Do or Don't: Slow Cookers

Do or Don't: Slow Cookers

I’m here to plead my case for the old-school appliance (where do you stand?)…

Last September, I ordered a slow cooker almost as large as my refrigerator (I chose the Crock-Pot). “Oh, the possibilities,” my aunt texted me, when she found out. “Welcome to the club.”

But, from the beginning, the slow-cooker rallying cry — “fix-it and forget-it” — did not apply to me. Most recipes required two to six hours of simmering time, but my workday is eight hours. (Would everything burn?!) And secondly, when it was cooking, I was ALWAYS thinking about it. As Sam Sifton wrote for The New York Times, a slow cooker began to feel like “an exercise in vague worry.”

Still, a handful of successful dinners, especially bean and chicken recipes, kept me from losing hope, and soon I realized a winning combination: Crock-Pots and lazy weekends. On those days, my schedule was flexible — I could handle a three-hour recipe while I was puttering around my apartment. And the meal would feed me for a better part of the week. Maybe the process is “best for afternoon cooking while a game or opera plays on the radio, for while you’re doing chores or running errands,” Sifton agreed. There you have it — the slow cooker reign continues.

If you’re still on the fence, here are nine hearty weekend projects to win you over:

Crock-Pot Indian Butter Chicken

Reader, meet the reason I bought a slow cooker: This Indian butter chicken. #worthit

Crock-Pot Spicy Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken tortilla soup is always on my dinner rotation, and this spicy version has everything I like in a recipe: minimal prep, not too many ingredients and a good excuse for chips.

Crock-Pot Tomato White Beans

Two of life’s sweetest pleasures? Beans on toast and a slow-cooker recipe that requires zero work (no chopping, mincing or sautéing). This tomato and cannellini bean recipe checks both of these boxes.

Shredded Crock-Pot Chicken

Crock-Pot shredded chicken has transformed my lunch game. One batch of this recipe makes enough chicken for five midday meals — tacos, salads, wraps. (This two-ingredient recipe is also near and dear to my heart.)

Crock-Pot Black Bean Enchiladas

These vegetarian enchiladas are only meal I happily eat on repeat. And repeat. Annnnd repeat.

Crock-Pot Chicken Parmesan Soup

This chicken parmesan soup is comfort food at its easiest.

Crock-Pot Cuban Panini

Can you even handle these melty Cuban pulled-pork sandwiches?!

Crock-Pot Black Bean Soup

PSA: Crock-Pots turn dried beans into masterpieces. “No presoaking, no simmering, just tossing cold dried beans in the slow cooker for three hours and they are perfection itself: bean nirvana,” Smitten Kitchen says of her black bean soup recipe.

Crock-Pot Vanilla Cake

Dessert is one of the slow cooker’s most underrated specialities. This vanilla cake has caramelized edges and a cult following (note: commenters recommend baking a little less than the suggested time). Also, who’s up for testing Martha Stewart’s cheesecake?

Where do you stand? Do you have any go-to recipes or tricks?

P.S. What food geniuses eat for lunch, and nine quick family dinners.
P.P.S. FYI, the This Is Us explosion of a slow cooker is not a thing, don’t worry. :)

(Top photo by Jade Li.)