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I want to love my slow cooker, can you help?

m
mickeygee Dec 28, 2011 01:46 PM

Santa brought a new slow cooker to our house, and I'm thinking it will be helpful in getting dinner on the table, but in my searches I'm wondering if it's really any easier than cooking on the stovetop or oven. I've seen warnings about leaving it on all day, or even if I do, most recipes call for only 5-6 hours of cooking time and I'm out of the house for closer to 10. And while I understand that browning will improve flavor, the whole point is that I don't have time to stand at the stovetop cooking. So help me fall in love with it.

So far, I'm seeing pulled pork as a great option - anything else?

  1. c
    catcherinthewheat Dec 28, 2011 01:57 PM

    Countless stews and soups can be made in it, as well as apple sauce if you're short for time.
    Umm, chicken and barley is always good.
    Going to go out on a limb, but this site may be helpful: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/

    2 Replies
    1. re: catcherinthewheat
      iheartcooking Dec 28, 2011 09:24 PM

      The link above has been my main source for crock pot recipes.
      I rely on mine for getting dinner served all the time since I work a lot of evenings.
      You can make lasagne and it's good! Also chuck roast with soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and sugar... Cooked all day and shredded... Teriyaki bowls!

      1. re: iheartcooking
        jmckee Jan 6, 2012 10:13 AM

        The link has become a book: http://www.amazon.com/Make-Fast-Cook-...

        There's also a sequel. I have the first, haven't tried the second. I like it, a lot. Easy recipes, mostly very successful. A note. Some of the recipes call for different-sized Crock-Pots -- 6, 4, or 2 quart. I have a six and a four. I went through the book and used those little 3M post-it tabs to code the recipes that interested me. My 4-quart is red, so I used that color tab for recipes calling for that particular unit.

        Good soups, great stews, and even Buffalo Chicken Lasagna -- in which you later the meat, seasonings, etc., with regular UNCOOKED lasagna noodles. A staple at my house now.

        The writer's style is a little precious ("Oh, my little pony I love this", "I puffy-heart love chicken wings"), and she talks a lot about her kids and husband and their reactions. But it's OK -- nice work. I use this book a lot.

    2. ROCKLES Dec 28, 2011 02:00 PM

      there are hundreds of recipes in the "slow cooker recipe book" that I have. Stews are great and can stay on low heat for 10 hours.Spaghetti sauce (homeade) develops a great depth of flavor if it sits for a longer period of time, I also use it for fondue type sauces.or for keeping chocolate sauce warm. I cook whole chickens in it with water and then use the chicken for quesadilla's, or soups, or I slice the chicken, give it a quick fry/saute in the skillet for rice or salads, or make a chicken salad out of it. I save and freeze the "broth" for soups , rice etc. I have even seen people use it for baking (though I have never tried it). It is a very versatile item to have.

      2 Replies
      1. re: ROCKLES
        b
        betsydiver Feb 28, 2012 08:27 AM

        just a week ago we used the crock pot to keep mashed potatos hot while we took them to a pot luck supper. could be used similarly for a holiday buffet.... i've also done a pot roast in it after searing off the meat; threw it in crock with carrots, onions, tomatos, bay leaf; but my fav. is (sorry for the repetition, those who read these posts alot) throw a can of whole tomatoes in with thinly sliced pepperoni whole stick, cook in crock until pep melts into sauce, serve on good bread or rolls or even pasta.

        1. re: betsydiver
          PrawoJazdy Mar 6, 2012 11:14 PM

          the tomato sauce + pepperoni sounds fantastic! How long does it generally take? (not sure I could wait too long, since I'm a pepperoni junkie)... I think I'd have to melt some cheese on top to take it OVER the top!

      2. v
        Val Dec 28, 2011 02:01 PM

        MG, take a look at this thread...Janniecooks' Thai-flavored Thighs are very very good...have made them a number of times, scroll down a bit plus there are other nice suggestions...with winter upon most of us (I'm in SWFlorida)...bean stews are fab in SC...catcherinthewheat gave you a very good link also!

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/590723

        1. icey Dec 28, 2011 02:04 PM

          I make chicken broth in it all the time, but if you are looking for actual dinners, I make a decent chili in it. If you don't have time to brown everything, it will still be good, just not as deep in flavour. Add a thickly sliced onion, a carrrot (diced), and a few celery stalks (diced) to the pot, very lean ground beef, a can of tomato puree, a can of kidney beans (rinsed), and a can of Navy beans (rinsed), ground cumin, ground chili powder, and either chipotles in adobo or sriracha for heat. Cook on low for 10 hours, and you should be good to go.

          1. f
            ForFoodsSake Dec 28, 2011 03:21 PM

            Somebody gifted me the "Slow Cooker Revolution" cookbook, and the recipes in that have really helped me to appreciate my slow cooker a little more!

            You are right that it is difficult to find things that can be OK in the cooker for 10+ hours (I'm in the same boat). I actually use mine a lot more on the weekends. I make a lot of chili, have made lasagna, some soups, a pulled pork dish, and a few other things that aren't coming to mind at the moment.

            1. c
              cantkick Dec 28, 2011 03:28 PM

              You can put the ingredients in, and use a timer to start it a couple hours later. Unless it's one that requires you to push a button to turn it on. We have one like that, but it will switch to warm, i.e. cooler than low, after a set time. See if that solves your problem.

              1. Chemicalkinetics Dec 28, 2011 03:34 PM

                "I'm wondering if it's really any easier than cooking on the stovetop or oven"

                I do think it is easier. How much easier that is another question. For one, it is much more energy efficient than using an oven. It also heats your food in a more surrounding manner than cooking on stovetop.

                "I've seen warnings about leaving it on all day"

                I think that is the whole point of using a slow cooker that you can leave it on while you are out. That being said, it is really your choice.

                Like everyone said, a slow cooker is really great with stews and thick soup, and there are plenty cookbooks about slow cookers.

                48 Replies
                1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                  h
                  hyde Dec 28, 2011 07:22 PM

                  yawn, no. put the damn thing in the cellar and bring it out during big holiday parties to keep soup warm. the new ones cook at too high a heat (even on low) and everything gets overcooked. people will respond and say "just cook it for less time" and i will respond, " then i would rather make it in my oven!". after not using mine for several years, i gave it away.

                  1. re: hyde
                    r
                    rainey Dec 29, 2011 03:36 PM

                    Sorry to say I'm in your camp too.

                    My stove top has a great simmer. I can leave beans on simmering all day. I regularly do leave stocks simmering all day and then overnight too. Likewise, an oven braise is an easy and wonderful thing to do. And both the oven braise and stove top simmer give you infinitely more control and better results without leaving everything swimming in liquid and fat like a slow cooker does.

                    A slow cooker will make good chili. I can't think of anything else I'd ever use it for.

                    Maybe I should add that I haven't used a slow cooker in 10 or 15 years. They may be better now. But then if I haven't missed one in more than a decade I can't imagine they're *that* much better.

                    1. re: rainey
                      paulj Dec 29, 2011 06:51 PM

                      We were given 3 different slow cookers as wedding gifts. The one we used the longest was an enameled steel pot with a separate low power hotplate base. I used the pot for past and braising meat long after the hot plate quit. I would still be using it now, but the enamel has chipped in a number of places.

                      In theory a slow cooker is little different from a cast iron pot in the oven, or cholent in the baker's cooling oven, or a buried bean pot.

                    2. re: hyde
                      iL Divo Dec 30, 2011 12:31 PM

                      hyde, you're funny, got a giggle out of that.
                      now why don't you learn to simply come out of your shell and speak what's really on your mind :)))))))

                      mickeygee

                      I like the crock and use on average of maybe once a month, sometimes more, sometimes less.
                      our son did a roast beef in it the other day as he was taking the kids to the snow to play and wanted dinner ready when they got home.
                      he took his frozen beef roast and added a packaged beef stew envelope of flavorings to the beef, added the water called for and the chopped onions, celery, carrots and potatoes. since I watched him concoct it, I asked him how it was when they came after dinner to his sisters house to play out the evening, said it was good.

                      I do a preseared tri tip roast in mine that is dyno.
                      but I sear it on all sides first then in the crock it goes. all scratch.
                      not sure that'd help you as it's not completely done in the crock.
                      spaghetti sauces, yep, great. all scratch.
                      soups, yes, wonderful. all scratch.
                      minestrone soup, sans the dry pasta until about 1/2 hour until done, great. all scratch.
                      bone in chicken breasts with polish sausage and a can of bean with bacon soup, good, but processed, not scratch due to soup, so?
                      pork tenderloin rubbed with your favorite seasonings, then topped with sliced apples, sliced onions, salt pepper and cinnamon, very good, low setting, 6 hours. I discard the apples and onions after taking it out, they're only there to impart flavor into the pork.
                      cup of raw rice, whole chicken on top of rice, your favorite home made or store bought salsa on top of chicken, it's a meal, so good, but is the chicken fat too much for you? sort of no way to strain it out.
                      my mom does and has done for years, this on New Years Eve for parties she and her husband always had. she softened the beans in water over night the day before though.
                      http://whatscookingamerica.net/Soup/C...
                      ^^^so so so good^^^
                      there are variables in using a crock...it either works for you if you find the recipes that are your style and your type, or maybe not.

                      I do wish you good fortune though in what interests you and finding your perfect match and a reason to love your crock pot. it is ok if you don't. :)

                      1. re: iL Divo
                        h
                        hyde Jan 1, 2012 06:18 AM

                        what i really think?

                        generally crock pots make the shitty food that you eat at holiday parties where everyone stands around and ooh's and aah's at food that i would not prepare for my dog.

                        mushy, overcooked pastas and vegetable concoctions from ladies-home-journal type rags that were all the rage in 1973.
                        a symptom of an endemic view that includes,

                        "dips" that involve dried soup mixes and too much sour cream or, god help us, velveeta.

                        sodium laden mini sausages wrapped in pastry that comes in a tube.

                        grape jelly and chili sauce, WTF?

                        cream cheese, processed cheese, whipped cheese on grim mass market crackers.

                        cakes from boxes.

                        appalling holiday fare that my grandmother would have had a stroke if she saw.

                        and "convenience food" , that is neither convienient or food.

                        but thats just me.

                        1. re: hyde
                          j
                          julesrules Jan 1, 2012 09:49 AM

                          That's the beauty of chowhound. Just in this thread people have suggested the crock can be used for applesauce, caramelized onions, chicken stock and dried beans. Very different from the foods you describe. I personally appreciate the creativity and ability to look beyond stereotypes and negativity.

                          1. re: hyde
                            r
                            rasputina Jan 1, 2012 02:14 PM

                            You need to widen your circle of friends I guess. I've never put pasta, a prepackaged mix or cream cheese in my slow cooker.

                            1. re: rasputina
                              iL Divo Jan 1, 2012 02:35 PM

                              cream cheese, canned chili, canned /jarred or home grown salsa, a god stir to combine makes a great hot holiday dip for nice tortilla chips
                              ^^^but that's just a thought^^^ (me hiding)

                              1. re: rasputina
                                bernalgirl Jan 5, 2012 02:14 PM

                                As a working mom with a relatively long commute, I find my slow cooker invaluable. Right now I have a brisket simmering away at home, I did all the prep last night (seasoning the meat, sauteing the onions) and put it on this morning. Looking forward to an easy dinner tonight.

