Crockpots. I have said some not so flattering things about them in the past. I like to tend to the stove. However, I am about to go back to work full-time, and the hubby is well, culinarily challenged. I was at the Goodwill and saw one for $4.00 so i snagged it. When I think of crockpot meals, I thing of blobs of goop flavored with condensed soups and packets of salty flavorings. Any ideas for some unique and tasty crockpot creations?
Two things I strongly believe when cooking meat. I season it and then brown before adding to SC. And I don't cook it all day. IMO the latter results in overcooked meat. It may be tender but for me ovecooked. Seasoning and browning not only helps the flavor, it also gives the end result of brown not grey meat.
I find that it is tricky to get stuff that doesn't taste like generic slow cooker gloop - I find about 90% or more of the recipes out there produce stuff that's easy and edible, but not something I'd want to come home to. I have a newer one, and I haven't found anything other than chickpeas that don't end up way overcooked during the work day. It was the only model I could find in any store, though, so there wasn't much choice.
One trick I use - I reduce batches of wine, stock, and the juice from diced canned tomatoes (separately or in combination) and freeze them. They can then be added to stew-like dishes without the soupiness you get from adding unreduced liquid. Dried mushrooms are a good option too - rinse them to get rid of dirt and remove the stems but don't soak before adding.
You can also pre-carmelize batches of onions and freeze those.
I often run the slow-cooker overnight, so I can get a shorter cook time, and use a timer on the outlet to turn it off about an hour before I get up. Then, it's cool enough to shove in the fridge before I go to work, and just needs to be heated up. You can also prep the pot the night before, and drop it in the cooker before leaving for work.
I stick to tougher cuts of meat - pork shoulder (well trimmed of fat), pork, beef or lamb shanks, chicken legs on a shorter cook time - and beans and legumes. Pork belly stewed Japanese style is amazing in the slow cooker, and rice porridge works very well.
"reduce batches of wine, stock, and the juice from diced canned tomatoes (separately or in combination) and freeze them. They can then be added to stew-like dishes without the soupiness you get from adding unreduced liquid."
Great idea! It's always one of the most time consuming parts of using a slow cooker for me. Unreduced liquids don't work well in the slow cooker, imo.
How do you do pork belly, Japanese style in the slow cooker? I never thought to do that but it would probably work great in the slow cooker. I do braised Chinese pork belly on the stove, like this:
Italian beef sandwiches are easy. I just throw in a beef roast along with some beef broth and a packet of Good Seasons Italian Dressing mix. I try and mix fresh ingredients with the crock pot stuff, so I put it on a crusty roll, along with some fresh shredded lettuce and tomato. Some olive tapenade spread on the roll is good too.
A boneless pork ribeye roast works good too, since it has a fat cap on the top that bastes the meat while it is cooking. I keep the seasoning simple, with just some sea salt and ground black pepper, a little cumin, and some lime juice. I also stud the roast with a few cloves of garlic. You can throw a little chicken broth in the bottom to keep it from getting too dried out before the meat starts giving off it's fat and juices.
I'm not personally fond of cooking anything with ground meat though in a slow cooker, as it usually turns to mush and has an awful texture. Any crock pot mac and cheese recipe I've tried to date has also been a total disaster.
Here's one of my favorite quick bread recipes for slow cooker!
2 Cups flour
2 Teaspoons baking powder
2 Teaspoons onion powder
1/4 Cup good quality olive oil
1 1/4 Cups milk
2 Cups crumbled feta cheese
3 Stalks green onion, sliced
3 1/2 Ounces sliced Kalamata olives
1. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder.
2. In a separate bowl beat the eggs, olive oil & milk together with a whisk, then beat into the flour mixture.
3. Prepare the crock pot with cooking spray, fold three long strips of foil over several times to create long strips. Place them crosswise in the pot, extending over the top sides. These will be used to remove the bread when it's done.
4. Gently fold in all other ingredients and pour the batter into the slow cooker pot. Cover and cook on high for 1 1/2 hours, on low for 40 minutes.
I love the Cooks Illustrated cookbook "Slow Cooker Revolution". Some great recipes, and I too use a kitchen timer for the meals that don't need to be cooked for 12-14 hours. Tomorrow I'm doing a pork loin roast that needs to be eaten in 4 hours, so I'll be using my timer for that one.
You definitely don't need cans or packets. My crockpot was little used until this year but due to the late time of kiddo's tennis lessons, I now use it once a week. Some of the best things to come out of it lately include shredded chicken for chicken tacos, a lovely pumpkin soup, BBQ chicken and bison chili. It is a great convenience tool! Enjoy!
I agree. I don't use cans or packets in my crock either. Wednesday is crock pot day at my house due to particularly crazy schedules. Most often made meals include spaghetti meat sauce, bean/sausage soup, chili, apple sauce, pot roast, and baked potatoes.
Tomorrow I'm making a fudge type cake for my son's birthday that someone posted on another thread.
I agree with much of what has been said regarding the cautions for a used crock pot. Sometimes you get what you pay for. My good one broke when I moved a year ago, so I bought a $20 one from the grocery store thinking they are all the same, right? Wrong. The low setting burns the food so I hate it. I just upgraded to a $100 Kitchen Aid one with three heat settings and it appears to really be better quality. So don't judge slow cookers based on your $4 one please, you could be missing out on a great convenience tool.
I love cooking in the slow cooker! And I am a 'from scratch/quality ingredient/food snob'. I made a large batch of fish & shrimp chowder last week. It is excellent for chili (see the dish of the month discussion thread here. I posted a slow cooker pork tenderloin and sweet potato chili recipe). Great for Spanish rice, jambalya, pulled pork, soups, roasts and roast chicken.
