You probably already know that slow cooking is a hugely convenient way to cook, especially when life gets busy. It's hard to mess up a meal in the slow cooker, as this cooking method is inherently forgiving, but it's still worth learning a few tips and tricks to help you maximally harness that awesome appliance in your kitchen. Believe it or not, there are a few pitfalls to avoid and tricks to try in order to take your slow cooking to the heights it's capable of.
While slow cooking is generally a very forgiving method of cooking, there are still plenty of simple mistakes people tend to make that can sometimes turn this insanely easy, hands off cooking method into a sad disaster. Here are a few tips from us to help you avoid common slip-ups and get the most out of your slow cooker.
So now that you know all the tips, tricks, and best practices, what should you slow cook next? We asked a few of our favorite recipe bloggers what they most love to make in the slow cooker.
"I would recommend 'thinking outside of the crock' and try to use your slow cooker to make many of your family favorite dinners in it. A lot of people think of the slow cooker only as a glorified pot roast machine (and it DOES make a yummy roast!) but you can do so much more. I bake, braise, and steam in my slow cooker often and have tried my hardest to come up with a ton of recipes that use all kinds of food.
"My favorite foods [to make in the slow cooker] are the dinners that ALL of us eat—my husband, my three kids, and me! In our house our own family favorite recipes are Taco Soup, Brown Sugar Chicken, Lasagna, and Sausage and Potato Medley."
Stephanie has more slow cooking insights at A Year of Slow Cooking.
"Remember, your slow cooker isn't just for dinner recipes. It's great for everything from breakfast to dessert!
"[My favorite dish to make in the slow cooker is] CAKE! No really, it's so tender and delicious, you'll be tempted never to use your oven again."
Carolyn has more cooking insights at All Day I Dream About Food.
"I like to use my slow cooker most for stews and soups because it makes the best flavors and you don't have to worry at all about them—just toss everything in, and then enjoy them when they're ready to eat."
Lacy has more cooking insights at A Sweet Pea Chef.
Now that you've been primed with all the tips you need to succeed, let's take a look at 8 delicious recipes that represent the broad range of slow cooking possibilities.
This slow cooked pumpkin spice latte recipe from Arlene at Flour on my Face is perfect for fall, especially for a brunch with friends or on a busy morning with family. It yeilds enough for 6 delicious servings and it's better than any drink you'll find at Starbucks!
While you're over on Arlene's blog, you should also check out her slow cooker Caramel Apple Cake, for more autumn deliciousness.
Betcha didn't know you could make stuffing in the slow cooker! This is a particularly great option for Thanksgiving, when it can be hard to ensure all the food is ready at the same time. It cooks on its own for about 2 and a half hours and comes out soft, moist, and flavorful.
This pepper jack cauliflower from Carolyn at All Day I Dream About Food is one of her most popular recipes, and it's easy to see why! With cream, bacon, and of course pepperjack cheese, this is such a flavorful and satisfying way to eat your veggies. What a tasty reminder that slow cooking isn't just for main dishes.
Speaking of which, have you ever tried baking in the crock pot? Carolyn's Zucchini Bread recipe is a must-try either way!
Some people think noodle dishes are impossible in the slow cooker, but we beg to differ. All you need to do to make this savory chicken lo mein is brown the chicken, then toss everything but the noodles into the slow cooker to simmer beautifully for 6 to 8 hours. When you're ready, prepare the noodles separately and combine everything together—easy peasy!
But that's not the only Asian-inspired dish that works perfectly in the slow cooker! This cashew chicken recipe from Lacey at A Sweet Pea Chef should not be skipped. Tender and moist chicken with a crispy skin is combined with crunchy cashews and tons of other seasonings for a dinner everyone will love.
Looking for something a little lighter? Slow cookers are perfect for soups, and this Split Pea Soup of Lacey's is just the ticket.
Can you tell we love slow cooked chicken? This slow cooker greek chicken pita recipe is perfect when you need to prepare an easy lunch or light dinner. It's fresh and satisfying no matter what time of year it is.
Here to prove that you can make just about everything in the slow cooker, Stephanie of A Year of Slow Cooking presents this crock pot cheesecake recipe. This cheesecake is just as moist and creamy as one made in a traditional springform pan, and because slow cookers do such a good job of retaining moisture, you're not at much risk of cracking the top in the process. Enjoy this with fresh fruit—you won't regret it!
Let's round this out with something a little more traditional for slow cooking. This shredded italian beef from Sarah and Tim at Curious Cuisiniere cooks low and slow for hours so that by the time you need it, it's tender, moist, and ready to be packed into a sandwich with giardiniera (AKA Italian pickled veggies).
Ans last but not least, Sarah and Tim's Slow Cooker Ramen Soup is also perfect for a comforting and hearty dinner.
Sarah and her husband, Tim, run the cultural food blog, Curious Cuisiniere, where they share easy to follow recipes and food history from around the world, inspiring food lovers and home cooks to learn about and experience global cultures from the comfort of their own kitchen.
Stephanie O'Dea, author of A Year of Slow Cooking, is passionate about saving time and effort by slow cooking. In 2008, she spent an entire year using her slow cooker every day, so she's a pro at making her slow cooker work for her—and she loves teaching her readers to do the same.
Lacey Baier authors A Sweet Pea Chef while also caring for her three kids and developing her photography, fitness, and of course cooking skills. She is particularly enthusiastic about designing No-Fail meals that are quick, healthy, easy, cost-effective, and sure to please the whole family.
Carolyn Ketchumm authors All Day I Dream About Food a food blog that focuses mostly on low carb and gluten free recipes. She loves finding ways to bake and cook the recipes she always loved before developing her gluten-free health needs and wants to pass what she's learned on to her readers.
Arlene Mobley, author of Flour on My Face, loves cooking and blogging for the chance to express her creative personality. She is also a stay at home mom of 3 with empty nest syndrome on the horizon and is an excellent resource for those who need to cook for the whole family.
In the market for your first slow cooker, or looking for an upgrade? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Slow Cookers for a helpful buyer's guide—it'll tell you all you need to know before clicking Add To Cart.