                                That said, I only use it for long-simmered items when I have time to do the requisite prep the night before. Sometimes that's browning the meat, almost always it means chopping and sauteing vegetables.

                                I can't do chicken because my work day is too long, but it does a great job on brisket, short ribs, pork shoulder and the like, turkey thighs (posole after work? priceless!) and any kind of beans. I also now routinely have homemade chicken stock to work with, and applesauce, chutneys and carmelized onions are a breeze. So I use it to create the stepping stones of more time-consuming meals.

                                I don't use it on weekends, when I have the luxury of a lazy day to monitor a low simmer on the stove or in the oven, but it's lovely to be able to mix up the typical quick meals of grilled meat/pasta/salad with a long-cooked dish now and again.

                                My two favorite slow-cooker cookbooks are Slow Cooker Revolution, by America's Test Kitchen, and Art of the Slow Cooker by Andrew Schloss, and the Indian Slow Cooker Cookbook by Anupy Singla is a slim volume I'm just beginning to enjoy. The punjabi kidney beans are outstanding, my 7 yr old daughter went back for seconds and asked for it in her lunch the following day. I'm probably going to sell my copy of Not Your Mothers... I just haven't been that excited by the recipes.

                              2. re: hyde
                                iL Divo Jan 1, 2012 02:30 PM

                                Hyde, I'm sorry you didn't take that as a
                                joke. I was being silly but maybe it didn't read that way.
                                apologies if I offended you, swear not my intention

                                1. re: iL Divo
                                  h
                                  hyde Jan 2, 2012 09:07 AM

                                  actually my close friends are outstanding cooks, its the work parties, etc. that crop up around the holidays that horrify me. my whole thread was meant to entertain and maybe make somebody laugh but i think my misanthropy tends to come through unbidden. my humor a bit darker and more confrontational than appropriate for the board.

                                  not offended at all, thought it was all funny.

                                  guess my posts sound angrier than i really am. just always surprised at how much awful food i come across and am always stupefied at how people rave about it. cooking just dosent seem that hard to me, how is it so many people do it so badly?

                                  1. re: hyde
                                    lawhound05 Jan 2, 2012 10:28 AM

                                    I agree, there is an awful lot of bad food out there. What I've found is that alot of people think cooking is hard, so throwing some prepared stuff together the easy way to cook. I've seen people look amazed when I've explained a simple recipe to them, something I've made that they liked, as if something good can't possibly be easy. I've taught people how to make bread, which is alot of fun, because at the end the reaction is always "that's all there is to it?"
                                    There's also the legacy of the '50's and '60's with such horrors as cream of mushroom soup based casseroles. Mom/grandma cooked that way, so that must be how it's done. They just don't know any different.
                                    My crockpot allows me to come home at the end of the day to a dinner that would otherwise be reserved for a day I'm home, since I'm not comfortable leaving my stove or oven on when I'm away. No dry soup mix or mushy pastas, just things like pot roasts, chicken or beans.

                                    1. re: lawhound05
                                      v
                                      Val Jan 2, 2012 01:10 PM

                                      and those holiday work parties/buffets? most of the ones I attend just have store-bought "chicken" fingers and other trash...a crock-pot Tortilla soup or meatballs would be a HUGE step up from the stuff I've seen, just saying...

                                    2. re: hyde
                                      q
                                      Querencia Jan 3, 2012 11:03 PM

                                      Hyde, if you are getting crock pot casseroles and sour cream dip during the
                                      Christmas season you are ahead of the game. All the original Scrooge got was gruel.

                                      1. re: hyde
                                        r
                                        rasputina Jan 5, 2012 08:39 AM

                                        I agree there is a lot of crappy mix cooking going on in some places.

                                        1. re: rasputina
                                          chowser Jan 5, 2012 10:36 AM

                                          On stoves, in ovens, in microwaves, not just crock pots. But that doesn't make all of them poor choices, just poor choices for those who can't use them properly.

                                        2. re: hyde
                                          iL Divo Jan 7, 2012 07:25 PM

                                          ''how is it so many people do it so badly"

                                          I don't know cause don't think that statement pertains to me...... I do it pretty well.........................

                                          1. re: iL Divo
                                            h
                                            hyde Jan 9, 2012 03:36 PM

                                            i was not specifically directing the statement at you, in point of fact, i think it becomes especially evident if you do it pretty well.
                                            seriously? you dont find most peoples cooking grim? you must work in a different environment than where i work. hundreds of nurses cook for the holidays and i find little of it great.
                                            am i a snob? sure.
                                            life is short, i see no reason to eat mediocre food.

                                            1. re: hyde
                                              a
                                              ArtH May 2, 2012 08:26 PM

                                              I have a company lunch cookout tomorrow. I am looking forward to a frozen burger cooked badly over a gas grill with an ill treated bun. Or a really bad badly cooked hot dog on the wrong ill treated bun with all the wrong toppings. And really bad potato and/or macaroni salad. And chips.

                                              You are too negative.

                                              1. re: ArtH
                                                ski_gpsy May 2, 2012 11:27 PM

                                                That's the one advantage to "Pot Luck" and bring-a-dish get togethers over sit down dinner parties. At a Pot Luck party I always know that I can enjoy at least one food item there, and that is, whatever I bring! Be it Ina's French Garden Potato Salad or my delectable Strawberry Spinach Salad, or my Feed A Crowd Taco Soup.

                                                At a Bring A Dish get together I know I will always be saved from mediocre fare and bad burgers as long as I have my own haute cuisine pot luck specialties. And really, I'm not biased at all. ;)

                                                1. re: ski_gpsy
                                                  a
                                                  ArtH May 7, 2012 07:53 PM

                                                  I agree with you 115 to 200%. If you make it a true "event", it has to be better. And in time people figure out what they need to bring to an "event". Hell yeah.

                                                  And if people bring it, it doesn't cost the company anything. And it will be a mllion times better. And maybe we will do it more often.

                                                  Remain slightly biased but don't do it everyday.

                                      2. re: hyde
                                        LiveRock Jan 3, 2012 01:53 PM

                                        "grape jelly and chili sauce, WTF?"

                                        Hey...I used to love that when my Mom made it! At least she made her own meatballs.

                                        1. re: LiveRock
                                          jmckee Jan 6, 2012 10:16 AM

                                          At my office, it's grape jelly and Heinz 57. Which our CEO modified by rinsing the bottles out with tequila.

                                          1. re: jmckee
                                            j
                                            jeanmarieok Jan 6, 2012 10:47 AM

                                            The tequila idea is a good one!

                                        2. re: hyde
                                          livetocook Jan 12, 2012 12:34 PM

                                          "generally crock pots make the shitty food that you eat at holiday parties where everyone stands around and ooh's and aah's at food that i would not prepare for my dog.
                                          ________________________________________________________________

                                          HAHAHAHAHAHA. OMG I almost spit out my tea when I read this. I'm not a big fan of the crock pot. I've made too many meals in it there that were either cooked to death, bland as hell, or wayyyyy too watery. And I followed these recipes to a tee! So unless granny likes a soup mess or someone is F'n with me OR my crockpot is nuts I've pretty much given up on it. I finally gave the sucker to my co-worker as she loves her's but, needed a smaller one for other recipes. (I'm curious to see if she comes back to me and says, yup, something is wrong with that crockpot. )

                                          I have so many friends that love their's and talk about about the great meals they've had. Hmmm, and yet, I've never sampled these meals. lol

                                          Now, the MIL makes a thick chili in her's and I was stumped as how she did this. Well, I discovered she put in two cans of Stagg chili as "filler". wt??

                                          1. re: livetocook
                                            h
                                            hyde Jan 13, 2012 10:13 AM

                                            this is what im sayin....

                                          2. re: hyde
                                            s
                                            sdoconnell Jan 22, 2012 07:18 AM

                                            There's a great book called _Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?_ that's by a food historian whose name I can't remember. She basically tells the history of 20th Century American via the cookbooks that were popular (i.e. Depression-era cookbooks were all about stretching expensive foods, using less-than-awesome meat cuts...). 1950s processed foods were a sort of democratic solution to cooking without servants (i.e. "outsourcing" the prepwork to the factories). Her section about crockpots is interesting. Crock pots and processed foods were a way for women to entertain guests even after having been at work all day.

                                            I still don't like cooking with a crockpot--it clutters my kitchen and hogs my only electric outlet--but historically, I think they're interesting contraptions.

                                            1. re: hyde
                                              f
                                              FitMom4Life Mar 8, 2012 08:18 AM

                                              One of our favorite things to cook in the crock pot is venison. I can't get it to taste that good with any other method. We love it. And for a pot roast, it's perfect. As well as barbecued pork loin, and many other delicious items I've used it for. Sorry you've not been exposed to better cooks!

                                            2. re: iL Divo
                                              s
                                              sunflwrsdh Jan 22, 2012 12:02 PM

                                              I just read on another thread where someone did the chicken with salsa in the slow cooker using boneless skinless breasts, taco seasoning and black beans.

                                          3. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                            pdxgastro Dec 28, 2011 08:30 PM

                                            And keeping mulled cider warm. :o)

                                            1. re: pdxgastro
                                              Chemicalkinetics Dec 28, 2011 09:09 PM

                                              Hey, that is a good idea. I just found this one on the internet:

                                              http://cdn.wwwthefrugalgirl.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Slow-Cooker-Apple-Cider-2.jpg

                                              I wonder if it can be used as a food warmer during party. Almost like this:

                                              http://0.tqn.com/d/housewares/1/0/T/S...

                                              1. re: pdxgastro
                                                j
                                                jllc30 Jan 14, 2012 07:01 PM

                                                I do this too!

                                              2. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                ski_gpsy Jan 6, 2012 06:39 AM

                                                While I love the luxury of spending an afternoon slow braising something yummy in the oven, I've also mercifully survived a home fire ($25,000.00 worth of damage). Therefore I reeeeeally appreciate my slow cooker with timer so that if my elderly mother is rushed to the emergency room again, and in a panic I dash out and won't get home from the hospital until after midnight, my slow cooker will have safely turned itself off.

                                                Not only do I not taste a great deal of difference between something braised in the oven and the same dish done in my slow cooker, there are some things just make life a little easier, a little less stressful and worrisome. My slow cooker with timer is one of them.

                                                1. re: ski_gpsy
                                                  livetocook Jan 12, 2012 12:36 PM

                                                  omg ski, did this happen with a crockpot? That's always a fear of mine

                                                  1. re: livetocook
                                                    ski_gpsy Jan 12, 2012 04:49 PM

                                                    No, a pot simmering on the stove. Which is why I love my crock pot for slow cooking. In a busy household things happen, kids hurt themselves, elders have emergencies, animals get loose, and its easy to get distracted and forget a pan on the stove or a pot in the oven if you're not standing over it. So for many reasons, including safety, I LOVE my slow cooker, which has a timer and after cooking switches to the keep warm mode or shuts itself off. No worries. In fact I am presently prepping America's Test Kitchen's Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff, yuhuuummm, for my latest group of houseguests. We will be gone all day tomorrow and come home to an amazing stroganoff & all I'll have to do is add the sour cream and serve!