I love it for entertaining too because I can keep some food hot and available to guests and it doesn't tie up the stovetop or oven.
this weekend I made applesauce in my crock pot. My sister made apple butter a few weeks ago. it sounded amazing, but was gone by the time I visited so I didn't get a taste!
If you're looking for lighter recipes, using real ingredients, try skinnytaste.com. She has some really good slow cooker recipes. DH and I made the carnitas as well as a couple other tex-mex recipes. Her white bean pumpkin chili is one of our very favorite fall/winter dishes.
chowser 29 minutes ago
"I used to believe the rumor that the new ones were hotter but having bought a couple of new ones, I find that it depends on the model. What I would want from a new one is that timer that turns the crock pot to a warm setting. It's a good idea to test a crock pot to see how it works, with water, before making anything or leaving it. "
Actually, the modern temp settings to being higher is true.
I own half a dozen crock pots from the 70's to just last year.
The food police pushed mfgrs to bump the temp settings on new models to keep the danger zone down. Also if the power goes out or if you have a power spike the modern ones dump into warm mode which will ruin a long cooked dinner, by, um, not cooking it.
Other side is trying to just keep something warm on low meaning scorching the bottom due to too high of a heat.
Thus why many (including me) use plug in lamp timers to keep cook times down and where they need to be while away. Still does not solve the power issue tho. Ha.
Yes the temp probes can and often do solve the long cook dilemma but , as you mention and i always suggest, test with water first at each setting to get a firm temp grid to work with.
No different than an oven or stove. It's a tool. Learn teh temp range on settings on what you have and you will save many a dinner and foodstuff from burning or looking at you longingly for more heat.
BTDT x 3 decades.
My husband made a delicious pot roast last week in the slow cooker with no glop or soup. All he added was red wine, a little beef soup base, onions, mushrooms and carrots. The house smelled so good when we got home!
We do slow cooked pork shoulder, add homemade BBQ sauce,and have tender, delicious pulled pork sandwiches.
One caveat, since you mentioned getting a used crockpot. Unless you have granite or quartz countertops, place your crockpot on a footed tempered glass 'cutting board'. I have replaced quite a few laminate countertops for customers whose slow cookers singed, melted or actually burnt up their tops. And sometimes the cabinets around them. The glass board with feet creates a fire proof air cushion between the appliance and the countertops.
Slow cookers have improved greatly in the last 35 years, and if you're serious about getting good results, you ought at least to consider upgrading. Cooks Illustrated did a comparative equipment test in 2010 and highly recommends the Crock-Pot Touchscreen ($130). Besides precise and even heating, it has features such as a programmable timer and warming mode, so that the crock-pot automatically throttles down on schedule but keeps the food warm until you're ready to serve it. This is the one I'd get if I wanted a slow cooker.
re: John Francis
A little more from Cooks Illustrated.
"Dried-out sauces and blown-out meat correlated with slow cookers that reached 212 degrees. In contrast, machines that never topped 190 degrees yielded watery sauces and tough meat. The best results came from models that cooked between these temperatures.
"We figured temperatures must be gentler on low settings. Actually, most slow cookers hit roughly the same maximums (within 5 degrees), and in two models the temperatures produced at low settings were the same as or higher than those produced at high. The difference was the time they took to get there. On high, most slow cookers heated up in two to three hours; on low, they took five to seven hours.”
Also, "All but three models automatically switched to a warming cycle after a maximum of six hours," not enough for "a French onion soup recipe that needs to simmer on high for 10 hours." The Crock-Pot Touchscreen "can run up to 20 hours, even on high."
Oh my goodness, yes!!! Some of the great things you can make in your crock pot:
*Cakes & quick breads
*Soups & stews
*Main dishes with rice or pasta
I LOVE cooking in my slow cooker, and do it all year long. Give me an idea of what you'd like and I'll post a couple of recipes for you to try out. Have fun!
That's great you're so well versed in slow cooker - cooking! What tips do you have to keep food warm that was cooked in a slow cooker, while travelling? I'm thinking of a stuffing that would have already been made, but been on the warmer (I have the cooks illustrated-rec'd one) for several hours. Then need to drive 2-3 hrs. thanks!
I would suggest that you read some of the countless crock pot/slow cooker threads once you determine the vintage and capacity of the one you bought. Older models run at different temps than newer ones, and the control options very from high/low to multiple settings.
You may also want to search this site for threads on slow cooker versions of specific dishes that interest you.
Personally, I would not leave the house with a *new* one plugged in and turned on, much less a used one with an unknown performance history. At the very least, take it for a spin on several recipes while you are home and keeping tabs on it.
You already have some good suggestions here on slow cookers. I have a thought about the older vs. the newer models. If you are going to just use the cooker at the same temperature for the entire cooking time, I'd use the older model. I have used both the old and newer slow cookers, both the actual Crockpot brand and an off brand (ie. cheap).
I have discovered that with the new slow cookers, warm is low, low is high, and high is really high, when compared to the older slow cookers.
After you use the older model for a while, you might wish to upgrade to one of the newer slow cookers where the heat and time are programmable.
I used to believe the rumor that the new ones were hotter but having bought a couple of new ones, I find that it depends on the model. What I would want from a new one is that timer that turns the crock pot to a warm setting. It's a good idea to test a crock pot to see how it works, with water, before making anything or leaving it.
Tagging on here, rather than start a new post, I'd look for recipes that start w/ searing the meat first and one that doesn't use the condensed soups/instant onion soup mixes (if you don't like them. There are people who do and they love the recipes w/ them--I always feel like I need to add that disclaimer). And, fatty, connective cuts of meat work best, just as they would for braising. But, that also depends on taste because there are plenty of people who like chicken breast w/ cream cheese and salsa put together in a crock pot. General rule of thumb, if you would braise it, then it'll be fine in the crock pot.