I have a well-documented love of meal preparation on the weekends, along with my Crock Pot. With three kids in various activities, school work, and my own jobs/house to keep up with, I really need dinner to come together quickly and easily- especially when I’m literally home for 5 minutes between activities.
Now that it’s officially fall, as far as I’m concerned it’s officially time for the Crock Pot (if you weren’t using it all summer for pulled pork, mac and cheese, etc.). Here are my favorite tips along with a few of my favorite recipes. You can literally use your crock pot for everything from quick and easy vegetarian fare to recipes that are fancy enough to entertain with.
1. Read the directions. Now, slow cookers are supposed to be the ultimate in lazy- but it’s actually worth taking the time to read the directions on your particular machine. When I got a new Crock Pot with a fancy lock-on lid, I was getting FURIOUS that I was burning meals! Come to find out, the locking lid is only for transportation, and my putting it that way for cooking, I was actually turning my “slow” cooker into a pressure cooker.
2. Cut your cleanup. If you really need to cut your setup/cleanup time, prepare your meals for the crock pot and place the chopped, measured ingredients into a Ziplock bag. Any additions that need to be added after cooking (such as pre-cooked beans or broccoli) can go in a separate bag and be placed in the fridge when you’re ready to cook. Really want to save time? Check out the various brands of Crock-Pot liners that allow you to slow cook your dinner and not even clean your cooker.
3. Convert to programmable. To ensure you don’t over-cook (read: dry out) your dinner, upgrade to a programmable Crock Pot, or treat yourself to a plug like the Smart-Part Programmable Slow Cook Module that will convert your current device to a programmable version. There are also super-fancy ones that you can control from your smart phone…if you really want an upgrade! Try the Crock-Pot Wemo Smart Wifi-Enabled Slow Cooker, 6-Quart, Stainless Steel
4. Don’t guess on time! “I’ll just throw it in on low until I get home” may function- but it won’t give you the best results. There are several conversion charts for going from stovetop/oven to countertop cooking (my fave is here) and Crock Pot has guidelines for converting from low temperature to high temperature cook times.
5. Know how to prep and when to add. Browning your meat makes a huge flavor and appearance difference in your final dish, and certain ingredients, such as dairy or pasta, should go in at the very end of cooking for best results.
Bonus tip- although not really for your slow cooker- make your sides super easy by using ready rice, frozen rice, or fresh pasta for a super fast last-addition!
Leave a comment with your favorite slow cooker recipe below! Thanks for joining us!