                                                    I also do ATK's Classic Pot Roast in my slow cooker and a curry that tastes like its been simmering all day...'cause it has! I find that anything I would normally braise in the oven, I can do equally as well in my slow cooker. I have the Wolfgang Puck VersaCooker which has a hard anodized insert instead of the conventional ceramic crock that most slow cookers have, and you can sear & saute in it which means that I can brown the meat, saute the onions and then turn the whole thing down to low, and slow cook for hours and only have one pot to clean! Plus if we're a little late getting back dinner will be fine because it will go into the keep warm mode, and if we have a change of plans and decide to spend the nite away, no worries...it'll turn itself off! I LOVE it!

                                                    1. re: ski_gpsy
                                                      Vetter Jan 13, 2012 10:22 AM

                                                      Oh, could you paraphrase the stroganoff recipe? I am a stroganoff fiend and I like my slow cooker...

                                                      I'm finally inspired to upgrade to a modern slow cooker. Mine doesn't have an automatic turn off or a warm setting. That seems like safety reason enough.

                                                      1. re: Vetter
                                                        chowser Jan 13, 2012 12:26 PM

                                                        Glad you asked. I was going to do the same.

                                                        1. re: chowser
                                                          ski_gpsy Jan 19, 2012 07:08 PM

                                                          Here you go Vetter and chowser;

                                                          Place 1/4c dried porcinis that have been rinsed & patted dry, into 1/2c beef stock* and microwave 1 minute. Strain into a paper towel lined fine mesh strainer and save liquid. Chop mushrooms.
                                                          *I use Savory Choice Liquid Broth Concentrate which we discussed in the Taste Test Thread http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/783611

                                                          Saute 2 onions that have been chopped fine and 2T tomato paste in 2T veg oil until onions are slightly brown, about 7-10 minutes. Stir in 1/2c white wine, 1/3c soy sauce, 1/2c beef broth, chopped porcinis and reserved porcini liquid. Bring to a boil then put in slow cooker.

                                                          Add 4 pounds boneless chuck cut into 1.5” pieces and 2 pounds white mushrooms with stems, quartered.

                                                          Cook on high til meat is tender, 6-7 hours or on low for 9-10 hours.

                                                          Remove 2c liquid and whisk 6T flour into it. Stir into slow cooker and cook uncovered until sauce thickens, about 10-15 minutes.

                                                          Stir in 1.5c sour cream and 2T chopped fresh dill. S&P. (I also add a splash of lemon juice.) Serve over buttered egg noodles.

                                                          The stroganoff we came home to was delicious, rich and flavorFULL. While everyone else raved, I thought it was a little thick and that next time I will use less flour or thin it with some chicken or veggie stock (it already has a ton of beef flavor). Perhaps some red wine, or a combo of stock and wine. Maybe I’ll go old school and throw in a splash of dill pickle juice too. Ah, the delicious possibilities. Please share your results.

                                                          1. re: ski_gpsy
                                                            chowser Jan 19, 2012 07:13 PM

                                                            Thanks! I wonder why they used white wine instead of red.

                                                            1. re: chowser
                                                              ski_gpsy Jan 19, 2012 07:24 PM

                                                              I think that with all the deep flavors going in, like the concentrated porcinis in beef stock, tomato paste, and the soy sauce, perhaps red wine would have been too heavy. As I said, it has a ton of beef flavor, which was the goal of the Test Kitchen since there is none of the typical time-consuming browning of 4 pounds of stew meat.

                                                      2. re: ski_gpsy
                                                        m
                                                        MAH Jan 22, 2012 08:41 AM

                                                        i think the anodized insert -- in which you can sear and brown, then place on the slow cooker base to simmer -- is key. I have the All Clad version of the same and it's awesome. Anything I would braise in the oven in my Le Creuset can be adapted to the slow cooker with great results. I don't think i'd feel at all the same about the "traditional" crock pot in which you can't get the same fond and great developed flavors from the searing/browning first. It makes all the difference in the world.

                                                        1. re: MAH
                                                          r
                                                          Rella Jan 22, 2012 09:43 AM

                                                          I am making today in my a pot roast in my never-used yet Frigidaire slow cooker. The meat was browned in a heavy skillet, added onions, garlic, carrots and celery to the heavy skillet which soaked up "the same fond from the searing/browning first." There was one skillet to wash, heavy though it might be, and I'd say that 99% of the fond was used. I didn't let using a traditional crockpot/slow cooker keep me from using these more complicated browning steps before putting into the pot dissuade me. I certainly agree that the All-Clad is wonderful; and shows a nice video demonstration to convince me.

                                                          1. re: MAH
                                                            s
                                                            suburban_mom Jan 22, 2012 09:44 AM

                                                            I was looking at the All Clad online and people had issues with the coating on the pot peeling. Have you been happy with yours? I would love to have a slow cooker that can get close to the flavors you get from the oven. With 3 busy kids, I use my slow cooker weekly because we have a couple of nights where everyone eats at different times.

                                                            1. re: suburban_mom
                                                              m
                                                              MAH Jan 22, 2012 09:59 AM

                                                              No issues at all.

                                                            2. re: MAH
                                                              ski_gpsy Jan 22, 2012 10:58 AM

                                                              Hi MAH, Yes the anodized insert makes the difference. On Wolfgang's VersaCooker the cooking temps go all the way to 400degrees so I can actually brown and sear right in the cooker, then turn it down to slow cook. You could brown on the stove if you want, but you don't have to. The insert also comes with a plastic lid so you can put the leftovers in the fridge, and I have re-heated them directly on on the stove in the insert. One pot cooking & reheating... and leftover storage! I love it!

                                                              1. re: ski_gpsy
                                                                r
                                                                Rella Jan 22, 2012 11:40 AM

                                                                Wish I'd have seen it prior to my purchase of the Frigidaire slow cooker I'm using for the first time today. I like the 3-way use of Wolfgang's unit. How could anyone not like this?

                                                                1. re: Rella
                                                                  ski_gpsy Jan 22, 2012 12:09 PM

                                                                  Can you return your Frigidaire? I know its a pain to return things but I have a wonderful Hamilton Beach Stay-Or-Go slow cooker which I love for the latching lid feature which means I can put the whole thing in the car, boat, motorhome, tailgate etc and go. However, since I bought the VersaCooker I rarely use the HamBeach because most of my favorite slow cook recipes require browning or sauteing something. So I find myself using the VersaCooker almost exclusively. I do use the HamBeach for transporting things I didn't make in it but want to transport securely like hot soups and stews, coq au vin, anything I want to keep warm and secure..

                                                                  Now if only Wolfgang, or somebody, would make a multi cooker with a latching lid it would be the optimum multi-task appliance in my kitchen!

                                                                  1. re: ski_gpsy
                                                                    r
                                                                    Rella Jan 22, 2012 12:31 PM

                                                                    I'm using the Frigidaire first time today. I vowed if the lid didn't sputter, it was mine. It hasn't sputtered yet :-))

                                                                    I'll give it a real workout this month, with all settings, and if it is not up-to-snuff, I will return it.

                                                                    But, I don't have any problem with keeping it and buying Mr. Puck's product, although I am not adverse to returning either.

                                                                    Thanks for your reply.

                                                    2. paulj Dec 28, 2011 10:15 PM

                                                      When slow cookers (crock pots) became popular in the 1970s, they were little more than a ceramic bowl with a few turns of electrical wire wound around the outside. It was a low power device. You could load it, plug it in, and let is slowly heat up all day, and have a hot stew (of sorts) waiting when you came home.

                                                      But this design leaves the food sitting in the danger zone (70-140 F) for more than 4 hours - danger in the sense that bacteria flourishes at these temperatures. Such practice would not be allowed in any commercial establishment, by any health department.

                                                      What you now have is a pot that has to heat up faster, to minimize the time in that danger zone. Hence the 5-6 hr cooking time, as opposed to 8-10 which would be more convenient to you.

                                                      1. val ann c Dec 28, 2011 11:16 PM

                                                        I don't like to leave any cooking appliance running while no one is home.
                                                        But I do love my crockpot. Here are my categories of use:

                                                        1. Slow cook overnight.
                                                        The following things can be slow-cooked overnight while you are sleeping.
                                                        * Applesauce on low setting -- be sure to add a couple inches of water with the apple chunks. I leave the peel on the apple. In the morning you will have a very smooth applesauce and your house will smell delicious.
                                                        * Ground beef chili or beef stew on low setting -- as long as you add enough liquid, these can cook for a very long time.
                                                        * Dry beans in plenty of water on low setting, no salt. Depending on the type of bean, these will be quite soft in the morning. Perfect for making dips. Garbanzos take a very long time, and you get lovely soft beans for hummus.
                                                        TIP: When you wake up, remove the hot crock from the cooking base and place on a trivet. The food will cool faster, so you can store it before you leave for work.

                                                        2. During a long busy cooking session.
                                                        When I'm busy in my kitchen cooking lots of dishes, I put my crockpot in a quiet corner and let it work for me unsupervised.
                                                        - Reheat frozen soups or sauces without boiling nor burning
                                                        - Poach chicken breasts in a couple hours on high setting
                                                        - Anything in a small oven-proof dish can be placed in the crock, with an inch of water, and heated.

                                                        3. Hot weather helper.
                                                        When the house is too hot, move the crockpot out of your living space - to the basement or laundry room. You can avoid using your oven and cooktop.

                                                        9 Replies
                                                        1. re: val ann c
                                                          r
                                                          rasputina Dec 30, 2011 08:43 AM

                                                          Forgot about those, I've also used mine for cooking dried beans and applesauce.

                                                          1. re: val ann c
                                                            m
                                                            MissMechante Jan 5, 2012 05:37 AM

                                                            Reheating something in an ovenproof dish in the crockpot is a great idea! I will have to try that when my oven and grill are totally full for a party. This year I kept 15lbs of mashed potatoes warm in the crockpot for Thanksgiving. Made the potatoes on the stove while the turkey was resting, transferred to crockpot. Leaves a lot more oven space open for heating the other dishes.

                                                            1. re: MissMechante
                                                              agoodbite Jan 5, 2012 05:45 AM

                                                              My sister has done this with mashed potatoes for holiday meals in the past. Works like a charm. I'll have to remember this for the next time I'm in charge. I usually do a bain marie, but using a crockpot for the job would free up a burner.

                                                              1. re: agoodbite
                                                                bernalgirl Jan 5, 2012 02:18 PM

                                                                It's also great for keeping polenta warm, the polenta stays soft rather than setting up as it does when left in teh pan.

                                                              2. re: MissMechante
                                                                b
                                                                Bryan Pepperseed Jan 5, 2012 06:13 AM

                                                                +2 on the mashed potatoes.
                                                                Nothing better during "Thanksgiving crunch time" than being able to make them hours ahead of time and still have them come out of the crock like they were just made.

                                                                They're also good for keeping freshly made tortillas (not to mention naan, pancakes,rolls etc.) warm.

                                                                1. re: Bryan Pepperseed
                                                                  agoodbite Jan 5, 2012 06:47 AM

                                                                  I'm intrigued by the prospect of keeping tortillas warm. Are they flour or corn? And do you add any water to the crock?

                                                                  1. re: agoodbite
                                                                    b
                                                                    Bryan Pepperseed Jan 6, 2012 07:10 AM

                                                                    I've done both flour and corn versions.
                                                                    Partially due to my always wanting to experiment and never really deciding on one "definitive method", adding water is basically a "play it by ear" thing every time......

                                                                    I find in general that freshly cooked/baked items usually have enough moisture left in them so that additional water is not needed for about an hour with the crock set to warm or low.

