Every Slow Cooker Trick You Ever Needed
It may not be a flashy new device, but the slow cooker will never fall out of favor. The ultimate "set it and forget it" appliance is a workhorse in the kitchen and makes cooking so much easier. We've put all our best slow cooker tips and tricks in one place, from how to travel with a slow cooker to all the ways you didn't know you could use it.
The Secret Use for Your Slow Cooker We've All Totally Missed
Your slow cooker may be your ally in all things supper this fall and winter, but did you know you can use your Crock-Pot or slow cooker as a humidifier?
As the Huffington Post suggests, "If you're feeling congested in the dry winter months, fill your Crock-Pot with water and a little Vicks VapoRub, place it in your bedroom, and leave it on low with the lid off through the night." The same concept applies to your liviing room space. Wherever you set up shop, be sure to keep it in a secure place where you won't trip over any cords or get too close to the hot device.
Apartment Therapy also adds that you can try infusing the water with your favorite essential oils or festive accouterments like cinnamon sticks and orange peels for a pleasing scent. It's important to consider safety, too, when making your homemade humidifier. "As you're using your slow cooker as a humidifier with the lid off, you should never leave it unattended. And it's a good idea to make sure that it's always at least half- to two-thirds-full with water," writes Ashley Abramson in the Apartment Therapy piece. "If your slow cooker is very old (or has a fabric-wrapped cord), you probably just need to find a new one."
WATCH: Slow-Cooker Sweet Potatoes
Meanwhile, we thought the only tricks our slow cooker had up its sleeve was making decadent desserts and breakfast casseroles.
The Best Way To Clean A Slow Cooker
We work our slow cookers into the ground for any and all occasions. During the holiday season, they are our trusty sidekick with make-ahead sides. During the busy weeks, they give us warm, hearty dinners when we just don't have time to pull together a whole meal. Slow cookers have a permanent spot on our kitchen counter. The worst part of having a slow cooker, as many home cooks can attest to, is having to clean off cooked-on gunk post-dinner. While some meals make a rinse of the slow cooker's ceramic bowl an easy task, others – like macaroni and cheese, barbecue pulled pork, or Rotel dip – result in a film that leaves you no choice but to soak overnight.
But, as it turns out, there are several incredibly easy ways to get your slow cooker clean, most of which involve the cooker cleaning itself – i.e., little to no work on your part. Isn't this great news? Turn to a few key items in your pantry to battle tough stains, and you won't be up late scrubbing off baked cheese again. The first important step to note, however, is that you should check your slow cooker's manual before diving in to make sure that you won't violate terms of your warranty. Slow cookers can be made of many different materials, so what may work for a ceramic slow cooker may not be suitable for a metal one.
To tackle your baked-on food, start with water.
Fill up your slow cooker with water just past where the leftover food hits the side of the dish. This will be the main soaking component of your Crock-Pot cleaning.
Enter one of our favorite all-purpose cleaners! For a small slow cooker, you'll want to add 1/2 cup of distilled vinegar to the water. For a larger slow cooker (i.e., 6 quarts), opt for 1 cup of vinegar.
Reach for the baking soda.
This may sound counterintuitive, but yes – vinegar and baking soda team up in a very un-volcanic way to tackle messy slow cookers. Slowly add the same amount as the vinegar to your slow cooker (1/2 cup for a small dish, 1 cup for a large), allowing any bubbles to disperse. Don't dump it in all at once, or you just may have a pantry explosion on your hands!
WATCH: Here's The Best Place To Set Up Your Slow Cooker
Set it and forget it.
With the water, vinegar, and baking soda mixture soaking in the base, turn your slow cooker on low heat for about an hour. If you've got really tough stains, let the mixture cook a little longer. It'll loosen the bits on the side of the bowl enough to be rinsed out.
If you have spots that still need touching up, try a paste of baking soda and water. Because your slow cooker is food-safe, this combination won't harm the material. It's also an easy, effective way to scrub. If needed, baking soda can polish the outside of your slow cooker from any streaks or food residue. If you have a dark slow cooker and cleaning out the bowl leaves a white residue on the surface, try wiping with a little white vinegar.
The combination of these simple pantry ingredients seems too good to be true, but you'll be surprised at how effective this non-abrasive solution to cleaning your favorite kitchen appliance really is. So, instead of leaving a pot to soak overnight and having to scrape off food residue the next day, put the heat of your cooker to good use and let the water-vinegar-baking soda mixture cut through the grease for you. Less mess and less work? Yes, please!
