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Do you use a crock-pot / slow cooker?

With the sophisticated cookware collections discussed on this board, just wondering if you ever use a crock pot? I have one (6 qt) sitting in my cabinet...considering getting rid of it unless I am otherwise inspired by your responses. I know a lot of people make pot roast in them, but I love my cast iron dutch oven for that. I recently saw a highly rated baked ziti crock pot recipe, can't remember where, but I was thinking about the various pots and pans I could use, like my Le Creuset braiser, or my Viking saute pan....why would I want or need to use a crock pot?

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  1. I use it to sous vide vegetables, since they don't start to soften up the whatever until 180 degrees, which my crock pot can hold really well. Sous vide radishes are on the menu tonight.

    I occasionally do a roast in them, or italian beef. They are designed to run without supervision so I feel safe leaving the house with it running, but not so much with the Le Creuset over the gas range. And they are great as electric chaffing dishes for soups, chili, etc for social gatherings and can save up limited stove and oven space

    1. For me it's the fix it and forget it capability. Coming home after work and having dinner 99% dine is huge especially if you have a long commute or hungry kids. I am not comfortable leaving my oven unattended when I am not home.

      Secondly it doesn't hear up my kitchen, a real plus in the summer months.

      Things I routinely make it are

      Pulled pork/chicken
      Lots of soups and stews
      Caramelized onions
      Pasta sauce
      Various braised meat dishes

      Yes all can be done in other pans but the convenience of crock pot is huge for me.

      But if time and convenience aren't an issue get rid of it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: foodieX2

        Yep, yep, yep, what foodieX2 said. I use mine quite a bit in the summer, either during the day when I'm at work or to cook something like meat sauce for pasta overnight. I also use it for baked potatoes. Big favorite for nights when kids have activities and can just pull a spud out and eat before I get home.

        My kitchen in summer is roughly the temperature of hell.

      2. I like the CP to braise brisket or pork shoulder in two inch or so pieces, cooks very slow but both then pull beautifully. Saves having the oven on and in summer I have it on the patio to keep the inside temp down. Also great for bone broth that takes three days, I feel very confident going out/sleeping with it going.

        1. I make a white chili in mine. Every so often I cook chicken breasts in it, to use later. I also have used it to hold foods, like a stew, on its low setting at the right temp for serving.

          Have a look at Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker, by Beth Hensperger. There are several books in this series. I think you will know after looking through of these whether you want to revisit cooking in your slow cooker.

          1. I only use it to make chili for the 2 of us during a winter work week. When I'm entertaining, I use them to cook Italian sausage/peppers and meatballs and sauce. Also occasionally hot dogs in beer or kielbasa in kraut.

            Mostly they get used for entertaining

            1. Yes, at least once a week. Beans, pot roast, braised brisket, short ribs, fake "cassoulet", and all sorts of other things.

              I love my crockpot! I used it today in fact. :)

              1. Chicken stock, mostly. Sometimes vegetable stock. I simmer it 24 hours or more.

                Soups in the winter that involve grains.

                Homemade yogurt.

                Pork shoulder.

                I use it to take to pot luck parties. I take rice dishes, pot stickers, beans, meatballs, chicken drums and wings, or vegetarian dishes, etc.... easy to take there, easy for clean up.

                It is invaluable at Holiday dinners to keep things warm when the stove/oven is crowded.

                2 Replies
                1. re: sedimental

                  Can you walk me through your stock-making process? I've had very little luck with home-made stuck and am becoming frustrated, but a 24 hr simmer in a crock pot sounds promising.

                  1. re: mdzehnder

                    My husband is the stock maker in the family just because I don't like dealing with the meat and bones and carcasses. He even bought chicken feet for the purpose. (I only make the broth when he's sick or can't for another reason.)

                    We usually make chicken stock just because that's what we have the most of on hand, though we're slowly saving up beef bones and pork bones. We don't season ours at all during cooking because we use it for a variety of things.

                    He just puts the chicken backs/carcass/miscellaneous bones in the crock pot, covers them with water, and adds a splash of apple cider vinegar. Then he lets it sit for an hour. The vinegar works to start softening the bones a bit. Then he turns it on low. If he turns it on during the day, he'll skim the bits off the top once it starts to bubble a bit, but it turns out just fine even if he doesn't do that. Then he just lets it sit for 18-24 hours (no longer than 24 hours), strains out the meat, and there's the stock. Super easy.

                    We have found that the most important part of making good stock is having really good chicken. We used to buy chicken from Whole Foods and the stock it made was not the greatest. Not bad, but not amazing, either. Now we buy our chickens from a local farmer who pastures the chickens, and they make AMAZING stock. It's so good.