                                                                    Any longer than that (or if I'm using premade store bought items) is when I'll at least start thinking about placing the items on a plate (or in my case a homemade metal trivet) and adding a couple of tablespoons of water underneath.

                                                                    1. re: Bryan Pepperseed
                                                                      agoodbite Jan 6, 2012 07:32 AM

                                                                      Thanks so much. I can't wait to play around with the concept. The Christmas eve tamales worked so well in the crockpot that I can imagine similar results with tortillas.

                                                                2. re: MissMechante
                                                                  r
                                                                  rasputina Jan 5, 2012 08:40 AM

                                                                  I thought of trying that last year but didn't end up doing it because I didn't get around to testing it prior to the holiday and didn't want to chance a failure. Good to know that is does work!

                                                              3. agoodbite Dec 29, 2011 06:18 AM

                                                                I last used a crockpot for reheating tamales on Christmas Eve. It worked like a charm.

                                                                I also like to use a crockpot for cooking stone ground grits. The grits take much less tending than when cooked stovetop. It's a great method.

                                                                Beans are another great thing to cook in a crockpot.

                                                                My mother used to cooked a whole chicken in her crockpot back in the 70's. She just salted and peppered it and dotted it with some margarine (it was the 70's...) and left it cooking on low all day. By dinner time, it was fall-off-the-bone tender and sitting in a huge puddle of chicken goodness that was delicious spooned over rice. It was a great weeknight meal and one of my favorites.

                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: agoodbite
                                                                  lawhound05 Dec 29, 2011 04:04 PM

                                                                  I still occasionally do chicken this way (minus the margarine, and with some herbs) - chicken with 40 cloves of garlic does well in the crock, too.

                                                                  1. re: lawhound05
                                                                    l
                                                                    lovetalkinfood Jan 7, 2012 05:03 PM

                                                                    I agree- I call it fallin off the bone chicken, season with adobo, sliced onions, rstd peppers, usually skinless chicken thighs, yummie

                                                                    1. re: lovetalkinfood
                                                                      iL Divo Jan 7, 2012 07:26 PM

                                                                      love love love chicken thighs....................
                                                                      putting them in the crocker with whatever broth or stock or a little water, they fall off the bones and then the skies the limit with what you can do with them

                                                                  2. re: agoodbite
                                                                    j
                                                                    jeanmarieok Dec 30, 2011 12:20 PM

                                                                    The tamale idea is a great one.

                                                                  3. RUK Dec 29, 2011 06:35 AM

                                                                    Stuffed peppers come out great!
                                                                    Years ago I used mine a couple of times to bake a cake, it works surprisingly well.

                                                                    1. j
                                                                      julesrules Dec 29, 2011 08:24 AM

                                                                      Mine automatically switches to a Keep Warm setting after the cooking time is finished. This makes all the difference since I am also out of the house 10 hours! Does yours have this option? If not, can you return it for one that does???

                                                                      I just got it a few weeks ago but so far I am happy enough. It is definiltely a compromise for the avid home cook who works outside the home. It's about coming home to a hot meal, not really saving time overall. Previously I would make stews after dinner for the next day then be stuck staying up late to tend them, then worry about putting a full hot pot right in the fridge or leaving it out overnight. I do brown meats and deglaze my pan (especially if using wine or beer, I want some alcohol to boil off). Another tip I have seen is that you actually want to use LESS liquid than with normal recipes, because raw veg and meat will create a lot of liquid that doesn't go anywhere with crockpot cooking. I also look for recipes that have you flour your beef chunks for example because I figure that will help with thickening (with stove top cooking I generally avoid these same recipes).
                                                                      Other than all that... I do find that pork shoulder has plenty of flavour without preprep and browning. You can even brown pulled pork afterwards ala carnitas - I do it in my cast iron skillet because it requires less attention than the broiler. A simple recipe that works for me is the pork shoulder + can of diced green chiles + S+P

                                                                      1. pdxgastro Dec 29, 2011 11:20 AM

                                                                        This just showed up on Yahoo today: http://screen.yahoo.com/the-must-have...

                                                                        The soup recipe looks pretty good.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: pdxgastro
                                                                          v
                                                                          Val Dec 29, 2011 03:31 PM

                                                                          Yes, that soup does look good...so glad they added the kale at the end...it was a little painful with the ditzy hostess, though...sheesh! But thanks for a nice new recipe, pdx!

                                                                        2. c
                                                                          cgarner Dec 29, 2011 12:35 PM

                                                                          The exact things that the o/p posted are why I have stayed away from using my slow cooker, but I had an OLD one, not programmable and even at low, I’d come home to food cooked to mush
                                                                          Also, because of the lid, there’s no reduction of liquids and if you add a thickener, it sinks to the bottom and you get a layer of glop at the bottom and thin watery sauce on top.

                                                                          I will do a chuck roast, pot roast style in the slow cooker. The family seems to like that. I brown the meat the night before, and put it in the crock and stick the crock and veggies and such in the fridge, then pop it in when I go to work, set it on low and it’s a meal ready when I come home.

                                                                          I was alerted to a sale on Amazon for a programmable one, which will be delivered soon.

                                                                          I’m giddy to try it out!

                                                                          1. mucho gordo Dec 29, 2011 12:37 PM

                                                                            You'll love it even more if you line he cooker with Reynolds slow-cook bags. Clean-up is so much easier. No removing the heavy ceramic pot; just lift out the bag and toss.

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: mucho gordo
                                                                              iheartcooking Dec 30, 2011 11:15 AM

                                                                              I just can't seem to get over cooking my food in a plastic bag, especially since the pots are SO easy to clean. I've had some pretty burned on stuff snd with a short soak and a scrub everything is off!
                                                                              If you like to cook, you gotta learn to like washing dishes too.

                                                                              1. re: iheartcooking
                                                                                mucho gordo Dec 30, 2011 12:06 PM

                                                                                I don't mind the dishes; it's just that the ceramic crock pot is really too heavy and clumsy for me to handle. I'm afraid of dropping it. There's still a bit of washing to do, such as the lid and the shell, but not nearly as much.

                                                                              2. re: mucho gordo
                                                                                f
                                                                                FitMom4Life Mar 8, 2012 08:34 AM

                                                                                I completely agree. I LOVE the bags...makes clean-up EVER so much easier. Just like the oven bags...works great!

                                                                              3. f
                                                                                fourunder Dec 29, 2011 01:01 PM

                                                                                I like the slow cooker for braising inexpensive cuts of meat, but i do not find it works well for my tastes when making brisket or corned beef. Pot Roast, Swiss Steak and Pork Shoulder are usually the only recipes I make with the slow cooker. For some reason I prefer to make Osso Buco, Short Ribs and Ox Tails in a Dutch Oven in the Oven.

                                                                                I read here on CH others like to make Stone Ground Oatmeal and Congee overnight for a ready breakfast in the morning.

                                                                                1. caseyjo Dec 29, 2011 04:10 PM

                                                                                  I'm convinced some people are slow cooker people, and some people aren't. One of my closest friends loves her slow cooker. She does a ton of stews, whole chicken, mulled wine, spiked cider, and the like. Soup and stock as well.

                                                                                  I love all those meals, but I make them the old fashioned way. Why? I love one pot meals, so I dislike dirtying a pot to brown the meat before putting it in the slow cooker. I love the way it makes my house smell on a cold winter evening. And, above all, I crave control. I'm not a set it and forget it type of girl.

                                                                                  If you don't see it improving your life, why not return it and get something you'll get more use out of? IMHO, if the only thing you can think of is pulled pork, it might not be worth the counter space.

                                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: caseyjo
                                                                                    pdxgastro Dec 29, 2011 06:21 PM

                                                                                    Exactly! I was astonished OP's giftgiver gave him/her one. That is not something you give someone unless that someone has expressed a desire, am I right?

                                                                                    1. re: pdxgastro
                                                                                      m
                                                                                      mickeygee Dec 29, 2011 07:19 PM

                                                                                      I actually picked it out when shopping with my mom one day. But it was a spur of the moment decision, and once I mentioned it to my mom, well, I knew there was no backing down.

                                                                                      I think I like the idea of doing steel cut oats overnight so I can actually get a hot breakfast that's not a pork roll, egg and cheese sandwich every day. :) That might make it all worth it.

                                                                                      1. re: mickeygee
                                                                                        r
                                                                                        rasputina Dec 30, 2011 08:46 AM

                                                                                        I hope it's not a 6 quart model, how much steel cut oats will you eat? LOL

                                                                                        1. re: mickeygee
                                                                                          iheartcooking Dec 30, 2011 11:17 AM

                                                                                          In my experience, these are best made Bain-Marie, oats in a class bowl in the crockpot, water outside the bowl. Otherwise you may end up with oatmeal burned on to the sides if yours cooks on the hotter side.

                                                                                      2. re: caseyjo
                                                                                        m
                                                                                        MAH Jan 9, 2012 07:10 PM

                                                                                        With the right slow cooker it is a one pot meal. I have the all clad with the non stick clad insert "crock" in which I sear on the stovetop then add other ingredients, bring to a simmer, toast spices, etc whatever... Then place the whole thing on its base and program for slow cooking. No transferring at all. The ability to sear on the stovetop and not use an extra pan is worth the extra expense. I love it. I'm routinely gone for 10 or more hrs and the switch to warm feature is also
                                                                                        key.

                                                                                        1. re: MAH
                                                                                          chowser Jan 10, 2012 04:44 AM

                                                                                          I thought that all clad was a great idea and really wanted one until I saw the price. Yikes!

                                                                                      3. h
                                                                                        hippioflov Dec 29, 2011 06:45 PM

                                                                                        Don't give up on your crockpot. It takes time and practice. It also has a time and a place. I love to cook, but work makes extensive meal prep difficult. Nothing like coming home to a piping hot pot of soup or stew. Give several recipes a try or ask friends for their favorites.

                                                                                        It can also help with prepping for meals. I like to put a whole chicken on to cook all day. Once it cools, I can make chicken pot pie or chicken salad. Also good for tough cuts of meat like chuck roast. Put the roast in and cover with water and add a packet of Italian dressing mix. The roast is fork tender and the stock makes yummy gravy. Simmer a pork shoulder roast with onions and garlic, then use the meat to make tasty and moist BBQ.

                                                                                        1. c
                                                                                          CookieLee Dec 29, 2011 07:39 PM

                                                                                          I have a small one, an older model. I have made bbq brisket in it, following a Cook's Country recipe. The meat is on top of an inverted small loaf pan, so it's not cooking in liquid. Under the loaf pan is a sauteed mixture of onions and adobo chile peppers. A little water in the pot, and poof in 6hrs we have bbq.
                                                                                          I also use it to cook the cabernet pot roast from Trader Joe's. I have cooked it on high, 5-6hrs, and on low, 10-12hrs, and each time it was v. good, not mushy.
                                                                                          Next, I'm planning to make pumpkin oatmeal, it will cook overnight.
                                                                                          My friend has a beautiful crockpot. It's v. large, programmable, and the insert is removable. I think you can brown the meat on the stovetop in it. She made a beef burgundy, following a Cook's Illustrated recipe. We couldn't stop eating it! The meat just melted in your mouth, and the flavors were intense!

                                                                                          1. r
                                                                                            rasputina Dec 30, 2011 08:41 AM

                                                                                            I love love love mine, I have 3 LOL.

                                                                                            For the holidays I use one for hot apple cider, it frees up the stove.