5 Clever Culinary Uses for Your Slow Cooker
Whether it is getting some seriously easy soups on my winter menu, reheating chili for a fall football gathering, or even helping manage a buffet for a crowd, I am not shy about how much I love my slow cooker. But it’s useful for more than just composed dishes. Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks of how to use slow cookers in some less obvious ways.
Melting chocolate can be a pain. You either have to set up a double boiler, pop it in and out of a microwave in ten second increments, or take the risk on a low burner. Chocolate melts at such low temperatures it is super easy to have it burn on you, which also means you have to watch it like a hawk. Enter your slow cooker. If I have a lot of chocolate to melt, I toss it right into the pot, but for smaller amounts, I use a canning jar.
If you are melting right in the pot, just dump your chocolate in and turn the cooker on low, and lay a clean lint-free tea towel over the top. The lid will get condensation, and any water that gets into your chocolate can make it seize. Check it every 30 minutes and give it a stir until it is melted. For smaller amounts, put the chocolate into a canning jar and fill the cooker about two inches high with water and turn on low. Check the chocolate every 30 minutes.
Anyone who has made homemade chicharrons, or cooked potatoes in goose or duck fat, or even wanted to make traditional matzo balls with schmaltz instead of vegetable oil knows the power of animal fat. But getting that fat into the proper shape for cooking with isn’t necessarily intuitive. A few years ago, a farmer pal was raising ducks, and I jokingly said he should save me some skin and fat from the prepping. Two weeks later I got a gift of about ten pounds of raw duck skin. The idea of trying to manage that much fat rendering on my stovetop was daunting to say the least. And then it occurred to me that I could use my slow cooker. After all, what you need for good rendering is low and slow and steady heat.
I cut the skin up into strips with my kitchen shears, plopped the mess into my largest slow cooker and set the temp for 8 hours on low. Then I went to bed. In the morning, I had a tub full of clear duck fat that I could strain into containers and freeze. You can do this with any sort of fat you want to be able to cook with. Often your butcher has a lot of chicken skin leftover, all those skinless breasts and thighs to prepare, and mine hands them off to me for free if I am purchasing something else.
Keep Sauces and Gravies Warm Without Having Them Separate
Having a brunch and want to serve hollandaise with your eggs or a dinner with a delicate red wine reduction sauce? Your slow cooker to the rescue. Put your finished sauces into canning jars or other heat-proof containers and fill your slow cooker about halfway up the sides of the container with warm water. Don’t add cold water or your sauces can seize or separate. Hold the sauces in the covered cooker on low until you need them, they will usually stay stable for up to two hours. Be sure to have your sauces covered with foil or plastic wrap so that no condensation gets in.
Leftovers like mashed potatoes, rare beef, casseroles and the like can easily get overcooked or rubbery when trying to reheat in microwaves or toaster ovens. But the gentle heat of your slow cooker is just the ticket for getting them back up to heat for a second go-around without risk of overcooking. Place your leftovers in a bowl or baking dish that fits inside your cooker, and cover with a lid or foil. Add about an inch of water to the bottom of the cooker and set on high for about an hour or so until your leftovers have reheated fully, then reduce heat to warm to hold them before you need to serve.
Everyone I know who has a warming drawer in their kitchen uses it to warm plates before meals. Being able to serve dinner on a warm plate feels like an everyday luxury, and for dinner parties, it really makes a world of difference. So, when it comes to entertaining, I love to offer warm plates. And you don’t need a warming drawer. I can stack about 12-16 plates inside my slow cooker. I place a water-soaked kitchen towel in the bottom and stack my plates or bowls on top. Put the lid on and set the cooker for low for about 30-40 minutes until your plates are warm but not too hot to handle.
The One Dangerous Mistake You’re Making With Your Slow Cooker
Slow cookers are beloved for their set-it-and-forget-it style. The best slow cooker recipes require very little hands-on time, and make the machine do all the heavy lifting. Naturally, most of us don’t think twice when a recipe tells us to start with frozen chicken. After all, that’s the point—to let the slow cooker do the work of thawing and cooking the meat. Right?
