An Ode to the Slow Cooker

An Ode to the Slow Cooker


“Slow cooker” is a generic term for an electric casserole that cooks food with relatively low heat over a long period of time. Electric slow-cookers became popular in the 1970s when The Rival Company introduced the Crock Pot, which offered convenience as well as purported energy savings. While the popularity of slow cookers has waxed and waned over the last 50 years, smart cooks, and young hipsters eager to revive that by-gone vibe are snatching up new and vintage Crock Pots and slow simmering soups, sauces, stews, beans, braises and even oatmeal. As the name suggests, they are slow, but if you follow the directions you can safely leave them to do their thing while you’re out doing your thing. Besides the great flavors and textures, who doesn’t want to come home to the heady aroma of pot roast?

Although I prefer old “analog” models with a three position knob (off/low/high) because they can be controlled by standard light timers from the hardware store, modern digital models often feature holding and delay cook settings, which are nice. My suggestion when buying new one is to keep it simple. Oh, and you might want to consider two cookers, a small, round four-quart model for soups, pot roast and day-to-day cooking, as well as a large oval model to handle bigger chores like chickens and even turkeys. And yes … you can make fantastic shredded barbecue pork in a crock pot and very few people will ever know.

Slow Cooker Recipes:

34 Comments

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  1. 4
    JB

    I make a large batch of caramelized onions in mine, leave it on all night, then package up smaller containers for the freezer! Also pulled pork or tri tip for enchiladas or tamales, yum

  2. 6
    Dav John

    I love my “Crock (slow cooker) Pot”. I have a 16 year old Rival that was gifted at Christmas some years ago. I use it for soups, stews and roasts. It sits out, ready to serve all the time.

  3. 7
    Brandon

    I’m relatively new to slow cookers but every time I cook with my round, 4 quart cooker the high setting ends up being almost a boil. For example I made a slow cooker stuffing on another cooking website and after the first hour of high temperature the moisture was almost gone due to boiling.

    So my question is have slow cookers changed to where high temps are too high or am I missing something in the ingredients to keep it from burning and boiling?

    • 8
      Dav John

      In cases like that you might forego the high temp. Use the low temp with just a little added broth if it looks dry. Dry dishes like stuffing may need more watching than more forgiving, heartier dishes.

  4. 10
    debitnm

    I make baby back ribs in my oval crockpot. I make my own BBQ sauce but you could doctor up some bottled sauce. Cut the rack into 2 pieces; should be 7 ribs in each half. Pour 1/3 sauce in pot, put in one of the 1/2 racks; pour another 1/3 of sauce on top; put in the other half and top with last sauce. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. You need approximately 2 cups of BBQ sauce.

  5. 11
    JimmyDean

    Love mine. Use it weekly, if not more. And yes, slow cooker Barbecue pork IS possible. Last time I did it, I used a whole pork loin-it’s what I had at home, so I used it, and it worked great. Light the grill, get it good and hot, and hit the outside. Just enough to get some good brown, maybe a little char here and there so you have some “burnt ends”. Then it’s into the slow cooker on low for hours. If I have time, I may grill it today, then cut some slits and work some dry rub in and put it in the fridge overnight. (that way the grill doesn’t burn the rub). Either way, once it’s in the slow cooker (it’s sure hard not to just say Crockpot:-) on low for maybe 6 to 7 hours, along with about a half cup of BBQ sauce. Whip up your own or buy some good, either way works.
    At the end, you have cooked pork with a lot of liquid. Take your forks, shred the pork right there in the liquid, put the lid back on and walk away for a half an hour, it will absorb the liquid right back into it. When I use Boston Butt I usually have to let it sit so the fat can separate/rise and skim some of that off before I shred it. Usually. Sometimes you can just pour the fat off of those though.

  6. 12
    EJ

    One large onion cut into rings.
    One potato chopped in small cubes.
    One bag of frozen French Cut green beans.
    Top that with cubed pork.
    Top THAT with a can of Hedez Salsa Verde (green sauce)
    Cook for 6 hrs on Low, or 3+ on High.

