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Dec 6, 2012 08:07 AM

Recommendation for Crock Pot Cookbook

I don't use a crock pot, but I'm buying one as a gift for my niece. I'd also like to give her a nice cookbook to go along with it. Can anyone recommend a good cookbook on crock pot cookery? Thanks!

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  1. It would depend upon how experienced a cook she is and what she likes to cook and eat. I think my favorites are Michele Scicolone's books, The Italian Slow Cooker and The French Slow Cooker (she has a new one in the works called The Mediterranean Slow Cooker). A recent one I got is The Mexican Slow Cooker by Deborah Schneider. I haven't made anything from it yet, but it looks really good.

    But I guess if I had to recommend one book for someone brand new to the slow cooker, it would probably be Slow Cooker Revolution by America's Test Kitchen, as it contains reliable recipes in a broad range of styles, and should have something to appeal to anyone.

    5 Replies
    1. re: MelMM

      +1 for America's Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution for a new slow cooker cook.

        1. re: Becca Porter

          +3 for ATK. Haven't run into a bad recipe yet.

          1. re: NonnieMuss

            +4 for ATK. I love their explanations because that serves as a jumping off point for me when I start experiementing!

      1. re: MelMM

        +1 for Michele Scicolone's books. I have a number of her cookbooks, including all her slow cooker books and have come to know her recipes to be well-developed, clear and consistently deliver good results. In my experience most slow cookers come with a small recipe book to cover the basics so one of Michele's books might make for a nice alternative to a more generic book.

        For any MS slow cooker cookbook fans, just wanted to mention that she's got a new cookbook coming out in January called The Mediterranean Slow Cooker...

      2. I have and like both "The Gourmet Slow Cooker: Simple and Sophisticated Meals from Around the World" by Lynn Alley and "The Gourmet Slow Cooker, Volume II: Regional Comfort-Food Classics" also by Lynn Alley. (Hardcovers) Both books are informative, have clear directions, and provide tasty finished dishes. I use both frequently and with very good results.

        1. My favorite is the Southern Living Slow Cooker Cookbook: Come Home to Home-Cooked Comfort. Many good recipes.

          1. Slow cooker cookbooks are odd. You either get ones that capture the true ease of using a slow cooker in that they are drop and go or you get the ones that require a lot of prep work, pre-cooking food on the stove, etc. just to get it into the pot.

            I also find that a lot of the more modern slow cooker books are having food only cook for 2-4 hours which, really defeats my reason for using a slow cooker. If your cooker is too large for the food inside it'll cook even faster. Trust me.

            The "Not Your Mothers" series of books by Beth Hensperger tend to get good reviews. There is a cooking for two version as well as a larger portions and entertaining.

            There are also "Fix It and Forget It" books which are more the classic dump and cook recipes. Often they contain cream soups and very few ingredients. They aren't gourmet at all. They are homey comfort foods---I say very midwestern which isn't meant to be rude, just a style of eating I associate with living in MN. :)

            17 Replies
            1. re: eperdu

              The reason for the short cooking time is that the modern slow cookers run quite hot. It's a health and safety thing. Food must reach and be maintained at a safe temperature. We have had this discussion on this board before. For example, with a modern slow cooker, I can't leave most beans (except chickpeas and kidney beans) for a whole working day. They are baby mush after 9-10 hours. Same with chicken. The only time I can use the slow cooker is for half days in the weekends, unless of course for cooking the aforementioned legumes.

              1. re: lilham

                I know exactly why the times are short. I'm just indicating that if a persons expectation is that they can put something in the slow cooker and leave it all day that isn't going to happen. Not to mention that most recipe books aren't written that way any longer.

                I find my slow cooker more problematic than worth it for me because of the short cooking times.

                1. re: eperdu

                  eperdu, many of the new slow cookers have timers on them to start up at the time you set so it's done cooking when you get home. Others have said put food in semi-frozen in the morning before you leave for work, and that helps avoid the over-cooking.

                2. re: lilham

                  It's a "health and safety thing" according to the government (FDA, I think). I don't know of anyone who died from the slow cookers of old. I have one from about 25 years ago that's still going strong, and there's never been any issues.

                  1. re: lilham

                    Even new slow cookers are different from each other. I had one that was so hot that it burned everything, even on the warm setting. My newest one is great. It does slow cooking, plus a timer so it turns to warm when the food is ready. The problem is you can't tell until you use it.

