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Things that actually do great in the crockpot, when you are truly out all day

I know there have been quite a few crockpot threads, but I have found only two things that truly do well given a newer model (hotter) crockpot and a long day outside the house (11 hours in my case - so dishes cook at least 6 hours on low and 5 hours at Keep Warm):
- beef stew of just about any kind (I do brown the meat in the oven, saute my aromatics and reduce any wine or beer first)
- pork shoulder with just about any seasonings (I don't even bother to brown this, I truly can just dump stuff in the crock and be happy with the results).
I find white meat chicken is overcooked in under two hours, and dark meat just produces too much fat.
I am thinking of trying dried beans in there. I do also do chicken/turkey broth and applesauce, have used it for caramelized onions, but I am looking more for working-parent type recipes that I can prep the night before or even in the morning and have dinner when I come home. Ham bone or smoked turkey leg maybe?

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  1. Fake cassoulet.

    dried white beans, keilbasa sausage, onion, carrot, celery, thyme, savory, chicken stock (or water). Let it simmer all day. When you get home, throw in a can of tomatoes, and a bunch of kale. Season with salt and pepper.

    So easy, and delicious.

    5 Replies
      1. re: tzurriz

        I made this last night for dinner actually, and substituted Penzey's FORWARD seasoning blend for the thyme (still added some dried savory), and my husband said it was one of his favorite meals of all time.

        1. re: tzurriz

          I made this today minus the kale and it was great! I had the chance to simmer the tomatoes a bit but I usually will want to eat as soon as I get home. Can the tomatoes (one small can) go in at the beginning? I know there's a problem with acid and beans cooking but my beans were way done after an overnight soak and 10 hours on low and it's just a little tomato relatively....
          Anyway, even my kids (not big bean eaters) liked this. I'll probably try adding skinless chicken thighs (hopefully bone-in) next time.

          1. re: julesrules

            I wouldn't add the tomatoes ahead of time. All they need to do is get warm. So, walk in the door, add the tomatoes, then set the table and such. By the time you are ready to eat, the tomatoes will be heated through and ta-da, dinner.

            I just wouldn't want to risk messing up the all day softening . . .


        2. Dried beans do great in the crockpot all day. I usually use black beans, as they're a favorite around here, but have used pintos and chickpeas successfully, too.

          I'm glad you mentioned not liking chicken in the crockpot. I thought it might have been my recipe, but I didn't enjoy it either.

          I've seen recipes for turkey breasts, but haven't tried one yet.

          4 Replies
          1. re: hippiechickinsing

            Now see I think turkey breast would get overcooked. Not sure if the larger size would help. Even when I did a whole chicken, the breasts were overcooked to my taste (not necessarily dried out - chicken breast can be moist, but overcooked, as in soup).
            I'm definitely going to experiment with dried beans.

            1. re: julesrules

              Goulash Soup: Put 1/2 cup of flour in the bare crock-pot. Add salt to taste and 2 tablespoons paprika (the sweet, not the hot, kind). Stir in a big can of crushed tomatoes and a couple of cans of water. Add 1 1/2 lbs beef stew meat with each cube cut through a couple of times to make smaller bits. Add 2-3 potatoes cut into large cubes, 1-2 onions ditto, and a big sweet red bell pepper cut up. Add 1/4 tsp hot chili pepper (or more). Add water up to within an inch of the top. Cover and cook on LOW all day. Correct seasoning. Should be thick, about halfway between soup and stew, and intensely beefy, and just a little hot.

            2. re: hippiechickinsing

              I have had bad luck with dried beans cooked on low. High is OK.

              1. re: Sharuf

                Good to know - I'm going to assume some tinkering will be required.

            3. I have to agree with the beef stew; it does the best when I am out for 10 hours. I have had some limited success with white meat chicken, but I have to nearly double the amount of chicken stock in the recipe to keep it moist for that long. Chili is another good one for a long cook, but I brown the meat first and I rarely have time to do that in the morning.

                1. re: carolinadawg

                  Hadn't thought of that (it's not something I make even the standard way), but definitely worth a try as it's the type of cut that would do well. Do you put carrots, potatoes etc in, and how much liquid if any?

                  1. re: julesrules

                    Yes, I put onions, carrots, potatoes in the bottom of the pot, brown the meat and put on top of the veggies, add seasoning and just a small amount of liquid (red wine, beef broth)...maybe 1/2 a cup or so. It seems to make lots of its own liquid.