  7. 17
    Jen

    I love my crock pot, and on days when my kids have late afternoon/early evening activities, it is an absolute necessity. I have a 6qt that I use most of the time, but if I’m making something in it that requires a starchy side, then I have a 2qt for rice or potatoes. We come home hungry to a fully cooked meal ready and waiting. Gumbo, soups, Char Siu, Roasted (name that meat), Carnitas, I even did oil-poached fish once. I wonder if I could do polenta or noodles in the 2qt … hmm … must research!

  8. 18
    Tim Covington

    I admit to replacing my slow cooker with a multicooker that can slow cook, pressure cook, make rice, and brown foods. It even has the delay setting. I love it.

      • 20
        Terran Dub

        Tim is probably referring to the InstaPot IP-6 (or IP-7) Duo. I have one. They are truly a non-unitasker. A newer model had bluetooth and is programmable through a BT compatible device and app.

      • 21
        Jessica

        We have a Power Pressure Cooker XL and its awesome! Makes the best rice I’ve ever had at home and it has options to do everything from can (pint size only), stew, saute (brown the roast in the pan so you keep all the yummy bits before pressure cooking it or slow cooking it), slow cook, pressure cook… cooks frozen chicken in 15 minutes once pressure is built up. 🙂

  9. 22
    Leigh Jones

    I use my 7-qt Crockpot and a thermostat to cook sous vide meats. It has been utterly reliable and the results are terrific!

  10. 24
    Lee

    My daughter and son in law bought me a Cuisinart slow cooker for Christmas two ago. I LOVE that thing! Have cooked many meals in it and all have been delish!

  11. 25
    Shorttimer

    There is a chapter in Cooking for Geeks (my favorite after Alton Brown) that has full directions for setting up an old style slow cooker using a thermocouple and thermostat controller for a home made Sous Vide. I’d think it should work as well for fine tuning your slow cooking.

    • 27
      Suzanne

      JASON, Im sure you are serious, but I thought your post was so funny I did actually laugh out loud. Thanks for the first true humor or the day!

  12. 28
    Ron Nelson

    I use a crock-pot to make your pot roast recipe, a family favorite. (Only substitution I generally make is a can of Rotel diced tomatoes with peppers for the tomato juice.)

    Tasty times…

  13. 29
    Leslie

    Cooked a 9 lb pork butt in one today. Used olive oil and garlic salt to season it then shredded and added bbq sauce. Fed 10 with tons of leftovers. Love my crock pot!

  14. 30
    Ken

    Vivienne, control would be the exact same thing as your Christmas lights, except the plug goes to a Crock Pot not little light bulbs.

    From personal experience, buy vintage! The new ones, high end or low, are required to maintain a higher temp then they once were, even on low. So, the set it and forget method of an old crock pot, will leave your roast dry as shoe leather in a pot of tasty broth in a new unit.

    Alternatively, and I should mine soon, an immersion circulator should fill in much of the gap between the old and new crock pots.

    • 31
      Sian

      I’m in the market for a new slow cooker. the one I’ve got runs too hot, and has hot spots besides. I find the market to be rather confusing.

  15. 32
    Vivienne

    I’d like to hear more about how to control the slow cooker with a light timer.
    And does everyone else have a problem with too-hot crock pots?

    • 33
      BMK

      It is very simple. You would turn your cooker to the desired setting then plug it into the outlet of the timer. You would just set you timer to the time you want. Now you may have the read the instructions as they could vary from model to model. Once you have the timer set and your cooker ready, switch on the timer and let it be for that time. Also, please be certain your cooker does not exceed the wattage the timer can handle. It shouldn’t but it’s always best to be certain.

    • 34
      Sara

      It’s super easy to use a light timer. You set the timer to what time you want it to start and turn off, plug it into the wall and plug the slow cooker into the timer. Don’t forget to turn it the slow cooker on to the setting you need.

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