Do y’all love your crock pot as much as I do? I have learned that a meal in a crock pot started early in the day feels like an all day sigh of relief. If I get it going in the morning, then regardless of what chaos the rest of the day may bring, I at least know dinner is handled.
Over the years I’ve learned a few things about slow cooker success. Here are my best tips.
1. If a recipe calls for chicken breast and you plan to cook it all day, consider trying boneless-skinless thigh meat instead. Dark meat isn’t nearly as likely to dry out. It will keep it’s moisture and flavor.
2. If you are cooking a roast (beef or pork), plan to do the following after it’s cooked: take out of crock pot, shred and place on a cookie sheet. Reduce down the liquid left in the crock pot by boiling it for 10 or 15 minutes in a pot on the stove top. Pour this reduced liquid over the shredded meat, and place under broiler in oven. Broil on high heat until tips of meat begin to turn brown. Trust me on this – so flavorful and good! See this recipe as an example. Another of my favorite and easiest dinners to prepare this way is a pork roast cooked with onions and a jar of tomatillo salsa.
3. Think about using your slow cooker for sides too, like baked potatoes or green beans (we do ours with onions and bacon sometimes; I know it negates the point of vegetables but they’re so yummy). That beautiful trustworthy crock pot is not just for the main dish. Use it for sides and you’ll have one less thing to do at dinner time.
4. Soups are really easy never-fail dinners, just remember if your soup calls for pasta to add it at the end of cooking just before serving. This will avoid overcooked, mushy pasta. Also, if you have “hostess anxiety” about preparing meals for guests (raises hand) I’ve found that soups are a great option. The meal is done, and you are free to relax and chat with guests, no worrying if the chicken dish you tried to bake will come out of the oven raw. (Raises hand again.) Try a taco soup or chili with lots of fun toppings like different cheeses, sour cream, onions, tortilla strips, and avocado.
5. Remember that some things can simmer all day no problem (chili, soups), while others are better in the crock pot for just a short 3 to 4 hours or it will dry out. I don’t recommend any chicken breast dish if you’re not home to monitor it.
6. Crock pots meals can tend to be on the heavy side, so think about serving with a salad or some fruit to lighten things up.
7. Don’t forget the crock pot can double as a warming tray – if you’re making homemade tortillas, throw them in a warmed crock pot so they stay nice and warm. Or if you’re making breakfast for dinner, use it to keep a big batch of scrambled eggs warm until you’re ready to serve.
8. Make broth after you cook a chicken. Use the broth and leftover chicken with veggies and noodles for a great homemade soup. Check out 100 days of real food for a super easy way to make homemade broth.
9. If you have the room, make double! Especially if you are cooking a whole chicken; two can be squeezed into a large slow cooker and still have room for onions, carrots, and potatoes. You’re going to the trouble of prepping one bird, you might as well make two. Then you’ll have leftovers for the week to make yummy sandwiches, soup or quesadillas, and salads like this one (lettuce + all the veggies on hand + hard boiled egg + Caesar dressing + leftover chicken). So good!
Slow cooker lovers unite. Be loud and proud. That sturdy, sorta ugly and old ladyish appliance serves us well!