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converting recipes for slow cooker?

I have a new slow cooker that I want to make the most of. And so I have two questions for everyone:

1)Recommendations on a good slow cooker cookbook? I love the concept of slow cookers, but often the style of recipes for them doesn't quite appeal...I'm hoping for something a little more foodie/hipster.

2)How can I convert recipes that call for oven roasting to use in slow cooker? I like to think that it's as simple as doing the same recipe, but just putting everything in the slow cooker. But I'd hate to waste a big cut of meat finding out that I'm wrong.

Thanks for the help!

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  1. 1) I've heard good things about "Not your mother's slow cooker" cookbook. I haven't used it but the recipes sound good. Mostly avoid a cookbook that tells you to put everything into the crockpot at once. You need to sear the meat and vegetables first. It makes all the difference between mushy/bland and good texture/flavor.

    2) Not that simple as throwing everything in as I said in 1). With any braising, which I think is the best use for a crockpot, you need to sear the meat and the saute the vegetables. Use fatty cuts of meat w/ collagen, not lean meats. You want meats that work well for braising--eg., chuck roasts, short ribs, pork shoulder/boston butt, dark meat chicken. The chicken skin can get rubbery in the slow cooker and it works better to remove it before searing. That said, I don't always do it, but do remove it before eating then. If you convert a recipe for the slow cooker, reduce the liquids but 1-2 cups. The slow cooker doesn't allow for liquid to evaporate, which I think is one of the limitations of the slow cooker. Reducing liquids makes for the intensity of flavor w/ a braise. The other option is to fold a towel under the lid. It'll absorb the liquid.

    For all that, I think it depends on what you want out of your slow cooker. I want it to be as good as I can get from braising on the stove or in the oven. I find it more work because you have more pots to clean but it's nice coming home to a hot dinner. I know a lot of people who are happy to throw everything in w/ a can of condensed soup but I've never had good results from that. You'll find sites and cookbooks that go that route, too. So, it depends on how picky you are about food.

    1. I believe you reduce your liquid by about half when trying other recipes. Of course, if there is no liquid you may want to add some?

      If you are looking for a good book to try: Rick Rodger's Book. It is a little more work as he suggests a little more prep: browning your meat before putting it in the cooker, for example. In the end it is worth doing. Probably not for someone that wants to dump and go. There are only so many recipes that allow you to do that dump n' go. If you want more variety and better quality it's worth doing some sauteeing before you turn your cooker on.
      Prep the night before chill and throw it all in the cooker in the morning. Or cook overnight and refrigerate in the a.m. Cook on the weekends and refrigerate or freeze for the week. Whatever works for you.

      Rick Rodgers: http://www.amazon.com/Slow-Cooker-Rea...

      These books have also been suggested on Chowhound but I have no experience with them myself. Mable Hoffman http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_nos...

      Good Luck!

      1. I have both Gourmet boks for the slow cooker and use them often especially during the winter;

        The Gourmet Slow Cooker: Simple and Sophisticated Meals from Around the World by Lynn Alley
        The Gourmet Slow Cooker, Volume II: Regional Comfort-Food Classics by Lynn Alley

        Almost all stove top and oven braising recipes can be converted to the slow cooker. Just remember:
        30 minutes stove-top = 2 hours in the slow cooker on Low.

        Some meats do very well by the dump and go method. But the best results come from browning/searing in a skillet first. My favorite thing to do is dry beans. That's a case where everything goes into the SC at the same time. Yesterday it was black beans with smoked ham hocks, a chopped onion and 2 bay leaves and 6 cups water. In at 9:00AM finished at 5:00PM. Didn't even presoak the beans...! Pulled pork or chicken is wonderful as is chili. Also chicken or other stocks. Have fun.

        1. Agreed on the pre-searing. Makes a huge difference. A few months ago, I took a 8 pound pork shoulder roast, seasoned it simply, seared it, and popped it into the crock pot (barely fit in, I had to really shove the corners down). 8 hours later, I pulled it out and put it under the broiler for about 7-8 minutes. Good Lord. That was one of the better pork roasts I've made.

          Just keep in mind that the crock pot can't give you the tastes that come from the Maillard reaction (when browning) or the textural differences (and Maillard reactions) that come from a shot under the broiler. If you can recreate those in other ways - before and/or after the crock - you'll be in dandy shape with converting just about any stove-top recipe.

          1. Plus one on the advice to pan searing.

            I believe that is one of the reason this SmittenKitchen brisket recipe has been such a success for me:

            http://smittenkitchen.com/2010/01/sou...

            And while I do not have this cookbook yet, I am champing at the bit for it:

            The Indian Slow Cooker
            http://www.amazon.com/Indian-Slow-Coo...

            4 Replies
            1. re: allgimbel

              I got the Indian slow cooker book yesterday! ANything you want to know about it/contents?

              1. re: MoCoMe

                Thanks MoCoMe! How does it look? Is there any particular recipe or technique that jumps out at you?

                And how accessible does it look for a lover of indian food, but not of multi-step, complicated processes?

                The Amazon reviews look very positive.

                1. re: allgimbel

                  I don't like multi step processes and things that take lots of ingredients.
                  I think the recipes are manageable. several recipes involve a food processor or immersion blender to make the spice/onion puree. lots of ingredients, but the spices over and over, so it's not so cumbersome

                  Indian Slow Cooker book info:

                  several pages on spices and pantry items you need to get. first recipe is on p. 51!

                  chapters:

                  lentils
                  beans & peas
                  vegetables
                  meats
                  sides & desserts

                  here's a summary of the chicketn tikka masala recipe
                  chicken:
                  marinate overnight in:
                  yogurt, lemon juice, ginger garlic chile powder, paprika, salt pepper, cinnamon

                  make the masala:

                  blanch tomatos,
                  in food proc: onion garlic, chiles, tomato paste, garam masala, coriander red chile powder, salt, brown sugar, almonds, cinnamon, water. make in to paste. add tomatos and pulse

                  add to slow cooker
                  add marinated chicken to slow cooker
                  cook on high 6-8 hours
                  add cream and cilantro at end

                  1. re: MoCoMe

                    I think I'll be picking this up over the weekend, based on your comments above. Thanks for taking the time!

            2. "How can I convert recipes that call for oven roasting to use in slow cooker?"
              Easiest way I know of is to understand your slow cooker. Most of them cook at two or more levels so not everything cooks "slow". If you're interested in actually slow cooking, think "braise", keep the heat level low enough to perform that task and convert your recipes on that basis.

              1. Here's a primer on Epicurious. http://www.epicurious.com/articlesgui...

                Cooking Light has a char siu pork recipe I like. Also, a Provencal Beef Daube recipe that's pretty good. I just bought a book called the Italian Slow Cooker that is pretty appealing. I've only made a couple recipes from it, but they've both been solid. Not amazing, but very good for the amount of effort required.

                ~TDQ