Slow-cookers have been the saving grace of busy urbanites and suburban parents for decades now.Irving Naxon’s portable cooking device was filed in 1936. It took nearly 20 years for the prototype to hit the market. The Electric Bean Pot first mass produced in 1952 would be rebranded as the Crock-Pot in 1972.
This multi-cooking countertop appliance gives its users the most precious gift in cooking — time. A slow-cooker, whether a brand-name Crock-Pot of some other kind, uses moist heat to cook the contents placed inside the appliance. The low temperatures make it safe to leave on while you run errands, go to work, or sleep soundly, effectively making meal time a mostly labor-free, hands-off task. For this reason alone, it is hardly a shock that slow-cookers have remained widely popular long after Irving Naxon’s initial version first appeared on shelves.
Still, utilizing your slow-cooker to its full potential requires some know-how. We reached out to cookbook authors and recipe bloggers to gather expert tips to ensure that your slow-cooker dishes, from simple soups and stews to overnight oatmeal and cakes, turn out perfect every time.
Chef Brooke Williamson from Bravo’s Top Chef says, “Just because you have a kitchen gadget that is made to make your life easier, doesn't mean that you're exempt from having to put in any real effort. Flavorful, properly cooked food takes time and care. Don't dump a whole bunch of raw stuff into your slow-cooker and expect it to taste like you care all by itself. Take the time to season and brown your meat before putting it into the cooker.”
Take the time to season and brown your meat before putting it into the cooker. — Chef Brooke WilliamsonAccording to Williamson, “The most common mistake that I find with slow-cooked food is seasoning. If your food doesn't go in seasoned, it won't come out seasoned, and browning is an important step of flavor development.”
Holly Clegg, cookbook author and a member of our own Culinary Content Network, reminds home cooks to resist the urge to lift the lid while cooking. Clegg tells us that, “every time you open the lid, you release heat and moisture and add 30 minutes to the cooking time.”
If you are interested in a hassle-free way to make homemade meals, even on the busiest nights of the week, we’ve rounded up 50 of our favorite slow-cooker recipes. Choose from breakfast dishes that cook while you sleep to simple dinner ideas that won’t require you to babysit a host of pots on the stove.
To complete our list of 50, we asked recipe developers, bloggers, cookbook authors, and chefs to share with us their favorite dishes. From there, we compiled our list based on the most searched slow-cooker recipe categories, including: breakfast, appetizers, soups, chicken, meat dishes, casseroles, stews, vegetarian, desserts, and drink recipes.
Check out our complete list of slow-cooker recipes for some inspiration and tips on how to develop the most flavor without spending extra time in the kitchen using your slow-cooker.
Angela Carlos is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Think we missed something? Find her on Twitter and tweet @angelaccarlos your favorite slow-cooker recipes.