                                                                                            I used to use 2 of them to make chicken stock until I switched to a 12 quart stock pot.

                                                                                            Chicken for shredding for enchiladas ect, just toss a whole chicken in the slow cooker, nothing else. Works great.

                                                                                            The Indian Slow Cooker cookbook is awesome love the aloo gobi recipe!

                                                                                            Pretty much any soup, stew or braised dish. What I love the slow cooker for is that I don't have to stand there and cook. Sure I like to cook but sometimes I'm busy or not in the mood. I have no qualms about leaving it running when I'm not home unlike the stove.

                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: rasputina
                                                                                              t
                                                                                              The 1st and only KSyrahSyrah Dec 30, 2011 08:57 AM

                                                                                              It depends on the BRAND of slow cooker. I have a HamBeach with a temp probe, and a 3 1/2 quart Cuisinart both are programmable. When they reach temperature or time, they go to warm. If you dont have a programmable, get a digital timer from the hardware store, and plug your S/C into it, making sure it's on "on."

                                                                                              Recommend "Slow Cooker Revolution" and "The Gourmet Slow Cooker" Lynn Alley, and "The Italian Slow Cooker" Michele Scicolone. She has a new one "The French Slow Cooker."

                                                                                              Use a liner - saves on cleanup. If you want anything good to eat though, you will have to do some prep work. Open an dump recipes aren't so good.

                                                                                              1. re: The 1st and only KSyrahSyrah
                                                                                                c
                                                                                                cgarner Dec 30, 2011 10:04 AM

                                                                                                I have a few of her cookbooks, though I don't have the Italian Slow Cooker... just checked out the recipe index on Amazon. Looks very good!

                                                                                                1. re: The 1st and only KSyrahSyrah
                                                                                                  c
                                                                                                  cgarner Jan 12, 2012 07:18 AM

                                                                                                  This past weekend I made the Glazed balsamic short-ribs from the Italian Slow Cooker, they turned out excellent. It wasn’t one of those “fix it and forget it” recipes though. Beyond browning the meat to put into the slow cooker, when you’re done, you have to reduce the juices in order to get the proper consistency for a glaze.

                                                                                                  It was totally worth the extra effort, but it’s not one of those recipes that I can throw in before I leave for work and come home to a meal.

                                                                                                  I also got the French Slow Cooker from Amazon. I’m sure that between the two of these, I can find a quality recipe that fits my work schedule.

                                                                                                  1. re: cgarner
                                                                                                    chowser Jan 12, 2012 03:16 PM

                                                                                                    Those short ribs sound great. I'll have to look for the recipe. I love hurt ribs in the crock pot. It's more time consuming but worth the extra time.

                                                                                              2. m
                                                                                                msv Dec 30, 2011 10:45 AM

                                                                                                My favorite long cooking recipe for a slow cooker is Cook's Illustrated's Slow-Cooker Italian Sunday Gravy. 9 to 10 hours on low and it is amazing. I also am a big fan of the Italian Slow Cooker cookbook previously mentioned although most of the recipes take much less time than what you are looking for. I usually use my slow cooker on Sundays so I have lots of food already made for the coming week. There are many good recipes for chilis, curries and casseroles. Most of these things taste better when reheated anyway.

                                                                                                1. MandalayVA Dec 30, 2011 11:18 AM

                                                                                                  I mainly stick to soups and stews with my slow cooker--I have a newer one that runs hot so it's useless for stuff like whole chickens but it does a great job with stuff like pork shanks. In fact I'm planning on making a batch of chili in mine this weekend.

                                                                                                  10 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: MandalayVA
                                                                                                    mucho gordo Dec 30, 2011 12:15 PM

                                                                                                    When you make chili, do you brown the meat on the stove first?

                                                                                                    1. re: mucho gordo
                                                                                                      Njchicaa Dec 30, 2011 12:28 PM

                                                                                                      I don't. I just put raw ground beef or turkey in, add beans/tomatoes/seasonings, mix it all up, and turn it on.

                                                                                                      1. re: Njchicaa
                                                                                                        mucho gordo Dec 30, 2011 01:04 PM

                                                                                                        The thing is, I don't use ground meat. I have the butcher cut a boneless chuck roast into small chunks. Would that make a difference? While the meat is browning, I get the other ingredients simmering in a large pot. When the meat is brown, I add it to the pot and let it simmer a while longer to finish it and let the meat absorb the flavor.

                                                                                                      2. re: mucho gordo
                                                                                                        iL Divo Dec 30, 2011 12:43 PM

                                                                                                        mucho, mom doesn't either when she does her Chasens chili in her crock.
                                                                                                        if she does it in a dutch oven on the stove, of course she does then.
                                                                                                        but for a crowd such as a party, it all goes in at the same time.
                                                                                                        it is delicious.

                                                                                                        1. re: mucho gordo
                                                                                                          DuchessNukem Dec 30, 2011 03:34 PM

                                                                                                          I put meats in the bottom of the crock with butter or olive oil, crank it to high, and do a minimalist "browning", stirring as needed. Add other ingredients after. Certainly not the same as stovetop browning but works for me.

                                                                                                          1. re: DuchessNukem
                                                                                                            mucho gordo Jan 1, 2012 11:02 AM

                                                                                                            Doesn't butter or olive oil alter the taste of the chili?

                                                                                                            1. re: mucho gordo
                                                                                                              DuchessNukem Jan 1, 2012 10:23 PM

                                                                                                              I don't use a huge amount of either, just a bit of lubricant in the pot, similar to your use of Pam. I don't get an aftertaste but could just be different sensitivities of our taste buds/preferences. :)

                                                                                                          2. re: mucho gordo
                                                                                                            paulj Dec 30, 2011 05:04 PM

                                                                                                            Chili derives most of its color and flavor from the spices, so browning the meat won't be as significant as in a lightly flavored French or English style stew.

                                                                                                            1. re: paulj
                                                                                                              mucho gordo Jan 1, 2012 02:11 PM

                                                                                                              It's true, about the color/flavor coming from the spices but, i think olive oil is just a bit too pungent and does impart a distinctive aftertaste to the meat which, IMHO, does not work well with the chili spices. I prefer to just spray a little Pam and let the meat's own fat do its job.

                                                                                                          3. re: MandalayVA
                                                                                                            iL Divo Dec 30, 2011 12:46 PM

                                                                                                            a friend had osso bucco at a restaurant on our anniversary.
                                                                                                            I found it an odd choice, but to each his own.
                                                                                                            it got me to thinking though, I'd like to make it again, as it had been years and I used oxtails then.
                                                                                                            wanted to do it with the shanks, so ordered them in our Von's market.
                                                                                                            did it primarily in the crock since one of my crock pots is newer and runs hotter, I knew it'd take forever to braise. was great in the crock pot.

                                                                                                          4. w
                                                                                                            whinendine Dec 30, 2011 06:03 PM

                                                                                                            I have an old one. It's all one piece, mustard yellow color. I didn't use it for a long, long time. Then I saw it taking up space one day and didn't want to give/throw it away. I now use it to make jook/congee. It is great because it doesn't stick very much and I don't have to stir it very much. It's really good for that. I also make split pea soup in it. I would do beans/bean soup, but my version is too small.

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. re: whinendine
                                                                                                              iL Divo Dec 31, 2011 07:40 AM

                                                                                                              or daughters x inlaws do their Mexican beans (pintos) in there all day.
                                                                                                              to me they were just all right but that was due to a lack of sasoning not because a cockpot was used.

                                                                                                            2. j
                                                                                                              Journey Dec 31, 2011 07:23 AM

                                                                                                              One dish that is very successful in a crock pot is lamb shanks. I also use a timer if I'm going to be away for longer than 4 hours, and often have it start during the night. When I wake up, I uncover and let it cool and pop it into the fridge. It's then easy to skim off any fat, and then reheat with added carrots or potatoes, etc. before eating.

                                                                                                              1. iL Divo Dec 31, 2011 07:48 AM

                                                                                                                I've done this (a few times now) for people who are ill and need dinner for their family.
                                                                                                                it's rather remarkable and I thank Mary for her recipe.

                                                                                                                spicy beef roast

                                                                                                                4 lb boneless beef roast (frozen)
                                                                                                                1 envelope (dry) Good Seasons Italian salad dressing mix
                                                                                                                12 pepperoncinis from a jar
                                                                                                                1 cup liquid from pepperoncinis jar
                                                                                                                put roast in sprinkle with mix add pepperoncinis&liquid put lid on 8 hours
                                                                                                                take out pepperoncinis, discard, thicken sauce to serve over mashed potatoes
                                                                                                                slice beef

                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: iL Divo
                                                                                                                  j
                                                                                                                  jeanmarieok Dec 31, 2011 02:09 PM

                                                                                                                  This is a good recipe - I've made it many times - big hit with the family. We eat it on crusty rolls or french bread wedges.

                                                                                                                  1. re: jeanmarieok
                                                                                                                    iL Divo Dec 31, 2011 02:31 PM

                                                                                                                    I vote for a good strong yeasty flavored hard crusty bready roll sourdough thingie.

                                                                                                                  2. re: iL Divo
                                                                                                                    lawhound05 Dec 31, 2011 02:37 PM

                                                                                                                    I make this one, too, but the recipe I have doesn't call for italian dressing, just the roast and the entire jar of peppers and liquid - it's called "Amazing Beef," which it is!

                                                                                                                  3. tcamp Dec 31, 2011 08:19 AM

                                                                                                                    If you want to fall in love, you're going to need to invest some time in the relationship. If any of the ideas in this thread resonate, try them out. Peruse online recipes or books and try a few out. I know many people who can't be bothered but for me, out of the house almost all day every day with work/kids/life, the crock is a useful tool.

                                                                                                                    FWIW, I use one of my two crocks at least 2X/week. Most recent uses were for turkey stock (xmas leftover), applesauce, oatmeal, meat sauce for spagetti, and a tongue for lengua tacos. Those were all made overnight except for the tongue. I have no qualms about leaving mine on during the day when I am working and I use a timer I purchased aftermarket to delay start.

                                                                                                                    1. j
                                                                                                                      julesrules Dec 31, 2011 08:43 AM

                                                                                                                      Here's another use I'm trying out today - caramelized onions! It's the only way the NYE blue cheese dip is getting made.

                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: julesrules
                                                                                                                        tcamp Dec 31, 2011 08:47 AM

                                                                                                                        Wait a minute! Before you go, what is in that dip? I've got onions, an empty crock, and a huge hunk of blue cheese calling my name.

                                                                                                                        1. re: tcamp
                                                                                                                          j
                                                                                                                          julesrules Dec 31, 2011 08:53 AM

                                                                                                                          I'm riffing, from memory, on an epi recipe that calls for shallots and Stilton I believe, with sour cream. I have Danish blue I want to use up (so I can have Stilton on my cheese plate) and red onions in the crock with olive oil and butter. I googled for the metho and many links call for 10 hours on low, that isn't going to work for tonight so I am attempting them on high, will keep an eye as I do other things, am prepared as well to finish them on the stove.

                                                                                                                          Here's one blog with instructions for high heat/shorter cooking time:
                                                                                                                          http://islandvittles.com/2011/02/17/c...

                                                                                                                          1. re: julesrules
                                                                                                                            tcamp Jan 1, 2012 12:10 PM

                                                                                                                            Thanks for the inspiration, Jules. I carmelized a bunch of yellow onions on high, located an epicurious recipe that may have been the one you had in mind, made/ate/enjoyed, and have a gallon bag of onions frozen for later use. Yay, crockpot.