Not so fast, says the USDA. According to their Slow Cookers and Food Safety guidelines, you should always thaw meat or poultry before putting it in a slow cooker. They recommend storing the thawed meat in the refrigerator before adding it in. “The slow cooker may take several hours to reach a safe, bacteria-killing temperature,” the guidelines read. “Constant refrigeration assures that bacteria, which multiply rapidly at room temperature, won’t get a ‘head start’ during the first few hours of cooking.”
The primary concern is that putting frozen meat in the slow cooker increases its chances of entering the “danger zone,” the temperature range between 40° and 140°F where harmful bacteria grow exponentially. Slow cookers operate at temperatures between 170°F and 300°F—well above this zone—but it takes longer for frozen meat or poultry to reach those temperatures than thawed meat, giving it more opportunity to sit in the danger zone.
Here’s where things get a little murky. The guidelines for the Instant Pot, which can function as a slow cooker, say there’s “no need to defrost the food in the microwave prior to preparing.” They recommend increasing the cook time if beginning with frozen food, but do not address any potential hazards. This is perfectly fine advice if using the pressure-cooker function, because a pressure cooker can cook frozen chicken or meat fast enough to avoid the “danger zone.” But the Instant Pot’s website doesn’t specify which function the guidelines are referencing.
Crock Pot, one of the most popular brands of slow cookers, also gives a thumbs up to the practice. “You can cook frozen meat in a Crock-Pot Slow Cooker, but suggested cook time may need to be increased.” They recommend using a meat thermometer to ensure meat is well above 165°F. What they fail to address is the time it takes to reach that temperature.
Today Food took a deep dive into the topic and found that food experts have differing options. Ultimately, they recommend following the USDA guidelines to help reduce the possibility of the development of harmful bacteria. And, because it’s better to be safe than sorry, we agree. Additionally, if you’re gone during the day while your slow cooker is on, it’s a good idea to cook on low rather than set the timer to shut it down in the early afternoon. Food shouldn’t sit in a turned-off slow cooker for more than four hours, or it runs the risk of entering the danger zone again.
How to Travel With a Slow Cooker
When pressed for time or low on oven space, slow-cooking is a popular option for many cooks. Countertop cooking is the secret to making delicious sides and main dishes, especially during the holidays, without juggling bake times and wedging baking dishes around a 20-lb. turkey. Use your slow-cooker in the morning to fix-and-forget a hearty stew or roasted chicken, and have a savory and satisfying supper ready for you when you return home that afternoon. A slow-cooker is also handy when you want to prepare a hot dish, transport it to a party, and serve it from the same container. Whether you are taking a dish to grandmother’s house for the family holiday dinner, or taking a slow-cooker filled with hot soup down the street to the neighborhood potluck, you are faced with how to safely transport a hot slow-cooker without burns and spills. Follow these tips to safely travel with your slow cooked meals.
Secure the Lid
If you are in the market for a new slow-cooker, you may want to invest in a model that features a lock top, such as this Crock-Pot 6-Qt. Programmable Model. Even if you don’t have a locking lid, this insulated carrying case helps prevent messy spills when transporting a slow-cooker filled with hot food. If you still love your older model without a locking lid, however, you can simply attach heavy-duty rubber bands around the handles and lid and then wrap the slow cooker in towels or newspaper. And you know the old adage about how duct tape fixes everything, right? Well, some Southerners even claim it is the best thing for securing a slow-cooker lid.
Use a Laundry Basket
This tip is handy for transporting slow-cookers or any type of covered hot food item. Grab a laundry basket and make a cushion on the bottom of it with two or three thick towels. Place the slow-cooker on top of the towels and add more towels around the sides and on top of the slow-cooker. This not only keeps the heat in, but also prevents the dish from sliding around. Place the basket on the floorboard or in the trunk of your car. If you don’t have a laundry basket to spare, a sturdy cardboard box will work just as well.
WATCH: The Secrets to Making the Best Slow-Cooker Soups
Slow-cooking is a popular option when it comes to time management and oven space. This holiday season, take a look at your menu and decide which dishes might be better prepared and served from a convenient slow-cooker.
The Surprising Slow Cooker Recipe That’s Perfect for Your Beach Vacation
When I’m on vacation, I’m vacating. I don’t want to work. I don’t want to clean. I certainly don’t want to plan meals, grocery shop, and spend hours prepping at my beach house rental. I rarely take breaks and time away from my work, so when I do, I have to make it count.