                    1. re: carolinadawg

                      Is the wine ok without being reduced? Good to know!
                      Yes I find it's a very moist environment so you don't need as much liquid as you might think. Vegetables contribute liquid rather than requiring more to cook.

                      1. re: julesrules

                        I just pour the wine straight in the crockpot from the bottle...

                        1. re: carolinadawg

                          That's what I do with the wine, too. An easy go to meal- no "recipe" needed, and the results ate always delicious!

                    2. re: julesrules

                      We love pot roast in the crock pot. I usually brown the meat first- but I guess it is not necessary. I add water, S/p, a bit of Better than Bouillon (beef), garlic, tomato paste, red wine. I also cut an onion in half and throw it in- peel and all. ALso add a few stalks of celery and a few carrots . Let it go all day. So good. I take out the celery, onion and carrot and add a bit of butter, and then thicken with a slurry to make a great gravy. I like to cook my vegetables on the side, and serve with mashed potatoes . I think I may cook one this weekend!

                    3. re: carolinadawg

                      I second pot roast. I actually use a large tri-tip, brown it, set it on a bed of veg, deglaze the browning pan with a dark beer and pour it over the roast. Then top the roast with a can of chipotles in adobo. Smash them all over the top of the roast. Makes a great spicy roast but even better leftovers for tacos, enchiladas, filling for rellenos, even sandwiches.

                    4. Anything oxtail. Soup, braises, etc.

                      Anything tongue.

                      Geoduck. But not necessarily anything.

                      1. It does help to have a crock pot that turns to warm after a certain time. I wouldn't buy one w/out a timer. Anything that braises works well in a crock pot--fatty, gelatinous cuts of meat: chuck roast, shoulder/boston butt/ dark meat chicken (w/out skin or remove before serving), pot roast, short ribs. You can do beef chili, too. Yes, brown meat, sear vegetables, reduce alcohol/liquids first. Split pea soup is really good and an easy one that doesn't require that step. If your crock pot has a warm button, you can prep the night before and cook on low overnight. Warm during the day. But, that depends on having a warm setting that isn't too high.

                        You can do lasagna/baked pasta, too, but you don't get that nice crunchy top. It's like the center of the casserole throughout. Fold a kitchen towel below the lid as it cooks and start w/ undercooked pasta.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: chowser

                          I'm doing venison chili in the slow cooker tonight for tomorrow; can't wait!

                          1. re: Cherylptw

                            I do lots of venison in the crockpot too ( spouse hunts), stews and chili,but I find that it does best with a shorter cooking time, 6 hours max before we eat it. Otherwise, it tends to dry out as it is such a lean meat.

                            1. re: Kat

                              I mix my venison with ground beef so that it gets the fat it needs to stay moist.

                          2. re: chowser

                            Funnily enough, I was just about post a thread about flavorless chicken in the crock pot when I noticed this thread. Chowser, aside from using thighs, do you have any other tips for chicken in the crockpot? It just always tastes so bland to me.

                            For me, pork shoulder and beef stew work best in the crock pot.


                          3. chicken or turkey stock and turkey chili and corned beef (grey) are really the only things i let go all day. otherwise, i use a lamp timer to delay the start of the crock.

                            1. I'll share my easiest recipe here too while I'm at it.. learned from a non-chowhound/foodie source: pork shoulder and a can of green chiles. S&P. While not a meal, it makes delicious meat for tacos, to have with rice, or whatever you please.

                              1. -Beef or lamb stew (as you said). Barley a plus (will soften and add body to the stew).

                                -Beans do beautifully:
                                >Red beans and rice (make the rice the night before and just gently reheat night of; rice ages well for my taste).
                                >Black beans as soup, or with onions/garlic (I often add those at end or for garnish).
                                >Ten- or fifteen-bean soup with ham/hambone.
                                >Prep plain beans (chickpeas, pintos, navy/Great Northern, etc.) overnight or during the day, drain and rinse, then refrigerate. Next day you have fresh-cooked beans to add to cold salads, wraps/tacos, minestrone/soups, hummus-style dips.

                                -Beef chili

                                -Cooked chicken, pork, beef can be stirred into any soup or stew, or beans, that comes from the crockpot.