                                                                                                                      2. h
                                                                                                                        hto44 Dec 31, 2011 03:47 PM

                                                                                                                        I love it for soups, stews and chilis. I like throwing a roasting chicken or whole breasts in and then I pick the meat of for other uses -i.e pot pie, enchiladas, burritos, casseroles, etc. And yes, pulled pork is a great idea but add the sauce at the end.

                                                                                                                        1. q
                                                                                                                          Querencia Dec 31, 2011 05:44 PM

                                                                                                                          I follow a generic recipe for anything stew-like---and it definitely does not require browning. Start with a dry crock. Put 1/2 cup of flour in it. Add whatever dry ingredients you are going to use---salt, paprika, garlic powder, curry powder, dry onion soup mix, whatever. Add an 8-oz can of tomato sauce while stirring to avoid lumping. Add a few cans (use tomato sauce can) of some kind of liquid---water, wine, tomato juice, stock. Put in your solids---beef, lamb, chicken, potatoes, onions, carrots,carrots, celery etc. Then cook for a long time. Possibilities: CURRY: use beef, lamb, or chicken, a couple of coarsely chopped onions, curry powder, stock or water, the tomato sauce, and a bag of frozen peas. STEW: use beef, onions, potatoes, carrots, water or tomato juice or stock, and some bay leaf. BEEF BURGUNDY: use beef, dry onion soup mix, mushrooms, the tomato sauce, and wine. GOULASH: use veal or beef, onions, paprika, the tomato sauce, coarsely chopped sweet red pepper, and water or stock. You get the idea---dry flour, other dry ingredients, tomato sauce, liquid, solids, cook.

                                                                                                                          Another possibility is Beef in Beer. Again, no need to brown. Use the same technique starting with the flour in the dry crock then proceed to beef (I cut up a 2-3 pound roast for this), portobello mushrooms (use these because they make a darker gravy), chopped onions, the tomato sauce, and 2 or 3 cans of beer---don't dilute the beer, just use beer and the one little can of tomato sauce. This freezes well and is good with Spaetzel if you can get it, otherwise ordinary noodles.

                                                                                                                          One more thing: years ago when I worked a job with long hours I used to cook a turkey breast in my slow cooker. I would put it frozen hard as a rock in the empty crock at 10 or 11 at night before I went to bed, add nothing to it, turn it to LOW, and let it cook all night and all the next day. When I got home at dinner time it would be done perfectly. I know that the new cookers are faster so you might have to adjust, maybe use a timer or maybe starting it off in the morning would work.

                                                                                                                          1. q
                                                                                                                            Querencia Dec 31, 2011 05:51 PM

                                                                                                                            A couple more things. 1) There is a recipe all over the Internet for a dessert called Triple Chocolate Mess that's made in the slow cooker. I have not made it as I am not that much of a chocolate lover but people rave about it. 2) A friend found a recipe somewhere online for sweet potatoes cooked in applesauce (plus cinnamon and butter) that she loved---the applesauce disappears in cooking, leaving just a glaze on the sweet potatoes. 3) Last week I cooked a big bag of frozen collard greens in the slow cooker with all the bits and mess from the bottom of the roaster when I baked a ham. That was delicious if you like southern-style vegetables (cooked long and slow and tasting of ham).

                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                            1. re: Querencia
                                                                                                                              r
                                                                                                                              rasputina Dec 31, 2011 07:42 PM

                                                                                                                              What a great idea for cooking greens! Thanks for posting that.

                                                                                                                            2. Uncle Bob Dec 31, 2011 06:45 PM

                                                                                                                              I never loved my slow cookers/crockpots more.... than when I gave them to an enemy!!!!

                                                                                                                              1. c
                                                                                                                                cgarner Jan 1, 2012 06:35 AM

                                                                                                                                Whatever you do... do NOT make the chicken "dump " recip with the salsa, cream cheese, and blackbeans... urgh. It will make you want to toss the crock pot. (It was a "highly rated "recipe on another site)

                                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: cgarner
                                                                                                                                  f
                                                                                                                                  Floridagirl Jan 1, 2012 10:07 AM

                                                                                                                                  I have seen that recipe but it didn't really look good to me. Glad I didn't make it. I'm laid off now but when I worked I used the slow cooker maybe once a month but was never happy with the results. I like slow cooked food but I like to see what's going on and you can't do that with the slow cooker. I do cook chicken for my dogs in it once a week.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: cgarner
                                                                                                                                    iL Divo Jan 1, 2012 02:37 PM

                                                                                                                                    I won't cgarner the ingreds don't call out to me

                                                                                                                                    1. re: cgarner
                                                                                                                                      bernalgirl Jan 5, 2012 02:27 PM

                                                                                                                                      These are exactly the recipes that give slow cookers their bad reputation. First rule of slow cookers: don't do a recipe if you wouldn't use those ingredients on the stovetop. I'll use a recipe that calls for prepared salsa, using a salsa I typically buy that I know won't skew the salt content of the meal. But I learned through experience that slow cooking of prepared foods like jarred salsa can heighten their "fake" taste.

                                                                                                                                    2. chowser Jan 1, 2012 11:47 AM

                                                                                                                                      My thoughts on slow cooker cooking:

                                                                                                                                      1) it works for braising but I'd pick stove top or oven over it. However it's great for times when you have an hour or so earlier in the day and want to come home to a decent hot meal.

                                                                                                                                      2) No "dump" food where you put everything in and turn it on is good--it tends to get all mushy and bland. There are people who like it, just check out the 365 days of crockpot site and the number of fans. No one in my family will eat a meal made that way. So, it takes time to sear the meat, saute the vegetables, deglaze and reduce, etc. But if you do that, nothing beats coming home at 7 and being able to eat w/out doing anything else. I make rice in the rice cooker and server the stew/short ribs/pot roast/etc. over rice. It's no different from regular cooking--you can't dump everything into a pan and expect that to taste good so why would a slow cooker be different?

                                                                                                                                      3) I'd only use a slow cooker with a timer so it can turn to a warm setting and then keep the food warm. Overcooked and dried is never good.

                                                                                                                                      4) Pulled pork--the best way to do it is overnight on low in the oven. In the morning, shred, add your sauce ( I like carolina style, heavy on vinegar best, the other sauces w/ more tomato can dry out) and turn on low.

                                                                                                                                      5) Other things I do in the slow cooker: chicken stock, bread pudding/strata/other custards (corn pudding is good), hot drinks, "caramelized" onions (really just cooked onions but it's so easy), meatballs in red sauce (add raw meatballs into red sauce and they cook in the sauce), overnight steel cut oatmeal

                                                                                                                                      13 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: chowser
                                                                                                                                        bernalgirl Jan 5, 2012 02:30 PM

                                                                                                                                        Now if I had read the whole thread before posting, I wouldn't have needed to. Well said, I agree with your points and look forward to trying corn pudding and strata!

                                                                                                                                        1. re: bernalgirl
                                                                                                                                          chowser Jan 5, 2012 02:34 PM

                                                                                                                                          Yes, there's definitely a place and time for a slow cooker. Just because it can be poorly used doesn't mean it's a bad piece of equipment and for busy people, it's wonderful. Sometimes for drier foods, like that corn pudding, I'll put a towel below the lid. It obviously takes longer to cook but it prevents dripping onto the surface. I've thought about doing a cheesecake in one, since it's the perfect low heat, moist environment.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: chowser
                                                                                                                                          jmckee Jan 6, 2012 10:18 AM

                                                                                                                                          Your point number 2 seems to be a highly generalized statement. Some dishes you CAN dump everything in at once.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: jmckee
                                                                                                                                            chowser Jan 6, 2012 11:38 AM

                                                                                                                                            I know some people like that and mentioned it. I don't. Other than chicken stock, and even that takes more prep, I can't think of one thing made in the crockpot where you dump everything in and it turns out well. I can't think of anything that that's true for for the stove top, either.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: chowser
                                                                                                                                              lawhound05 Jan 6, 2012 11:59 AM

                                                                                                                                              Take a large oval crockpot. Put in a whole chicken. Season with lemon, olive oil and oregano ( or whatever your herb/spice/seasoning preference is). Put on lid, cook on low 8 hours or more.
                                                                                                                                              Result - tender, juicy chicken that is much better, cheaper, and way less salty than the storebought rotisserie.
                                                                                                                                              Everyone I have made this for has loved it. Pretty much just a dump it in and let it cook.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: lawhound05
                                                                                                                                                chowser Jan 6, 2012 12:16 PM

                                                                                                                                                I've done that. And a few variations of that, w/ different sauces, seasonings. Took the temp of the chicken to make sure it wasn't overcooked. I never liked any of them, nor did my family. Make Zuni chicken in the oven and see if yours compares.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: chowser
                                                                                                                                                  lawhound05 Jan 6, 2012 12:45 PM

                                                                                                                                                  I think you are comparing apples and oranges. Zuni chicken is roasted, which will make it different than crockpot chicken, where there is no browning. If you insist on browned chicken skin, then yeah, you won't like it cooked in the crockpot. Roasted chicken is great if you are home to cook and have the time to make it, but life is busy sometimes. It is also nice in the summer not to have to heat up the kitchen by using the oven.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: lawhound05
                                                                                                                                                    chowser Jan 6, 2012 01:32 PM

                                                                                                                                                    Don't get me wrong--there are definitely advantages to a slow cooker. I just don't think whole chicken is one of them. Meats that can be braised areperfect, even skinless thighs/drumsticks but the skin gets oddly rubbery in the slow cooker and white meat stringy and dry.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: chowser
                                                                                                                                                      lawhound05 Jan 6, 2012 01:43 PM

                                                                                                                                                      I agree, the skin is not great, but I discard it. If it's dry, it's overcooked, not the crockpot's fault. I've never had that problem.

                                                                                                                                                2. re: lawhound05
                                                                                                                                                  iL Divo Jan 7, 2012 07:33 PM

                                                                                                                                                  ok, if I don't do WW tomorrow night or that chili that called my name, this chicken with the 3 easy ingredients sounds so good. plus you've got all that extra chicken after dinner to play with during the week if you freeze in portions.
                                                                                                                                                  I do what was mentioned earlier too about putting a towel under the lid of my oval crock pot cause it does drip down too much moisture plus it clicks&clacks all day noise from it's rattle.

                                                                                                                                            2. re: chowser
                                                                                                                                              livetocook Jan 12, 2012 12:45 PM

                                                                                                                                              Thank you!! #2 and #3 are why I hated my crockpot.

                                                                                                                                              and reading your conversation about the roasted chicken, my thoughts exactly Chowser. I like them with a crispy skin and didn't understand why people roasted a chicken there. To each his own

                                                                                                                                              1. re: livetocook
                                                                                                                                                r
                                                                                                                                                rasputina Jan 13, 2012 06:59 AM

                                                                                                                                                Because there are a lot of uses for chicken meat where the skin doesn't matter, like enchilada filling or sandwiches. I just did a whole chicken in mine yesterday, it's falling off the bone tender and juicy because it basically poached in it's own fat ( I added nothing to the pot other than the chicken).

