Other than my coffee pot, the most used small appliance in my house is the slow cooker. I used to be one of those people that only pulled my slow cooker out during the fall and winter but now I’ve learned, the slow cooker is actually a perfect year around tool in the kitchen. It is such a time save for busy families! Trust me, read a few of my tips and I think I’ll have you rethinking that old crock pot too.
First though…what kind of slow cooker do you need???
My slow cooker was a wedding gift (10 years ago!) and it is used at least 2 (if not 3) times a week. A good slow cooker will last you years and years! Here are my tips:
1. Buy a slow cooker that is oval and not round. You need one that will fit longer cuts of meats (like roasts and briskets) and long spaghetti noodles. Round slow cookers just aren’t as functional.
2. Buy a slow cooker with a high, low and keep warm setting. You’ll be amazed at how much use you can get out of a slow cooker with all 3 settings (sometimes, you have all day to cook, sometimes, just a few hours, and sometimes, you just need to keep your food warm until serving).
3. For dips and small appetizers, use a small slow cooker. Don’t try and make a dip in a large slow cooker. Your slow cooker needs to be at least half full before using it…and a dip won’t do that in a large slow cooker.
4. To me, a 6 to 7 quart slow cooker is ideal for dinners.
Here are some slow cookers that I like right now…
You will have this Calphalon Slow Cooker for years and years. It’s functional and digital and perfect for busy families!
This slow cooker is really affordable and also digital. Plus, it comes with a little mini dipper for sauces and sides.
Your slow cooker doesn’t have to be pricey or fancy…just oval and with settings. Don’t over-think it!
Now…my favorite slow cooker tips…
1. Always use a slow cooker liner. Always. Every time. Never forget. They’re sold next to the foil and Ziploc bags in the grocery store. They usually come 5 to a box. These babies will save you so much time and effort! Cleanup is a BREEZE if you use a liner. Always, always, always use one!
I buy these…right next to my Saran Wrap and such.
2. Always brown your beef before placing it the slow cooker (yes, Mom, I’m talking to you!). Browning your meat beforehand adds so much more flavor and depth to the entire dish. It just takes a few minutes because you’re not cooking it all the way through, you’re just browning it, so do it! Chicken breasts do not require cooking beforehand but any ground meat (beef, chicken or turkey) or large roast or brisket does.
3. Add something fresh to your slow cooker meal when you’re done. I always add some fresh herbs, chopped green onions, cheese, sour cream…something fresh to the top. Just a little something fresh wakens the dish up and gives the whole slow cooker meal an extra oomph!
4. And my very favorite tip…cook chicken in the slow cooker during the day to be used in other recipes at night. So many recipes call for cooked and shredded chicken (sandwiches, pastas, casseroles, tostadas, etc.), but who has time to come home from work and poach chicken and then prepare the meal? Not me! I cook my chicken in the slow cooker with water or chicken stock on low all day and then when I’m ready to make dinner, I pull it out, shred it and I’m ready to go. Such a HUGE time saver! Plus, your chicken will be so tender and moist because it’s been poaching in the slow cooker all day long. You will love me for this tip!
Now, you know I wouldn’t have a slow cooker post without some yummy slow cooker recipes, right?! Here are a few of my faves…and they’re not all dinners…
Overnight Oatmeal is perfect for busy families! You let the oatmeal cook all night while you’re sleeping and then when you wake up, breakfast is ready!
Beef Stroganoff in the slow cooker makes my heart happy! It’s warm and cozy and perfect for cold nights.
Fiesta Chicken with Rice is such a simple way to get dinner on the table. Dinner doesn’t have to be fancy to be delicious!
Whether you have a big family or small…single or not, you should invest in a slow cooker. Nothing is better (especially during the cold days of fall and winter) than coming home and smelling your yummy supper bubbling away.
For a complete list of all of my slow cooker recipes, click here.