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?
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.
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.
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.
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.