                                                                                                                                                1. re: rasputina
                                                                                                                                                  livetocook Jan 13, 2012 08:52 AM

                                                                                                                                                  make sense. I never thought about it for that. Although I usually use cooked chicken breast for that and prefer to eat dark meat as is

                                                                                                                                            3. r
                                                                                                                                              racer x Jan 1, 2012 01:52 PM

                                                                                                                                              My favorite dish cooked using the slow cooker in the traditional way is chicken cacciatore.
                                                                                                                                              But I rarely cook that.

                                                                                                                                              Since starting sous vide cooking, I use the slow cooker almost exclusively for sous vide. In fact, I bought it for sous vide.
                                                                                                                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/758141

                                                                                                                                              Most of my use is for dishes that will only be cooked for a few minutes (fish) or less than 2 hours (poultry, meat), simply because I currently prefer those dishes.

                                                                                                                                              But there are a host of dishes that can be left for 10+ hours -- roasts, pork spare ribs, tougher cuts of meat like shanks, duck confit. In fact, some of the meats can be cooked sous vide over 1 - 3 days, giving you even more freedom in terms of how you time the cooking process.

                                                                                                                                              1. w
                                                                                                                                                Woodensandals Jan 2, 2012 12:24 PM

                                                                                                                                                I'm in your boat - I am commuting/working for 10-12 hours and I need a way to get dinner on the table. I have a toddler and another baby coming this month.
                                                                                                                                                I find a lot of recipes at Southernfood.about.com. A lot of them require adaptation to please more refined tastes... I also omit browning steps because I don't have time. Usually I prep and put the whole crock in the fridge the night before then pop it in the base before I leave it the morning.

                                                                                                                                                Crockpot success foods: chicken thighs and legs, pork shoulder, beef brisket and chuck, ham, split pea soup, ribs, baked beans

                                                                                                                                                Crockpot failures: any lean cuts of meat. Chicken breasts particularly.

                                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: Woodensandals
                                                                                                                                                  q
                                                                                                                                                  Querencia Mar 7, 2012 03:04 AM

                                                                                                                                                  Woodensandals, I feel your pain: you are busy. But I must speak up for chicken breasts because the boneless skinless ones lend themselves well to crock-potted dishes. Examples: Chicken Curry: chicken, a bag of frozen peas, a couple of chopped onions, a can of tomato sauce and a few cans of water, a little flour, curry powder, salt, garlic. Sometimes I add a chopped potato or two. 2) African Chicken: chicken, chopped onion, chopped green pepper, tomato sauce, a can of tomatoes, flour, salt, a little bit of hot chili pepper, and PEANUT BUTTER---not much, but enough to taste, and this needs to be spicy.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Querencia
                                                                                                                                                    r
                                                                                                                                                    Rella Mar 7, 2012 05:24 AM

                                                                                                                                                    I have been under the impression that chicken breasts in a tagine and a slow cooker are if-y. I really couldn't understand why not. I am not fond of thighs or legs or wings; basically anything but white meat is not preferable to my tastes, although I do prepare a whole chicken and have recently posted here, I believe, that I did did a whole chicken in the slow cooker.

                                                                                                                                                    Thanks for your recommendation, Querencia. You have really helped to expand my cooking repertoire by doing so.

                                                                                                                                                2. Savour Jan 2, 2012 01:44 PM

                                                                                                                                                  I like a lot of the recipes in the "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook" by Beth Hensperger. Mostly scratch, and a mix of shorter cooking times and longer cooking times.

                                                                                                                                                  Chicken almost never stands up well to a longer cooking time. Pork, beef and beans do.

                                                                                                                                                  The crockpot can also be used for some genius things that aren't dinner when you get home, but are nonetheless useful -- caramelizing onions, making duck confit.

                                                                                                                                                  1. PamelaD Jan 2, 2012 01:48 PM

                                                                                                                                                    I love my crockpot!

                                                                                                                                                    Here is a favorite: A mexican chicken stew:

                                                                                                                                                    1 fresh pablano pepper, chopped up
                                                                                                                                                    2 fresh jalepenos, chopped up
                                                                                                                                                    1 fresh green bell pepper, chopped up
                                                                                                                                                    1 large sweet onion, chopped up
                                                                                                                                                    1-3 cloves of garlic, minced or sliced (to taste)
                                                                                                                                                    6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
                                                                                                                                                    juice of one lime
                                                                                                                                                    1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
                                                                                                                                                    1.5 teaspoons oregano
                                                                                                                                                    1 teaspoon of chipolte powder (opt)
                                                                                                                                                    a pinch of salt

                                                                                                                                                    chop all the peppers, exculding seeds and ribs (unless you want more spice) and put in the bottom of the crockpot. Add onions and garlic on top. Add chicken thighs (whole), the spinkle with lime juice (the acid helps break down the protein) and spices. Cook on high for one hour, then turn down to med/low for another 2-4 hours. Mix up occansionally to break up meat. When it is done, the meat should be all shredded and tender. I freeze this in portions for quick suppers, with the addition of a slice of cornbread or rice; or you can use this to fill tacos. Enjoy.
                                                                                                                                                    P

                                                                                                                                                    1. c
                                                                                                                                                      cooking_geek Jan 3, 2012 01:42 PM

                                                                                                                                                      OMG! I absolutely LOVE my slow cooker! In fact, I just upgraded and got a fancier one for Christmas (one with a probe that will shut off to 'warm' when it's at the right temp). Anyway - I have a recipe for Lemon Chicken Breasts (boneless, skinless with a creamy lemon sauce) (they do require a little browning, but you can do it the night before and stick it in the fridge), chili, pot roast (put a pot roast in the cooker sprinkled with an envelope of lipton onion soup mix and a can or two of cream of mushroom soup - you can add some baby potatoes (whole) too!), stewing chicken (when I get home, I pull the whole pieces of chicken out and let them cool enough to handle) - I put the broth on the stove and add curly noodles and peas and cook til done - adding de-boned chicken pieces back in), ribs in bbq sauce, pulled pork (I usually just sprinkle with my favorite seasoning and add a can of coke, root beef, or dr pepper - let it go all day and pull apart with fork and add my fav bbq sauce), whole butt portion ham. All of these things are put in the crock pot in the morning around 7, and we dont' eat until 6ish (although mine does go to a warm setting after the number of cooking hours is done). I also have a choc lava cake and creme brulee recipe for the crock pot that I haven't tried yet. Cooking big baker potatoes all day also works for a baked potato bar!

                                                                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: cooking_geek
                                                                                                                                                        tcamp Jan 3, 2012 02:38 PM

                                                                                                                                                        How do the potatoes work? Just big, naked russets in the crock all day? Oiled? Liquid? That sounds nice as there is never time to bake 'em after work.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: tcamp
                                                                                                                                                          c
                                                                                                                                                          cooking_geek Jan 11, 2012 12:06 PM

                                                                                                                                                          I just took the big baker potatoes, washed them, and wrapped them in foil just like I would in the oven. Pierced them a couple of times with a fork and left them cooking on low all day! I don't much care for the microwaved version of baked potatoes - but these turned out great!

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: cooking_geek
                                                                                                                                                            tcamp Jan 12, 2012 06:39 AM

                                                                                                                                                            Thx, have some Costco monsters crocking away at home today!

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: cooking_geek
                                                                                                                                                              r
                                                                                                                                                              rasputina Jan 13, 2012 07:00 AM

                                                                                                                                                              Oh I'm so going to do that, I've never tried it. I have some huge bakers sitting in the pantry.

                                                                                                                                                        2. pdxgastro Jan 3, 2012 01:55 PM

                                                                                                                                                          I don't know if you like Thai Chicken Soup, mickey, but I found this recipe online:

                                                                                                                                                          http://bevcooks.com/2012/01/slow-cook...

                                                                                                                                                          1. l
                                                                                                                                                            lowchengirl Jan 3, 2012 03:12 PM

                                                                                                                                                            I make oatmeal in mine! Love it. I store it in a tupperware in the fridge & very morning we scoop out a portion & add a little water (and sometimes Hazelnut flavored Coffee-mate & chopped nuts) and microwave it for a minute. Or pack it & bring it to work. Heart healthy & keeps me going until lunch time.
                                                                                                                                                            I use:
                                                                                                                                                            1 cup McCann's Steel Cut oats
                                                                                                                                                            5 cups water
                                                                                                                                                            2 tsp. vanilla
                                                                                                                                                            generous shake of cinnamon
                                                                                                                                                            handful of raisin, craisin mix (they plump up like crazy & no need for sweetener)
                                                                                                                                                            On low for 4-5 hours till very thick & tender.
                                                                                                                                                            Makes the house smell delicious. You could also add chopped apples.

                                                                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: lowchengirl
                                                                                                                                                              pdxgastro Jan 3, 2012 08:42 PM

                                                                                                                                                              Have you seen the ad for Plum Amazins (http://www.sunsweet.com/products/plum...), chopped up dried plums you can add to cereal?

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: pdxgastro
                                                                                                                                                                h
                                                                                                                                                                hyde Jan 3, 2012 09:50 PM

                                                                                                                                                                funny. they used to call dried plums, prunes. i think you can still get them somewhere...

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: hyde
                                                                                                                                                                  DuchessNukem Jan 4, 2012 04:19 PM

                                                                                                                                                                  Lol hyde. Chopped "dried plums" do taste great in oatmeal but my husband told me to back off on them for some reason. I think he figured out what they used to be. ;)

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: DuchessNukem
                                                                                                                                                                    s
                                                                                                                                                                    shanemio Jan 5, 2012 11:16 AM

                                                                                                                                                                    I love this recipe. Found it really ironic that right after I made it, peperoni was featured in a winning dish on Top Chef that Tom Collechio loved. It is good.
                                                                                                                                                                    Spanish Slow Cooker Roast
                                                                                                                                                                    1 tablespoon vegetable oil
                                                                                                                                                                    1 (4 pound) beef chuck roast
                                                                                                                                                                    salt and pepper to taste
                                                                                                                                                                    1 cube vegetable bouillon
                                                                                                                                                                    1 cup boiling water
                                                                                                                                                                    1 (4 ounce) package sliced pepperoni
                                                                                                                                                                    1 medium onion, quartered and thinly sliced
                                                                                                                                                                    1 (15 ounce) can whole black olives, drained
                                                                                                                                                                    2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
                                                                                                                                                                    1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes
                                                                                                                                                                    The instructions are on All REcipes

                                                                                                                                                            2. f
                                                                                                                                                              FitMom4Life Jan 6, 2012 09:10 AM

                                                                                                                                                              Warnings about leaving it on all day? Huh? It's a slow cooker. It's MEANT to leave on all day. I routinely place frozen roasts (yes frozen...I've been doing it for years) and turning the cooker on LOW, and not coming back for 10 hours. It's perfectly cooked, fall apart deliciousness, every time.

                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: FitMom4Life
                                                                                                                                                                paulj Jan 6, 2012 09:21 AM

                                                                                                                                                                Yes, the early models were meant (and marketed) for leaving on all day. But as I noted earlier, there are some safety concerns about that, and newer cookers supposedly address those - at the expense of that all-day use.

                                                                                                                                                              2. m
                                                                                                                                                                MRS Jan 11, 2012 12:40 PM

                                                                                                                                                                Don't know if it's of interest to you, but I just got my most recent issue of Real Simple and there's a whole section this month on different slow cooker recipes. They looked interesting and tasty. I will be unpacking slow cooker shortly when we move in the next few weeks- didn't really have the counter space for it here.- and I may very well try some of these ideas.