That being said, I also don’t like going out to eat every day. (I know—I’m a walking contradiction.) Besides the mounting expensive of costly coastal restaurants, I prefer to avoid putting on any makeup when I’m on a beach vacation. Eating out doesn’t comply with my self-imposed makeup ban.
So what’s a hungry vacationer to eat when they find themselves seaside and starving?
Enter slow cooker dinners.
Yep, the weeknight time-saving supper tool is really the best way to put dinner on the table without putting in too many kitchen hours. Because we know you’ll want to reflect the flavors of your new temporary home, don’t bother to make chilis and braised meats. Instead, use it to simplify one of the beach’s simplest pleasures: a shrimp boil.
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Slow Cooker Shrimp Boil: The Best Meal for Your Summer Beach Vacation
I can’t leave the beach without eating a shrimp boil. It’s one of the simplest dinners you can make, and with the freshest source of shrimp so close, I’d be a fool not to take advantage of the bounty.
What’s not so simple, however, is standing there and monitoring a hot stove while first the potatoes cook, then the corn, next the sausage and shrimp. The truth is, I’d rather spend that time outside, and I suspect you would, too.
So, do that.
With our Slow Cooker Shrimp Boil, you can start the evening meal at lunchtime, when you’ve come in from the sun’s streaming rays and made yourself a sandwich while you cool off. Fill a six-quart slow cooker with potatoes, onions, and seasonings. Cook for a few hours until almost tender—or to about the time you’ll be coming in from the beach to clean up and ready yourself and the family for dinner.
When you walk in, plop the corn and sausage into the slow cooker with the potatoes, and let them heat up and cook for a while as you’re showering (or, more likely, catching up on Facebook).
WATCH: How to Make Shrimp Boil Nachos
As it’s getting closer to time to eat, remove the corn from the slow cooker. Corn, unlike shrimp or sausage, retains heat for a while after coming out of the slow cooker, so it can sit covered in a bowl while the final ingredients finish cooking.
Add the shrimp last. You want to be careful to not let shrimp overcook, so saving those crustaceans for the final steps helps keep them succulent and tender.
Once everything is ready, it’s time to eat. Drain the slow cooker pot, dump the potatoes, shrimp, sausage, and corn onto a parchment paper-lined sheet pan or newspaper-covered table, and serve with a little drawn butter or spicy cocktail sauce.
It really couldn’t be more simple.
Yes, of course, you can stand over a beautiful stockpot and watch everything simmer and cook. Or, you can go outside, enjoy the beauty of the water, and let dinner make itself in a slow cooker.
I vote the latter option myself, which is why you’ll never catch me beach-bound without my trusty slow cooker again.
10 Clever Tips for Using Your Slow Cooker Like a Pro
Confession time: I'm not the best cook. It's true. And I'm no expert when it comes to cooking fall slow-cooker favorites such as chili, beef stew, or pulled pork. Nope, I tend to keep things simple when it comes to cooking. I'm talking scrambled eggs, basic cheese dips, and frozen meatballs kind of simple. But I've always wanted to be part of the "set it and forget it" crew of cooks. The slow cooker, in its all-in-one glory, seems to be the perfect appliance for lazy, unskilled cooks like myself who want to produce satisfying, hearty meals with minimal effort.
Every year I make a promise to myself to utilize the slow cooker more often, and every year I fail miserably at keeping that promise. But honestly, up until fairly recently, I just didn't realize the vast potential of the slow cooker. But this year... this year is the year. This year, I vowed that things would be different with my slow cooker, now that I know the extent of its power beyond reheating slurp-worthy soup.
Below are the tips and tricks I've picked up that have allowed me to fall in love with my slow cooker this year. These tidbits of wisdom have empowered me as a cook and given me free time to focus on other important things (like watching football or the newest episode of my favorite TV show). What's more is that most of these hacks come from my mom, the queen of slow-cooker everything--and that's serious credible backing in my book.
Ready to put your slow cooker to work? I've...well, my mom has got you covered this season. Here are my 10 tips for getting the most out of your slow cooker:
1. Double Dip with Your Slow Cooker
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Thanks to my mom and some talented, faceless peeps on Pinterest, I no longer have to choose between nacho cheese and spinach-artichoke dip. Cooking two dips at one time for a tailgate party, or when I'm just in a chips and dip kind of mood, is made possible and easy by the slow cooker. Simply mold a few sheets of heavy duty foil to create a wall in the center of the slow cooker, shape the foil so it fits snugly, and place a liner on the bottom to cover both halves. Voila! The two dips will now stay separated. Options, people... they're nice to have.
