Advice for Slow Cooker Novices

February 02, 2016 Quick & Easy, Slow Cooker Tips

The gift of a slow cooker usually marks a rite of passage — a new home, a wedding, a first child. It is quite a commitment of counter space, but a slow cooker is an investment in the quality of everyday living that comes with home-cooked family meals.

The first time you come home to the aroma of a chili recipe that's simmered all day, or pork shoulder that's roasted tenderly into stew, you know the value of a slow cooker. However, getting started with the appliance can be a little tricky. Many newbies often feel clueless as to how to use their slow cooker and exactly what dinner ideas to put in it.

For all you slow cooker novices, here are my tried-and-true tips and favorite recipes.

" ... my tried-and-true tips and favorite recipes."

Use for Simmering Savory Chili The very best chili recipes earn their reputations because they've been simmered and stirred for hours and hours. From the chopping to the cooking, they require a lot of attention. With a slow cooker, however, a meaty chili recipe comes together with minimal prep and even less attention.

Once the bacon is crisped, and the beef is browned, the work is done. Because a slow cooker on low heat keeps the temperature of the chili constant, and the lid traps the moisture, there is no risk of it burning on the bottom or drying out. After four hours of slow cooking — without any stirring at all, in fact — the chili recipe's veggies, beans and spices come together in savory, almost magical, perfection.

Use for Prepping Meals in Advance Take full advantage of the fact that you can remove the slow cooker bowl from its electric base. It's not just for easy cleaning; it's also for make-ahead meals like this Greek-inspired slow cooker recipe.

Twenty-four hours before you plan to serve the dish, layer all the ingredients into the crock of the cooker. Cut, dice, chop and stir everything together right in the bowl. Then, tightly seal by covering the crock with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it's time to drop it back into its base four hours before supper. Don't think about it again until you're boiling the orzo and getting ready to serve. Plate and garnish the complete meal in minutes.

Use for Cooking Budget Cuts of Meat That is, the fattier, tougher, chewier cuts of meat like pork shoulder, chicken thighs and beef brisket. They're the least-expensive meat cuts you can buy from the butcher department, and they yield brilliantly delicious results in the low temperatures and high moisture of a slow cooker.

Before you head out on your next trip to the grocery, cut out the coupon for chicken thighs and print up this slow cooker stew recipe. Season the chicken simply and stack it right on top of nutrient-rich kale, tomatoes and beans to slow cook all day. Shred the chicken and bring to the dinner table with fluffed white rice to make the meal complete.

Use for Bringing Family to the Table Use the slow cooker to get everyone excited about supper. There's nothing like an afternoon of this slow cooker enchilada recipe perfuming our home to make even my pickiest eaters hungry for dinner.

By the time the dinner bell rings, everyone's already sitting at the table, ready to stuff his own enchiladas with the shredded pork and saucy beans simmered to perfection. No doubt, slow cooked enchiladas are an easy sell when piled high with lettuce, sour cream and cheese. (The only argument is over who gets the last bite.)

Don't let your slow cooker sit unused in a cabinet. Put it to work cooking delectable meals, and it will soon be your favorite timesaving tool in the kitchen.