                                                                                                                                                                1. h
                                                                                                                                                                  happyzhangbo Jan 11, 2012 03:42 PM

                                                                                                                                                                  The best thing of slow cooker is that it doesn't require you to stand at the stovetop cooking. When you set the temperature on low, and add enough liquid into the pot, it's going to be fine. Another great thing of crockpot is that the longtime cooking really makes the food taste very flavorful, especially it can turn a cheap cut of meat into a succulent meal.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. c
                                                                                                                                                                    cgarner Jan 13, 2012 06:51 AM

                                                                                                                                                                    I am currently experimenting with making chicken stock in the slow cooker over a 24 hr period of time
                                                                                                                                                                    Crazy? Maybe! I roasted some wings and backs and put them in the slow cooker with parsnips, carrots, onion, garlic cloves, a few 'coins' of ginger, one sweet potato and about a tbps of whole peppercorns. Covered with 8-10 cups of cold water and set on low at 6:30 last night.
                                                                                                                                                                    I checked it this morning (12 hours later( and everything looked good, gave it a taste and it was still a bit weak, I realize that there's no evaporation to speak of goign on, so I figured that 24 hours on low would be what it takes to extract more flavor from the ingredients)
                                                                                                                                                                    I will try to report back... if this works, it's gotta be the easiest way ever to make stock
                                                                                                                                                                    (no skimming, no watching, just cook and strain through cheese cloth)

                                                                                                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: cgarner
                                                                                                                                                                      r
                                                                                                                                                                      rasputina Jan 13, 2012 07:03 AM

                                                                                                                                                                      I used mine for a long time to make stock with chicken carcasses. I finally ended up switching to a 12 quart stockpot since I'm canning it when I'm done anyway. The slow cooker is great for stocks though.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: cgarner
                                                                                                                                                                        DuchessNukem Jan 13, 2012 12:57 PM

                                                                                                                                                                        I always use my slow cooker for stock, cgarner, and it works beautifully. Important to consider is how much water you add at the beginning, determines final strength. Of course, I have reduced some in a saucepan afterwards but why go an extra step if not needed?

                                                                                                                                                                        One delight is fast-food chicken-wing stock:
                                                                                                                                                                        -stop by Wing Stop and leave with large bag of greasy goodness
                                                                                                                                                                        -eat an embarrassing amount of tasty, crappy fast-food chicken wings
                                                                                                                                                                        -save bones and rinse well
                                                                                                                                                                        -toss into slow cooker with approp veggies and water (no need for spice as some will cling)
                                                                                                                                                                        -label "Wing Stock" and freeze; use only for 'internal' dishes (me & the husband) -- since we've both slobbered on the bones lol

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: DuchessNukem
                                                                                                                                                                          chowser Jan 13, 2012 07:21 PM

                                                                                                                                                                          You can also fold a kitchen towel below the lid to reduce.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: DuchessNukem
                                                                                                                                                                            c
                                                                                                                                                                            cgarner Jan 15, 2012 06:32 AM

                                                                                                                                                                            DN not sure what went wrong... too many extra ingredients? (Parsnip, sweet potato)
                                                                                                                                                                            The slow cooker tuurned itself off so I am not sure exactly how long it went, suffice to say 12+ hours. The stock had a burnt medicinal/bitter taste.
                                                                                                                                                                            I pitched it, which makes me because i am loathe to waste food.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: cgarner
                                                                                                                                                                              r
                                                                                                                                                                              rasputina Jan 15, 2012 07:06 AM

                                                                                                                                                                              Yes, it sounds like too many ingredients. I just use a chicken carcass, onion and peppercorns and sometimes a carrot or two. I learned the hard way a long time ago not to get too fancy for long cooked stock. I used that method and cooked 12-24 hours in the slow cooker on low and in fact would switch it to warm over night because it was simmering a little higher than I wanted. I used this method for a few years and it works great.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: cgarner
                                                                                                                                                                                DuchessNukem Jan 16, 2012 12:37 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                Ah, cgarner, darn. Please do try again!

                                                                                                                                                                                Hmmm, let's see if we can troubleshoot:
                                                                                                                                                                                --My veg: only carrot, onion, celery. Parsnips are acceptable. Spice: only peppercorns.
                                                                                                                                                                                --I'd eliminate sweet potato. It tend to break up in long simmering and will tend to scorch.
                                                                                                                                                                                --Also, for a 4-qt crock, I only add about 6 whole peppercorns; can always spice up later.
                                                                                                                                                                                --And I'd minimize or eliminate ginger: its flavor can change and get very complex, even bitter, in simmer.
                                                                                                                                                                                --Make sure cooker is mostly full: 3/4 full to near the brim is best (ingredients will settle as they soften). So make sure you match cooker size to desired output (I have four slow cookers: 2-cup, 1.5-qt, 4-qt, and an ornamental 3.5-qt transparent one.)
                                                                                                                                                                                --Consider chicken: water ratio. I don't have numbers but I like to have a nice pile of bones/meat/veg, just covered with water, since I like to end with a strong stock.
                                                                                                                                                                                --12 hours is enough for me. If weak, then can reduce in saucepan (the towel trick others have suggested but might work too, but I think I'd find all my cats ringing the pot, sucking the edges of the thing lol).
                                                                                                                                                                                --Turkey stock is fabulous too. Consider this if you want a stronger/richer-flavored stock from the get-go.

                                                                                                                                                                                Hope this helps. :)

                                                                                                                                                                          2. g
                                                                                                                                                                            greeneggsnham Jan 13, 2012 07:23 AM

                                                                                                                                                                            You might want to check out "Mexican Everyday" by Rick Bayless. I apologize if some one else already mentioned this, but this is a great resource for some more chow-worthy slow cooker recipes. The cookbook is devoted to "everyday" cooking and contains maybe 8 or slow slow-cooker recipes interspersed. I haven't made them all, but the recipe for beans (no soaking required, add a Tbsp of bacon fat to the cooking liquid) has become my absolute go-to and a great way to use the slow cooker. There is also a pork tinga recipe in there designed to be made in the slow cooker. My sister in law tipped me off to this one. It was good the first day, awesome 2 days later after sitting in the fridge for a couple days, served with tortillas, lime and avacado.

                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: greeneggsnham
                                                                                                                                                                              r
                                                                                                                                                                              Rella Jan 17, 2012 07:05 PM

                                                                                                                                                                              I found a couple of recipes I might try in this book. One chicken recipe in particular using tomatillos.

                                                                                                                                                                              Thanks for suggesting this book, I would not have thought to look for a slow cooker recipe here.-

                                                                                                                                                                            2. j
                                                                                                                                                                              julesrules Jan 20, 2012 05:18 PM

                                                                                                                                                                              Crockpot friends, I am wondering about pre-prepping chicken.
                                                                                                                                                                              I have no qualms browning beef the night before (I do all my prep and throw everything in the crock insert, then stick it in the fridge overnight, pop it in the crock in the morning). But somehow with chicken I'm not so sure it's a good idea to brown then refridgerate half-cooked. Any thoughts?

                                                                                                                                                                              1. m
                                                                                                                                                                                malabargold Jan 22, 2012 07:32 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                Afraid i cannot help. Anything that can be cooked in one of these things can be cooked better by other means.

                                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: malabargold
                                                                                                                                                                                  r
                                                                                                                                                                                  Rella Jan 22, 2012 08:11 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/829403 is a new thread for chowhounds that are cooking from a couple of slow-cooker books. Today I am making a pot roast from "The Italian Slow Cooker." It looks to be a good recipe.

                                                                                                                                                                                2. d
                                                                                                                                                                                  divadev Jan 31, 2012 11:58 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                  There are many things I use my slow cooker for: the best being meatballs and sauce. You can throw a bag of frozen meatballs in with a jar sauce (I "doctor" it up, but you don't have too) in the morning, and have the most delicious meatballs in the p.m.
                                                                                                                                                                                  You can do a turkey breast (depending on the size of your crock pot) with no pre-browning. There are also pot roast and chicken recipes that do not require pre-browning. And if they do require prebrowning, do it the night before. You can even make some pretty delish desserts with cake mix and canned fruit in the crock! Not pretty, but very tasty!
                                                                                                                                                                                  Go on line and check out some of the wonderful recipes, and good luck!

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. r
                                                                                                                                                                                    racer x Feb 28, 2012 09:37 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                    Just came across this page this weekend, 3 recipes from Mark Bittman
                                                                                                                                                                                    (the times for two of them are "7 hours or more on low" -- not sure how well that translates to 10+ hours)

                                                                                                                                                                                    http://www.e-cookbooks.net/articles/s...

                                                                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: racer x
                                                                                                                                                                                      j
                                                                                                                                                                                      julesrules Feb 28, 2012 10:01 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                      I gotta say I agree with his thesis that slow cookers are coming into their own, although I didn't quite have the interest to read the whole article. I love that google immediately knows what I want and finishes my query whenever I have a slow cooker-meets-"gourmet" idea: slow cooker choucroute garnie (thanks to Mark's suggestion), slow cooker carbonnade, slow cooker coq au vin... anything I can think of, the blogosphere has already done. And the results are generally quite good. I'm thinking of adapting some All About Braising recipes soon.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: julesrules
                                                                                                                                                                                        v
                                                                                                                                                                                        Val Feb 28, 2012 04:33 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                        jr, I have *loved* Google ever since I first found out about it...years ago...I keep telling co-workers: "google it!"....fabulous!

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. k
                                                                                                                                                                                      kazhound Mar 9, 2012 07:30 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                      I love my slow cooker! I like making lamb curry in it

                                                                                                                                                                                      I use this recipe with the following modifications:
                                                                                                                                                                                      http://www.food.com/recipe/indian-lamb-curry-27864

                                                                                                                                                                                      I cut the meat into bigger pieces, use fresh ginger, minced, instead of paste. instead of the green chili, I used a jalapeno one time, some red pepper flakes another, and used the TJ diced tomatoes with green chili the third instead of plain diced tomatoes, they were all good. I also use like 1 cup of broth instead of 4 cups water. I also do only the first 4 steps in a
                                                                                                                                                                                      skillet, then put the rest of the ingredients in the slow cooker.

                                                                                                                                                                                      i've also made this recipe a few times, and really liked it (despite the fact that it is just a "dump" recipe:
                                                                                                                                                                                      http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/...

                                                                                                                                                                                      Other great successes in the slow cooker were applesauce, improving ribs that had come out of the smoker too early, and a veggie-like ratatouille concoction.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: kazhound
                                                                                                                                                                                        j
                                                                                                                                                                                        julesrules Mar 12, 2012 01:29 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                        Both of those recipes sound good, thanks. I never have luck doing lamb stews on the stove, maybe the crockpot will actually help me out there.
                                                                                                                                                                                        I think dump recipes can be fine when there is lots of spicing and/or sweet ingredients that already have depth of flavour - for example, I made this pulled pork recipe skipping the browning entirely, and it was good - I used a full can of tomato paste and water in place of the tomato paste and sauce, and at the end added a couple of tablespoons of molasses because it was missing a little sweetness.
                                                                                                                                                                                        http://www.canadianliving.com/food/sl...

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. eclecticsynergy Mar 11, 2012 03:01 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                        "I've seen warnings about leaving it on all day"

                                                                                                                                                                                        Leave it to the lawyers to avoid any possible liability- check out this warning:

                                                                                                                                                                                         
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