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Help me love my crockpot...or not...

We got our crockpot, which is a pretty decent-sized, oval-shaped one, nearly 10 years ago as a wedding present. I've used it for exactly 2 things- to cook bean soup and to make queso dip. I made both a handful of times before I discovered that it was easier for me to just do them on the stovetop.

That's my overall issue with crockpot cooking. I got one of those "Fix it and Forget it" cookbooks, but everytime I've pulled it out, I end up modifying the recipe for my stovetop. If something tastes better via slow cooking, like the bean soup, I use my dutch oven.

I'm guessing I'd use the thing more if I worked outside of the home. I can see how it'd be convenient. But I'm home all day, so it always feel easier to me to just use my stovetop. I typically start dinner around 4 or so (unless it's something that cooks slow, like chili or bean soup), as we like to eat around 5 or 5:30pm.

Are there any benefits to the crockpot that I'm just not seeing? Or is it time to pass it on to a new home?

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  1. OMG...love mine especially in the hot humid summers here in FL...doesn't heat up the kitchen and make the a/c run triple time like if I use my oven. So, to me, it's very economical. Okay, and I work, so it's nice to have it all ready when I come home from work. It may not be a useful item for you with your lifestyle, though...you could donate it or give it to someone just starting out, college student, maybe sell it on craigslist or at a garage sale, etc. Oh, also, they're nice for entertaining...if you make pulled pork or chicken, it's great to serve it right from the crockpot and keep it warm at the same time. DF, there ARE some very good recipes on the Home Cooking board for crockpots if you care to check them out...janniecooks' Thai Chicken Thighs are really great.

    1. Ours has been great for parties - either at home or away. Keeps dips, meatballs, bbq, chili, and just about anything else nice and warm. You can even get an adapter for the 12 volt in your car. Great for tailgating!

      1 Reply
      1. re: mojoeater

        I didn't even think about the tailgaiting/picnic idea...that's pretty smart.

      2. Beef shanks, veal shanks and whole briskets/corned beef are the items that we put in the crock-pot the most. These items must undergo some browning on the grille or in a hot skillet before they're surrounded by seasoned wine/broth and lots of mire poix. We find the tender results (after about 10 hours of cooking) absolutely delectable.

        1. Neither my cooktop nor my oven allows me as low and slow as I want at times. I've been making chicken stock in it exclusively for a year or two and it's the best. And, yes, I agree with shaogo, I always brown first and if using vegetables, I'll saute them first. I use my slow cooker year round. Couldn't live without it.

          1. I use mine primarily for sous vide cooking, in conjunction with a PID. Its excellent for that, and not something i could really accomplish in the oven.

            Besides that, it's useful for any time I'm cooking a lot of food - like for a party. It takes pressure off my limited stove top and oven space. I'll start off a braise in a pan, deglaze, and transfer to the slow cooker so that my oven is still free for other preparations.

            I know some people swear by it to make stock.

            Or as others have mentioned, it's good for any time you want to serve something hot (and moist) over a period of several hours.

            1. I suppose if you want to cook something for hours and hours at very low heat, then it is better than stovetop -- even if you are at home all day. Some people also slow cook their meat overnight. In that case, many people find it safer to slow cook a pot of meat in an electric slow cooker while they are sleeping as oppose to cooking it on stovetop.

              1. If you're home all day, I think you do get better results on the stove or in the oven. I also don't believe in those "dump everything in" recipes for the crockpot. I use mine all the time because I'm home late mornings and can prep everything and put it in and then I'm out until dinner.

                Other than that, it is useful for dinner parties sometimes. Yesterday, we ran out of stove space so I moved the simmering collard greens into it to free up space. I've made bread pudding in it when I have no oven space. It keeps warm drinks warm, eg hot apple cider. Chicken stock is easy, but no easier than doing it on the stove, if you're home. I use my little crockpot (came free) for fondue.

                It's good for braises--if you start cooking at 4, you can't finish a good braised dish by 5 or 5:30. But, you can't get a decent dinner out of the crockpot in that short of a time, either.

                1 Reply
                1. re: chowser

                  Good point, esp. the part abot freeing up your oven when you're needing it for other stuff. Thanks!

                2. Best for the slow cooking part of recipes that are otherwise slow cooked on the stove or in the oven: Stews, tagines, soups. For best results, do the usual browning, sauteing, etc-ing before putting the stuff in the slow cooker, and don't add much liquid as there is no significant evaporation.

                  1. Also, collards and Chinese Cow Beans, which must be simmered in meaty broth a long time, also come out marvelously in our crock pot.

                    And don't even get me started on the juicy, delicious soy-sauce chicken, Chinese style.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: shaogo

                      Dream on, buddy. You brought up the soy-sauce chicken. I demand details :) Please?

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Place a chicken in a plastic bag (we use doubled-up veggie bags from the store) and add to it 2T minced garlic, 2T minced ginger, a few cut-up scallions, greens and all, lots of black pepper and then fill with a mixture of 3/4 soy and 1/4 white wine. It's in a bag so the marinade doesn't miss any of the part of the chicken. Tie it up let it sit in a pot or whatever in the fridge for up to four days. Then fire up the oven and roast at 400F until cooked, approximately an hour. You might want to mix the marinade separate from the chicken and hold some back as a dipping sauce for the room-temperature breast of the chicken. Now, for a real treat serve with chili paste that you've doctored up with some sesame oil, as another dip on the side.

                        1. re: shaogo

                          Oh wow! And do you do it in the slow cooker also? If so, do you brown it first? Seriously good sounding. Need to buy a larger bottle of shoyu :)

                    2. A couple of years ago I got a tip from CH to make holiday mashed potatoes the day before and reheating in the slowcooker. Best I've ever had. And something that required NO attention the day of the meal.