Being a realist, it’s very easy to understand that at the end of a long day, the last thing anyone wants to do is whip out a bunch of cookware, peruse the internet for a recipe and then finally have a meal two hours later. If I’m being completely honest, there are days that the simple act of dashing through the farmers market has my finger hovering over the various take-out apps on my phone. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
For decades, there’s been an appliance near-and-dear to many a home cook’s heart: the slow cooker. Heck, even professionals have their own version, aka the sous vide machine, which (aside from the ensconced-in-water factor) works similarly. Both machines involve slow, low-temperature cooking. Not only is this ideal for cooking rough cuts of meat and turning them into flavorful, supple morsels, but it’s safe enough to leave on all day without the risk of burning down your apartment complex.
Whether you’re busy, tired, or cooking in big batches, don’t underestimate this seemingly dated kitchen appliance. The technology has progressed to include all kinds of settings and temperatures, streamlining the process. Pop these recipes in as you head out the door in the morning, and come home to a great meal, little assembly required. We recommend these recipes:
Chicken stock — Food52
A whole meal doesn’t necessarily have to be concocted in the crock pot. It’s also super useful for kitchen staples that just take too much time on the stove. If you freeze this, it’ll last for months.
Pineapple upside down cake — Lucky Peach
As if the Milk Bar recipes couldn’t get any better. For seasonality, use pears instead, substituting port or a heavy-bodied wine for the poaching liquid.
Poached chicken — Food52
Chicken can easily dry out, but a slow cooker is a great vessel to keep in moisture. For extra flavor, I really like using chicken thighs since they’re cheaper and a little juicier. Duck works very well in this method, too. Try oyster mushrooms instead of shiitake (or get adventurous and check out our field guide).
Apple butter — AllRecipes
Fruit butters are the new jam. Serve as a spread for crackers and cheese, slather on croissants or even enjoy on its own. A mix of McIntosh and Golden Delicious is tart and hearty.
Curried chicken with ginger and yogurt — Real Simple
Instead of tomato paste, try using the last of your tomatoes and add fennel for an extra layer of crunch.
Vegetable stock — Food52
An excellent use of all of your produce scraps. I like this stock because has no limits. As a guideline, however, always start with the basics: onions, carrots and celery. Makes a wonderful base for the risotto recipe, below.
Shrimp and artichoke barley risotto — Cara’s Cravings
Artichokes can be a little bit of work, but their mild flavor blended with hearty barley surprises and satisfies. Because of the slow cooker’s gentle heat, it’s very hard to overcook the grains. Bonus: you don’t have to to consistently stir with this one, either.
Sugar balsamic pork tenderloin — Food52
If you’re feeling like putting in a little extra effort, finish this tenderloin in the oven. The result? A juicy inside with a caramelized, crusty exterior. Throw in a few sage leaves for an intense fall flavor.
Pulled pork tacos — Food52
The slow cooker is a taco-meat-making god. Slowly simmering virtually any meat with all of these spices will yield an incredibly flavorful Mexican dinner. Pork is excellent for this application since, like chicken, it can dry out easily.