots of train wrecks. Lots.

But, I found Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook and that changed a lot for me. This book by one of my favorite cookbook authors, Beth Hensperger, explains the science behind the slow cooker and offers tips and tricks to make your slow cooking successful.

One of my take-aways was that the cooker works best at 2/3 capacity. Don’t overfill or underfill. After reading that I invested in two more size cookers so that I have a range of pots to choose from.

Slow cooked meals are ideal for busy nights when you know you need to eat and then get on with the evening. Here are some of our favorite slow cooker recipes:

Salsa Verde Beef

Carnitas

Crockpot Red Sauce (great for both pasta and pizza!)

Crockpot Applesauce

 Crockpot Enchiladas

What’s YOUR go-to slow cooker recipe?

Feel free to share links in the comments section.

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Comments

  1. As a working mom with two young kids, our crock pot is my salvation (assuming I remember to prep the meal the night before!). I’ve become a big fan of cooking a whole chicken in my crock pot, then using the meat in recipes.

  2. I’m looking forward to reading everyone’s thoughts – I do like my slow cooker but suddenly this year it’s become a higher priority – kids activities have me in a mad dash 3 nights each week – so I’m trying hard to find new ideas – looking forward to trying the carnitas recipe I have saved from you before!

    That said, one thing I love my crockpot for is carmelizing onions – works quick and I freeze in batches so I have it on hand – I have one child who would eat a plate of onions for dinner LOL – but it’s great to add to quite a few meals

  3. I love anything I can put in the crock pot and use later for several different meals. Like… I use Pollo Colorado (http://www.pennysaved-pennyearned.com/blog/2011/07/foodie-pollo-colorado/) for a lot of different Mexican recipes. I love using my Beef Roast (http://www.pennysaved-pennyearned.com/blog/2011/01/in-the-crock-pot-beef-roast/) for Shepherd’s Pie, Beef Stew, Hash, and so much more. Oh, and Boston Butt (http://www.pennysaved-pennyearned.com/blog/2011/01/in-the-crock-pot-boston-butt/) is fabulous to have in the freezer. I’m always prepared for BBQ pulled pork, taquitos and a bunch of other fun football food.

  4. Thanks so much for the recommendation on this cookbook. I saw it on your site a couple of weeks ago, and I bought it used from Amazon after I got a look at it from my local library. =) Soooo great…. not a can of condensed soup in sight, really.

    We’re trying the Chili Sin Carne tonight, but I cheated. I didn’t saute any of the veggies, and I’m going to cook it longer. Can you cheat like this and have it come out well? I don’t have time to saute veggies for a crockpot recipe with a new baby in the house….

    • @Ellen, you can. Just know that typically the flavor and texture is better if you saute. One thing to keep in mind is that you could saute the vegetables ahead of time, like the night before, when you do have some free moments. It won’t hurt them to chill before adding them to the pot in the morning. I do this when I have lots from my produce box that I need to use up. Then, I freeze the vegetables in 1 cup batches to add to soups, stews, and sauces later. Instant flavor and fiber that’s convenient.

  5. Oh, and what do you find is the best size medium crockpot? I have a large, but I’m realizing that a lot of the recipes are for the medium size…

  6. I love my slow cooker! It’s my go to appliance–especially on busy weekends. I love using it to cook whole chickens and dried beans. It’s great to throw something in before work and have it ready when I get home.

    My husband bought me the book Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker and I found that I didn’t love it. So many of the recipes seemed to require additional work (like browning meat or sauteeing ingredients) before putting them in the slow cooker. It just didn’t work for me. However, I definitely love Beth’s bread books. My copies are completely dog-eared and well-loved!

    • I getcha on the extra work. At the same time, I do think that browning can add a LOT of flavor to a dish. Glad you found what works for you!

  7. I love my crockpots. Yes I have 3 and a large roaster. I am a Teacher and find them to be so worth it. I use them one at a time to make a meal, all at once to keep foods hot for family gatherings, and at the same time on my days off to prep for the freezer. This week we had a couple days off for fall break and I have done two full crocks of applesauce, one crock of some extra tomatoes to later add to a dish, and I also plan to do up some red sauce for different meals.

    Just a suggestion for anyone that wants another crock pot. The last couple of years kohl’s has had some very cheap with a rebate for the day after thanksgiving. Last year I think I spent less than $10 might have been less than $5 with coupon to get my third one.

    I can’t wait to also try to make rice in one. I just found out this week that they can be used as a rice cooker.

  8. My MIL gave me a crock pot a few years ago that is actually 3-in-1. There is just one base but 3 different bowls (sm, med, and lg), which nest together. I’d hate to have to find storage space for multiple pots. If you are in the market for a new crock pot, I recommend persuing this option.

  9. I have chili in my slow cooker right now!!. :) My favorite thing to make is <a href="MindfullyFrugalMom“>Moroccan Chicken

  10. I now have 2 crock pots, both are small 3 qt ones I got one from a friend and the other, I kind of inherited from my aunt’s house after she passed away (it was brand new in the box!) I really want to use them but I’m a bit afraid of leaving it on when I am not home to keep an eye on it…. somebody convince me it’s okay!

    • @ter@waaoms, A slow cooker uses essentially the same amount of power as a regular lightbulb. As long as you place it on a clean counter with nothing on or around it, you don’t need to worry at all. Not having to worry is one of the best things about a slow cooker! :)

  11. Thank you! I have been trying to use my crockpot now during basketball season, but I am not a fan of most of the recipes, but I have found a couple that are good. I am not a meat eater, well, not a big one, so just making roasts in it, doesn’t work.
    But it is really helping!

  12. I have this book and love it too. My favorite is the Orange Hoisin Chicken. Tastes and smells incredibly good, and you can start out with frozen chicken! I never used to buy those individual frozen chicken breasts, but now I try to always have some on hand for this recipe.

  13. I need to get my crockpot in gear in November. I have so many meetings next month but my crockpot can help me get dinner on the table even if I’m not home.

  14. My favorite recipe for the crockpot is French Stew (http://www.sidetrackedsarah.com/2011/10/french-stew-freezer-to-crockpot.html). My husband says I can make it every week if I want to. :)

    I have that crockpot book and seemed like I couldn’t get into it either, probably because of the prep work. I should pull it back out to see if anything jumps at me, because I try to eat out of my crockpot as often as possible. Otherwise, we’re not eating dinner until 8!

  15. My current favorite slow cooker recipe is Vegetarian Chili!

    http://holisticsisters.blogspot.com/2011/10/vegetarian-chili.html

  16. I also love my slow cooker! I use it for baking, caramelizing, stewing and simmering. Absolutely love it! Donna-Marie Pye has another great slow cooker book called The Best Family Slow Cooker Recipes. I make the gingerbread from her book every Christmas and her vegetarian chili is fantastic. So is the meatloaf, stuffing, cacciatore chicken, cheesecake… … … It’s an excellent resource!

    I also found a slow cooker book at the library by America’s Test Kitchen. They layered items in the crock using foil or parchment, so you could cook vegetables/rice/potatoes separate from the meat. It’s an innovative way to get your whole dinner in the crock without mashing it all together!

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