                2. Absolutely the best way to cook dried legumes - the best chickpeas I've ever eaten, for instance. And ditto on holiday and party food if you do that sort of thing. My only complaints are that the newer ones, which is all I've had, end up boiling wildly if I leave it totally alone, even on low, which means I have to occasionally remove the lid to drop the temp. But for something where I can leave the house and not worry, it's the choice.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: lemons

                    I make baked beans in mine, much to the delight of family and friends.

                    corned beef for St Paddy's Day

                    Stuffing at Thanksgiving

                    couscous and tagine

                    soups and stews

                    lazy girl's boeuf bourgignonne

                    It's nice -- coming home to a house fragrant with slow food in the winter -- not having the entire house heated in the summer -- tasty and healthy lunches for the week -- and not having to work very hard for any of it.

                  2. Absolutely. I own 4 of them. As others have mentioned, I use mine for:

                    Beans - (especially 'refried' beans)
                    Making stock
                    Baked potatoes
                    pulled pork and chicken
                    roast beef

                    and my big ta-da thing - mashed potatoes for a crowd. Make 'em the day before, reheat in the slow cooker. So nice for Thanksgiving!

                    Best reasons to use it - very energy efficient and doesn't heat up the kitchen, plus you don't have to tend it at all. That not heating the kitchen thing is huge in summer, which lasts 6 months here in Florida.

                    1. I like it for a variety of things, cooking down fruit (like making applesauce), "baked" beans, use it for parties to keep things warm, great for extra sides at holidays (dressing/stuffing), and sometimes during the winter, when I need a quick meal, throw stuff together before work.
                      It's good for those times when I don't want to tend a pot.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: wyogal

                        oh, my kid acted like I'd cooked up solid gold when I made applesauce in my slow-cooker. Loved it.

                      2. Only for "queso dip" for my daughter. Temp control is too crude. Meats over-cook. There are better ways.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: sal_acid

                          no, there are beter crockpots.

                          I had one like yours and hated using it -- then I saw the light and bought one of the electronic-control programmable ones. No more overcooked anything.

                          1. re: sal_acid

                            Meats overcook? Sure, if you cook it too long. It's a lot easier to check for doneness in a slow cooker than in the oven.

                            1. re: sal_acid

                              As sunshine said "there are better crock pots". There are also better cooks and yes for some dishes "better ways"

                              However there are just as many dishes that are comparable or even better done in the slow cooker.

                            2. I have two. A large one and a medium/smallish one that was a hand me down. I use it for some pulled dishes, especially using pork. I make a warm cheese dip which is a knockoff of a restaurant which stopped making the recipe( in the small one). I have started doing my stock/broth in them because it is so easy and I can leave it all day. I will hold things warm for a party. I have the room so I wouldn't get rid of them but I could use setting else in most cases.

                              1. At one time we had three....Gave all of them away to an enemy!

                                1. Thanks everyone, your responses have inspired me to hold onto the crock pot and try some of the meals & recipes you mentioned. It is a low-tech one, a few years old and I've only ever used it to make dip. Hopefully the other stuff will turn out! Thanks again.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: kimbers324

                                    I have never thought to bake potatoes in my crock pot. Would love to do that, so my oven isn't on in this summer heat.

                                    Tell me how y'all do them, and for how long, etc.

                                    1. re: chloebell

                                      I really don't like them in the crock pot. I tried it once and I didn't like the texture. The closed environment didn't allow the moisture to evaporate.

                                      1. re: rasputina

                                        You're right that the texture is different, not as fluffy as an oven baked spud. However, we use taco fillings (meat, beans, tomatoes, cheese, etc.) in them and once you get them loaded up, the texture isn't a factor, IME.

                                        The oven method just isn't an option for me in summer or on weeknights and I do enjoy potatoes.

                                      2. re: chloebell

                                        Clean them, dry them well, prick all over with a fork, rub with oil, add salt if you like, put them in the pot and bake on low for 8-10 hrs or high for 4-5 hrs.

                                        Alternatively, you can wrap them in foil and skip the oil coat. I prefer the oil method, but both work. The key is to dry them well.

                                        You won't get a crispy skin as with oven baking, but the potato is delicious. I usually bake extras and, after cooling, shred or dice the extras for hash browns for breakfast. They freeze beautifully in ziplock bags.

                                    2. No, and I need to donate the one in my laundry room that has not been touched in years. What I do use is my pressure cookers. I've alsways said I don't have time for slow cookers.