Since the first mass-produced model, the Electric Bean Pot, hit the market in 1952 (20 years after Irving Naxon first patented his device), slow cookers have been the saving grace of both busy urbanites and suburban parents. In 1972 the appliance was rebranded as the Crock-Pot and became more popular than ever!
Slow cookers give users the most precious gift in cooking — time. Whether a brand-name Crock-Pot or some other kind, slow cookers use 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 mealtime a mostly labor-free, hands-off task. 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 turn out perfectly 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.”
According 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, 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, look no further read on to discover our 50 essential slow cooker recipes!
Angela Carlos contributed to this story.