                  2. re: eperdu

                    Yeah, I think as with all cooking, you get out what you put in. When you dump everything together w/ cream soups, you get a lot of mush that all tastes the same. If you put time into it, you get a good meal. Too many people look at slow cookers as a way to get an easy meal and you can but it won't taste good. When I first had my son (17+ years ago), I had no time so I threw everything in. It worked but we ate 2-3 meals, didn't like it, and I put it away for a long time.

                    1. re: eperdu

                      "You either get ones that capture the true ease of using a slow cooker in that they are drop and go or you get the ones that require a lot of prep work, pre-cooking food on the stove, etc. just to get it into the pot."

                      Funny you should say that. Just yesterday I was listening to an ATK podcast where they were discussing crock pot cooking. Their conclusion, and I really do believe this, was that crock pot cooking requires a lot more than "drop and go" to produce a decent dish. For example, meat should be pan seared to enhance the flavor of both the meat and the resulting gravy. Veggies, too, should be browned before they go into the pot. Sure, the food will cook okay if you don't prep it first, but the prep work will add complexity of flavors not otherwise possible.

                      1. re: CindyJ

                        Exactly. It then leads me to wonder why am I using the crock pot if I'm doing all this work? In many cases, for these short cooking times an oven is just as usable and provides far better results. I do like soups/stews in the CP but only certain ones.

                        I guess you sacrifice taste for convenience sometimes.

                        That said, I'm very happy I have a CP and use it but not for everything. Like all things, it has a place and I'm happy to use it. I just don't expect fantastic things from it. ;)

                        1. re: eperdu

                          I find that it greatly benefits my schedule and energy levels to finish such a large portion of supper in the morning. That is so much easier to me!

                          1. re: Becca Porter

                            That is how I feel. I get home from work around 6:30 and do not feel like starting a cooking project at that time. But I do have 30-45 minutes in the AM to prep something delicious to go into the crockpot.

                          2. re: eperdu

                            I only use my crock pot when I'm going to be out before dinner, which is pretty often during the school year. But, if I'm going to be home, I think you get better results braising on the stove or oven and it only takes one pot so don't use it then. My free time during the day is late morning, early afternoon and then am on the go until we get home late, plus people often eat at different times, so it's perfect for us. I also think that we have better dinners than most families I know who don't use one, non-CHers this is.

                            1. re: eperdu

                              I have a crockpot that doesn't get too hot, so timing and constant temperature are great reasons to use it for a stew or braise. It can cook until I'm ready to serve. More important: I choose to use the crockpot over the oven because the heat is more controlled and lower than in my oven, the meat doesn't get stringy or tough or dry comes out soft and tender and moist every time. When I make boeuf bourgignon or coq au vin or Diana Kennedy's cochinita pibil, I do the 1st part on the stove, then I put it in the crock pot instead of the oven. Same amount of work. More control of results.

                            2. re: CindyJ

                              Well, if you believe ATK (I usually do) and you think your niece is the kind of cook that is willing to do more than "drop and go" I would second Gio's recommendation for the Lynn Alley books - I have her "Gourmet" books vol 1 and vol 2.

                              1. re: Bryan Pepperseed

                                I didn't think the ATK book was loaded with "drop-and-go" recipes. Is it?

                                1. re: CindyJ

                                  No idea what's in the ATK book.
                                  What I was (perhaps poorly) trying to say was that if anyone was looking for a "NON drop and go" book, Lynn Alley's are good candidates - perhaps in addition to the ATK book. if, on the other hand, you think your niece is more of a drop and go cook, Alley's books are probably not a good choice.

                                  1. re: CindyJ

                                    No, the ATK book does not have "drop-and-go" recipes. Most (perhaps all, I haven't checked that closely) require some preparation outside the slow cooker.

                              2. re: eperdu

                                We've used the "Not Your Mothers" book quite a bit.

                                My husband threatened to throw out the "Fix It and Forget It" book.

                              3. I'm looking forward to getting this book:

                                I made the eggplant recipe mentioned in the review and it was very good so I'm looking forward to trying more. If your niece is a somewhat experienced cook, this one might help her love her crockpot. The first book I got was Slow Cooking for Dummies - to tell you the truth it wasn't a bad basic overview and I still refer to it periodically for simple stuff, feeling free to amp up the dish with my own herbs, spices, etc.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: tcamp

                                  That eggplant dish does sound awfully good. But I have to agree with some of the other posters. Once you have to start browning this and that in a separate pan it defeats the purpose of the crockpot recipe. Which is to make your life easier by less dishes to clean. That's the way I've always thought of it anyway.