Crock pots/slow cookers are amazing. I was given my crock pot when I acquired my very first apartment, and have lugged the heavy thing around with me ever since, learning from my own mother the valuable and many usages of the thing. If you don’t own one–I definitely suggest buying one. They are definitely worth theris weight in gold (probably much more!)
Confused about the differences between a slow cooker and a crock pot? Read here to find out the scoop.
Simple to Use But Requires Patience
They are very easy to use, and it’s very hard to screw up a meal when using one. They are great for pot lucks, family dinners, or even just for a couple, as you can make a lot of food, or just enough.
You can make anything in it, from desserts to breakfast foods–not just stews and soups. And of course, the best part is you can leave it on for hours at a time–go to work, go to sleep–and it makes dinner for you!
The flip side of this, of course, is that using a crock pot requires a lot of patience, and a bit of pre-planning. But if you use your time wisely, it will make your meal-making easy!
Here are some tips I’ve acquired over the years. I hope they add to your cooking experience
Here’s a simple slow cooked meal meal: A 3lb roast, a package of onion soup mix, and 2 cans of Coke/Pepsi (any cola works–but not diet). Season the roast with the onion soup mix, place it in the crock pot, add the soda, and cook on low for about 7-8 hours (you can cut the time on this by cooking on high for about 5 1/2 hours). Great to leave while you sleep, or go to work, and only takes minutes to prepare!
Basically, any meat/veggie combo can go into the slow cooker. If you are a recipe-only person, you can find tons of books on the subject by going to your local bookstore, the library (you won’t have to buy it!), and don’t forget Foodal’s Slow Foods Recipe Category. However, it’s really simple to make an easy meal in your crock pot.
Just make sure your veggies are chopped/cut about the same size, and place the ones that take longer to cook–such as potatoes–on the bottom.
It’s usually not a good idea to fill the vessel to the brim, and definitely isn’t a good idea to fill it less than half. But don’t overdo the liquid factor, unless you’re looking for soup, because a crock pot simmers, not boils.
If you’re making spaghetti, make a jazzed up meat sauce in the crock pot by adding some pre-browned hamburger meat, some oregano, a couple of crushed garlic cloves, some stewed tomatoes, some salt/pepper, and a lot of mozzarella cheese to your jar of pasta sauce, and simmer it all in for an hour or so!
Sauce is something you can vary the recipe on as well; Italian sausage, onions, meatballs, bread crumbs, different spices, peppers, mushrooms, etc.–can all go into the pot with your sauce! As well as different cheeses.
The amount of these additives is better left to the creativity of the cook.
There are many recipes for making sauce from scratch in various crock pot recipe books at the library, but you can jazz up a simple jar of regular store-bought sauce if you don’t have the inclination to make your own.
It’s easy to cook a chicken, or turkey, or game hen, etc., and can be as simple as seasoning the bird with some salt and pepper, and putting it in a greased crock pot with some broth or water—to something more elaborate, such as seasoning the whole thing with many spices, cutting and adding seasoned potatoes, onion, and other veggies, putting them in the bottom pot, and adding sauce, or broth, making sure to cover your vegetables. You can add cheese, or a bay leaf or two or a can of green beans; in fact, whatever variation you can think of you can probably do.
When cooking your bird and veggies, it’s best to “jump start” your cooking for about an hour and a half on high, then letting it cook for about 6-7 hours on low. It may not take as long if you’re not using veggies.
When using noodles in a meal, it’s best to pre-cook them beforehand, and not cook them with your sauce or soup in the crock pot; noodles will absorb liquid, and if you leave your pot on to simmer, can cause burning, and yet another mess!
All sorts of ciders, hot chocolates, even drinks you would let cool down for later, can be made in your crock pot as well, in large quantities (of course), or even small. The advantage here is that you can use ingredients that simmer well, infusing flavor into your drink–such as actual cinnamon sticks, or pumpkin spice, or even a candy cane! Add some vanilla, or other flavoring, food coloring, etc.–the possibilities are endless!
It is easy to find recipes for drinks for your crock pot, and with the Holidays coming up, it would be an easy way to simmer a nice, hot beverage for your guests!
I use my crock pot sometimes several times a week; it is a valuable asset to my cookware. Don’t be afraid to try your own variations and creations.
I hope that these tips help you in your cooking, but even more so–inspire creativity!
About Lynne Jaques
Lynne is a stay-at-home mother of two boys. As a former US military officer and the spouse of an active duty US military member, Lynne enjoys traveling the world (although not the moving part!) and finding new cuisine and methods of preparing food. She also has the habit of using parenthesis way too much!