There was a time when I didn’t have much interest in using a slow cooker. I enjoyed taking time to cook slowly on the stove top and in the oven. I already had a number of appliances taking up room in my cabinets, including my beloved Dutch oven. I knew people raved about them, but I just didn’t get the appeal.
Well, times have changed my friends, and not surprisingly these changes were spurred at least partly by the arrival of a ridiculously cute but crazy active little girl into our lives.
It isn’t so much that one needs a slow cooker – you can get along perfectly well without one. But there is something magical about putting ordinary, bland boneless skinless chicken breasts into the ceramic pot and have them come out 4-5 hours later tender, succulent and great for all manner of sandwiches, wraps and other meals. And don’t get me started on pulled pork.
I would even argue that a slow cooker does not necessarily save you gobs of time – if you want to keep meals simple, there are lots of options that you can whip up in 10-15 minutes (omelets, anyone?), and there are often steps such as chopping, peeling and browning to be taken before placing ingredients in the cooker.
But for me at least, I love slow cooking for the convenience factor. Most obviously, you can place your meal in the pot at the beginning of the day, enjoy wafting scents of slow cooking food throughout the day, and have a hot dinner waiting for you at 5 PM or whenever you eat. Most slow cookers have warming features that will keep food hot after it is finished cooking so it will be ready when you need it. You also do not need to babysit a slow cooker, and most come with varying options (high, low) to adjust for the amount of time you have. If you need to be out of the house for several hours, or you don’t want to be checking a stew every half an hour while a toddler pulls at your pants leg, your meal will cook for you worry-free.
Additionally, slow cookers are great for large meals that will yield leftovers for later meals, reducing your kitchen time even more. They also do not generate much heat (fantastic in the summer months), and free up space in appliances such as the oven for multiple dishes. And with a little planning, prepping slow cooker meals during busy pockets of time can be kept to a minimum. There are also many options besides standard dinner fare that can be made in the slow cooker: breakfast, snacks, baked goods and even desserts.
However, while these are all fantastic reasons to own a slow cooker, perhaps my favorite is that, for certain dishes, the slow and gentle cooking does amazing things for flavor and texture as well. Poach or bake a basic skinless, boneless chicken breast and it is just okay. Slow cook it for a few hours and it is melt-in-your-mouth tender.
So while there are some who may sniff at the use of a slow cooker, after eight months of steady use I am sold! The following are some of my favorite dishes so far that I have made multiple times, linked to where in internet-land you can find the recipes.
- Overnight Oatmeal with Apricots and Buttermilk from The Kitchn
- Slow Cooker Chicken Burrito Bowls: More Kitchn love!
- Slow Cooker Beef and Broccoli from The Recipe Critic
- Slow Cooker Greek Chicken Pitas from Raise Healthy Eaters
- Crock Pot Pulled Pork from 100 Days of Real Food
What are your favorite slow cooker recipes? I’d love to hear!