                                I do more overnight (7-10 hrs) than during the workday (12 hrs+commute times = too long). The slow cooker is a great tool for gentle cooking of meal components that can be added as needed to make up quick fresh meals.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: DuchessNukem

                                  Yes I had planned on doing bean soups this winter for my lunches. And now my husband (who has been eating a lot of canned beans in an attempt at healthy eating) has been diagnosed with high blood pressure, so we should probably cut down on sodium... time for me to start prepping my own beans from dried.

                                  1. re: julesrules

                                    To julesrules: With meds for the BP diagnosis he may have to make sure he gets enough Potassium in his diet. Chili is a quadruple-whammy as the tomatoes, tomato paste, kidney beans, and liquid that cooks out of the beans are all rich sources of Potassium. Making the chili yourself, you can control the sodium and fat. A useful resource is the USDA Nutrients Database as it is very, very detailed.

                                    1. re: Querencia

                                      Yes the doctor did say to eat bananas. Thanks!

                                2. Chili. I don't even bother to brown the meat. I just throw in a big package (2-3 pounds) of ground beef, 4 cans of various beans (black, red kidney, pink kidney, and chick peas), a couple of cans of crushed tomatoes, a can of tomato paste, and cumin, chile powder, kosher salt, and pepper to taste. Turn it on low and let it go alllllllllllll day. It can't be easier and it is always a big hit when I serve it at football parties.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Njchicaa

                                    I guess this would be a good place to use extra lean beef to get less fatty results. I think I will try it without browning the meat, thanks!

                                    1. re: Njchicaa

                                      I've never done crockpot chili without browning first, but I'll try it.

                                      1. re: Njchicaa

                                        I used to just throw the meat in there uncooked but it had a ton of grease and I don't like that which is why I brown it a bit then drain really well...

                                      2. Consider using it to cook while you sleep, refrigerate at breakfast time and reheat in a microwave or stovetop at suppertime. That might expand the repetoire a bit to include the shorter-cooking recipes.

                                        1. Corned beef is something I'd rather cook in the crock pot than on top of the stove. Put onions in there and add carrots and potatoes and cabbage later.

                                          1. Chile colorado couldn't be simpler. Beef stew meat and a can of red enchilada sauce.

                                            1. Haven't done it yet, but I hear that steel cut oats are great overnight. Instant breakfast!

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: coll

                                                I tried this, although I can't remember if I used steel cut or flaked (not rolled or quick) oats. My crockpot is big so I had to make a lot to prevent overcooking. Even so it was quite gluey and thick around the edges and a pain to clean up - basically I decided it was not worthwhile to tinker with any more because it seemed like extra work which is not my goal. I would try it again if I had a small and/or lower heat crockpot. Steel cut oats can also be made by bringing to a boil on the stove top and left overnight to finish so I might try that this winter. I might also try doing something with apples and oats, crock pot fruit crisp but for breakfast.

                                                1. re: julesrules

                                                  I've heard of that stovetop overnight method too. So far I just set aside the time to do it in 30 minutes, thanks for the feedback!

                                                  I have a great recipe given to me recently by a vegan friend that you bake in the oven; blueberries, dried apricots, maple syrup and vanilla are involved. Makes a solid pan full. That's my new go to, and it also makes leftovers you can microwave!

                                                  1. re: coll

                                                    Can you post that, maybe in separate thread? We like oven baked oatmeal variations! I actually like to bring it to work, nuke it and then put a coffee cream from the office supply on top ;)

                                                    1. re: julesrules

                                                      Sure I'll post it in a separate thread, so as not to hijack this one. It is surprisingly tasty with the various add ins (cinnamon too I think), but it IS totally healthy. Now that I think of it, it would make a great breakfast tomorrow if it snows as predicted!

                                                    2. re: coll

                                                      overnight steel cut oats = excellent. 4 c. water, 1 c. oats, pinch salt. Bring to the boil, then turn off heat, cover, and let sit overnight. Microwave to warm.

                                                2. Oh yes on the beans and bean soups!
                                                  Split pea, vegetarian chilis, Dals, lentil, etc.

                                                  - Hariria: this one is a winner and in heavy rotation:

                                                  - Miso with Adzuki, very simple and surprisingly good! I never add the tofu; this one is great with lunch:

                                                  I always soak the beans overnight first if they are larger than lentils. Not Your Mother's Slow cooker is a great book for some simple ideas, most every one I've tried has been good. Also, the little book "50 Simple Soups" by Lyn Alley is great and where the miso-adzuki soup comes from.

                                                  1. We love Stuffed Peppers, the slow simmer works just perfectly!