Having a home-cooked meal ready can be a challenge for a busy family.
Enter the slow cooker as a meal-time savior — you take a little time either the night before or in the morning, put everything in the slow cooker and voila! Dinner is ready when you get home.
Slow cooker meals may be simple, but there are a few things you need to have and should know to become a slow cooker master.
These aren't the days of your mom's slow cooker, when there was only a couple of makes and models available.
Now, you can find slow cookers in a variety of shapes and sizes with multiple settings.
The traditional slow cooker, such as this Proctor-Silex 4-quart model, doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles, but like mom's classic cooker, it still makes amazing meals.
Slow cookers are great for potluck meals, but back in the day, they didn't transport well because of potential spills. Fortunately, many slow cookers, such as the Crock-Pot Mini Casserole 2.5 Quart, have clips, that can secure the lid to keep the food warm and secure while taking your culinary creation to the party.
For those looking for something a little more high tech, programmable slow cookers are the way to go. These kitchen wonders truly embrace the "set it and forget it" philosophy. Hamilton Beach's Set 'n Forget Slow Cookereven has a temperature probe to ensure your meal is cooked to perfection.
A programmable slow cooker is especially helpful if your recipe just calls for a few hours of cooking rather than an all-day marathon.
Slow cooker cookbooks
Now, you need some fantastic recipes to start preparing with your shiny new cooker. Here are some highly rated suggestions from Amazon.com buyers:
- "The Fix-It and Forget-It Big Cookbook" by Phyllis Pellman Good. Top comments include: "Great variety; Lots of Unexpected Ideas" and "THE go-to cookbook for slow cookers".
- "The Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook" by Pamela Ellgen. This book offers a healthy twist on meals like pulled pork and mac-and-cheese, to name just a couple.
- "Crock-Pot The Original Slow Cooker Recipe Collection". Crock-Pot is a brand name and as "The Original Slow Cooker", they have compiled 350 recipes from more than 40 years of expertise in the slow cooking business.
Easy clean up
Slow cookers make the cooking easy, but without proper preparation, clean up can be a chore.
Never fear, though. Companies such as Crock-Pot, Reynoldsand PanSaver now sell slow cooker liners or bags that make after dinner clean up so simple.
Simply insert a liner or bag into your slow cooker before adding your ingredients. Cleaning up is as easy as removing the bag and wiping down your cooker before putting it away for your next tasty meal.