2. Use the Slow Cooker to Warm Buns (And Tortillas)
Making slow cooker pulled pork to fill sandwiches or tacos? Forego heating up the oven to warm your burns and/or tortillas. Instead, arrange them on a glass pie plate and place the plate on top of the cooked, war filling inside the slow cooker and cover. In just a few minutes, your tortillas and buns will be steamed to perfection.
3. Have Your Slow Cooker Help You to Make Lasagna Like a Boss
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No boiling required here, folks. Just layer uncooked lasagna noodles with your favorite fillings like sausage or beef, cheese, and tomato sauce. Cook for 4 to 6 hours or until the noodles are tender, and you're well on your way to a phenomenal one-pot dinner. Here's the best part: The slow cooker pulls double duty, keeping your lasagna warm throughout the meal, just in case you can't help yourself and
want need seconds. And let's be honest, when it's this delicious, you'll likely go for a second helping.
4. Brown Your Meats on the Stovetop Before Introducing them to Your Slow Cooker
I wouldn't classify this one as a shortcut or direct slow cooker "hack", but it's a helpful tip to know when it comes to building flavor in the slow cooker. Searing cuts of meat like a chuck roast or pork chops for a few minutes on the stovetop (just to get a nice brown, caramelized crust on all sides) will help your dish develop rich flavor that the slow cooker simply can't achieve on its own.
5. Embrace How Easy Clean-Up Can be with the Slow Cooker
One foolproof thing that saves me time and makes post-meal clean-up infinitely easier? Using a liner while cooking. Doing so means no more worrying about soaking overnight or scrubbing whatever cheesy and saucy goodness later. But if you do happen to run into stubborn stains in your slow cooker, make a paste using white vinegar and baking soda, and scrub the trouble spots with it.
6. Let the Slow Cooker Do the Work While You Sleep
Pretty self-explanatory, but many people think it's best to let the slow cooker work while they work. Well, this could cause your meal to overcook if you're asked to stay a little late at the office or you somehow end up stuck in traffic. Believe me--after my attempt to set beef stew cooking for dinner one morning last fall, I'd like to say an afternoon stuck on I-75 south in Atlanta didn't turn into a lesson on tough love...er, um, more like tough meat, but that would be a lie. Take it from my disaster--run the slow cooker overnight and turn it off first thing in the morning. You can allow the cooker to cool slightly while you get ready for the day, transfer it to the fridge before you head out, and simply return the pot to the slow cooker base and reheat at dinnertime.
7. Leave the Lid Alone While Slow Cooking
Unless the directions instruct you to do so (to stir occasionally, add in an ingredient later in the process, or reduce liquid towards the end of cooking), don't remove the lid of the slow cooker while your food is cooking. The lid traps heat, and every time you lift it, it can take up to 30 minutes for the slow cooker's interior to return to the proper temperature, resulting in a longer cook time. When in doubt, resist the urge to check things out (yes, you may refer to me as the slow cooker poet of our generation).
8. Go to Your Slow Cooker for More Than Meat
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Literally, (almost) anything goes when it comes to the slow cooker. Limiting the slow cooker to merely dinner prep is an amateur hour move. You can make desserts, cocktails, snack mixes, and more in the slow cooker--to the envy of your friends and party guests.
9. Create Autumn Ambiance in the Slow Cooker
Speaking of the divers magic of the slow cooker, here's a non-edible option for the holiday season: all-natural potpourri. Combine whatever fall scents you love, like fresh oranges, cinnamon sticks, rosemary, nutmeg, and cranberries, with water in your slow cooker. Turn the heat up and leave the lid off to fill your home with a sweet autumnal aroma. Just make sure to check on it every few hours and add water as needed.
10. Be Sure to Save Dairy, Veggies, Beans, and Pasta Until the End When Slow Cooking
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OK, back to actual cooking tips. Cooking dairy products, like milk and cheese, at higher temperatures for a long period of time can cause them to curdle. It's best to save adding dairy until closer to the end of cooking a slow cooker dish, and the same goes for pasta, beans, and veggies to keep them from turning mushy. This short rib and tomato ragout is a tasty example of the slow cooker at work with al dente pasta, veggies, and meat.
11 Things You Didn't Know Your Slow Cooker Could Do
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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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