In other words, why the slow cooker will never, ever, go out of style.

By Annie Campbell
Updated: February 26, 2019

When it comes to kitchen appliances, we understand you’re protective of your counter or cabinet space, and the slow cooker isn’t the easiest unit to store. Although economical, it’s a bit of a commitment. Do you really eat that much soup anyway?

We’re here to report: It’s worth it.

And if you’ve already acquired one, it’s time to see exactly how much this multi-purpose gadget can do for you.

The slow cooker is a kitchen power tool, creating deeply-flavored dishes out of budget-friendly ingredients, working hours after you leave the kitchen. Even if you’ve been loyal to it throughout the years, you probably still haven’t unlocked its full potential.

Outside of taking care of your weeknight dinners, the slow cooker also has a bevy of other uses that are under utilized, to say the least. Here are some of our favorite little-known uses for the trustee slow cooker. Get ready to discover this all-in-one tool like you never have before.

1. Go for a double dip

If you’ve lived through a Super Bowl night or tailgating season, you probably know the beauty of slow cooker dips. With good warm dip recipes, your humble set-it-and-forget-it kitchen appliance transforms into a pot of (edible) gold right before guests’ eyes. The hardest part of the whole operation is usually deciding which dip will be featured. But fret no more! All you have to do is mold heavy duty aluminum foil to make a barrier that fits snugly between both sides of the pot. Put a liner on each side to ensure there is no leakage, and just like that… two dips for a house of divided fans.

Try our: 12 Impossibly Easy Slow Cooker Dips

Photo: Greg Dupree Styling: Heather Chadduck 

2. Steam tortillas or hamburger buns

If you’re cooking up pulled pork or shredded chicken to fill sandwiches or tacos, don’t forget about the tortillas or buns! The easiest way to take these handheld creations to the next level is by warming up the wrappers. But you don’t even need to turn on the oven. Place the buns or tortillas on a glass pie plate and place the plate inside the slow cooker, right on top of the warm, steamy filling. Cover with the lid. Within minutes, your tortillas and buns will be perfectly soft.

Try our: 5-Ingredient Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork

Photo: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Caroline M. Cunningham    

3. Make your own yogurt

Yogurt might be a staple for your weekday breakfasts or a fresh, tangy topping in your favorite dish. Whatever the gut-healthy ingredient is to you, it is shockingly easy to make at home (and far tastier, we think). If you’re using an Instant Pot, use it on the slow cooker setting. Make a whole pot at the beginning of the week and find out just how versatile it is from breakfast to dinner. We promise, you won’t have any to spare.

WATCH: Instant Pot Whole-Milk Yogurt

4. Embrace your new favorite way to make cake

For moist and flavorful cakes, lightly grease your slow cooker and pour cake batter straight into the pot. After it’s cooked through, drop the temp to low and it’ll stay warm until it’s completely devoured. With this method, you'll never have to worry about your cake over-baking. But cake isn’t the only dessert the slow cooker can handle. Bread pudding, cheesecake, and custard will come out tender every time, and you don’t need to mess with a water bath.

Try our: Desserts from the Slow Cooker

Oxmoor House

5. Prepare lasagna without boiling the pasta

Gone are the days of a laborious lasagna - it just became an easy weeknight meal. Layer the pasta (uncooked!) with blankets of your favorite fillings, such as cheese, ground beef, and tomato sauce. After 4 to 6 hours of cooking, the pasta will be cooked to a beautiful al dente. If you thought that was easy, just wait till you go back for seconds. The slow cooker will keep your one-dish dinner warm until the whole family is full—no reheating required.

WATCH: How to Make Lasagna in the Slow Cooker

6. Smoke meats off the grill

To achieve smoky flavors without the hassle of heating up the grill, all you need is your trusty slow cooker. For campfire flavors, just soak a cup or two of wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes. Lay the chips on a large sheet of parchment the fold up the paper to make a packet. After fitting the packet at the base of your pot, cut small holes on the top to let steam escape. Place the uncooked meat on top and cover with your cooking liquid of choice. Then let it go, low and slow.

Try our: Slow-Cooker Brisket with Smoked Paprika

Photo: Annabelle Breakey

7. Create a seasonal ambiance from the kitchen

To fill the whole house with a warm, enticing scent, you’ll need something stronger than a candle. Think all-natural potpourri. Combine your favorite smells to reflect the season, whether it’s a citrus and herbal summer scent or cinnamon and cranberry autumn aroma. Peppermint and eucalyptus oils can soothe your stuffiness during flu season. Heat the ingredients in a shallow bath of water inside of the slow cooker with the lid off to fill your home with relaxing fragrances. Just keep the temp on low and make sure to check the water level every few hours!

WATCH: How To Make Slow Cooker Scalloped Potatoes

8. DIY your favorite condiments

If you top everything with ketchup or use up a jar of tomato sauce per week, you might be better off making your own bulk ingredients. The slow cooker is perfect for developing deep flavors in sauces minus the preservatives of a shelf-stable bottle. Daunting as it may seem, you’ll realize it’s just as easy as a trip to the grocery store. Don’t stop with savory condiments either. Fig Butter and Strawberry-Riesling Jam are some of our favorite seasonal slow cooker treats.

Try our: Slow Cooker Apple Butter

Photo: Charles Walton; Styling: Mary Lyn Hill

9. Never make a dry loaf of bread

Trying to master a moist quick bread or just looking for an even bake on your ciabatta? A “bake” in the slow cooker will give you a tender loaf every time. The pot acts as an optimal steam room that stimulates yeast while keeping your bread soft. Not to mention, the heavenly smell of fresh baked bread that follows is a major plus. If you’re making a yeast bread, simply knead and form your dough as usual and place it in the greased (or lined) pot. To brown the crust after baking, pop it under a broiler for a few minutes.

Try our: Steamed Brown Bread with Currants and Walnuts

Photo: Oxmoor House

10. Save money without skimping on flavor

The slow cooker can do miraculous things with the cuts of meat we tend to bypass at the grocery store. Cheaper cuts like chicken thighs, pork shoulder and beef brisket will shine in slow cooker recipes like Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala and Slow Cooker Barbacoa Brisket. The protein will come out so tender, nobody will be able to taste a difference. Keep in mind: the fattier the meat, the less water you will need to maintain a moist final product.

Try our: Slow Cooker Rosemary Beef Chuck Roast

Photographer and Prop Stylist: Gina DeSimone; Food Stylist: Briana Riddock

11. Add fondue to the menu

If you own a fondue pot, you might want to check out the return policy. With the ability to keep your dip warm and creamy for hours, your slow cooker is the only fondue pot you’ll ever need. Whether its filled with cheese or chocolate, your slow cooker will serve as the perfect fondue station, and probably the most fun dish at the dinner party.

Try our: Foolproof Cheese Fondue

Jennifer Causey
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