First, you’re a time saver. Minimal preparation of ingredients before they go into your one-pot ceramic insert, along with a “set it and forget it” mantra, means that we can carry on with the hustle of work, family, and entertaining without being bound to the oven.
Second, you’re like a second oven, year round! Whether it’s occupied with the main course roast or a sheet pan of sides, or we just don’t want to heat the kitchen in the sweltering summer months, we turn to you, our queen of braises, comforting soups, chili, and stews — and, yes, even desserts!
And, finally, your low temperature and extended cook time mean that you create an environment for infusing deep flavor and palate-pleasing textures, such as creamy beans, moist cakes, and tender, shredded meat.
And speaking of meat, you’re the best at making inexpensive cuts of chicken, pork, and beef shine, allowing us to stretch out our weekly food budget. We could go on, but we’ll let our nine favorite slow cooker recipes further sing your praises.
The slow cooker does all the work in this three-ingredient showstopper of a dish. A very versatile mango chutney, along with red onions, infuses a low-and-slow-cooked pork loin with a ton of sweet and spicy flavor. Shred the tender pork and use it for weeknight tacos, or make your canvas a hearty grain or rice.
Now here's a sweet, creamy “butter" that is delicious, versatile, and a cinch to make! The pears break down in the slow cooker, along with vanilla bean and pinches of sugar, and then get pureed. This is your new favorite accompaniment to pancakes or oatmeal, or topper for yogurt, cottage cheese, and toast.
You don't need a whole bird or to wait until Turkey Day to enjoy tasty turkey tenderloins. Instead, these butternut squash-, pear-, and cranberry-stuffed roll-ups make a weeknight feast when paired with the warm spices and cherry notes of pinot noir — and all from your slow cooker! Your favorite sheet pan vegetables or grain-based dish is an easy side.
Brisket, a kosher cut of beef that comes from a cow's oft-worked pectoral muscles, is famous for its role on the table during the Jewish holidays of Passover and Rosh Hashanah. When you use your slow cooker for cooking brisket on low temperature for an extended time — along with plenty of liquid to keep it from getting dry — the collagen in the muscle breaks down, offering up signature moist, fall-apart-flavor and texture. Kosher wine or sparking juices make it more festive, too!
The origin of baked beans reaches back hundreds of years to when Native Americans flavored indigenous white beans with maple syrup and animal fat, and then buried the beans' cooking vessels in an earth oven pit to slowly cook. Harry & David Bacon Chipotle BBQ Sauce brings a smoky, tangy, chipotle pepper flavor to this modern-day “low and slow" method.
The sweet and spicy notes of Harry & David Pepper & Onion Relish is the secret ingredient that makes these subs shine. Combine the relish in your slow cooker with tomatoes, fajita-inspired onions, bell peppers, and chicken breast, and the flavors meld into a superb sub filling. Top it with homemade queso for a game day crowd pleaser!
Flavorful chicken thighs mingle with the dried beans and bold spices in Harry & David smoky chicken chili mix to create a slow cooker chili that yields fall-apart tender chicken, creamy beans, and deep flavor. Fixins give this easy weeknight dish extra flare — think crunchy tortilla strips, mild cotija cheese, and spicy jalapeños. Serve with skillet cornbread.
When you think about the many uses of your slow cooker, baking cakes may not be top of mind, but the high moisture environment yields tender, perfectly textured desserts. Line your cooker with aluminum foil for this pear cake and layer the batter over Royal Riviera Pears. Invert on a serving platter for a stunning upside-down cake.
This no-fuss twist on a classic baked apple crisp makes a perfect dessert for entertaining since the slow cooker method frees up your oven for your main course. Plus, as the apples cook beneath a blanket of old-fashioned oat, butter, and brown sugar streusel topping, the heady aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg will fill your home and delight your senses.
Theresa Gambacorta is a food writer and 25-year veteran of New York City's restaurant industry. Her writing has appeared in such titles as La Cucina Italiana, Men's Fitness, Muscle and Fitness, and Centennial's special interest publications. She is the co-author of chef Joey Campanaro's Big Love Cooking (Chronicle) and is currently working on a cookbook about Persian cuisine to be published by Knopf.