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Kitchen Equipment And Culinary Techniques: Cooking With Slow Cookers and Crock Pots

Updated on February 8, 2011

Culinary Basics - Slow Cookers and Crock Pots

Whether you call them slow cookers or crock pots, this is one essential utensil you will want to have in your culinary basics toolkit!

I have had many and various kinds over the years but at the moment, I have the All-Clad 6.5 quart pictured here and I absolutely love it.  Even though it was a bit on the spendy side, I had various coupons and discounts and ended up getting it for around $129 at Macy's. 

What I did not realize is that they came out with an even better one and if I'd known about that one, I would have definitely spent the extra money on it!

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All Clad Slow Cookercourtesy flickr baskyescourtesy flickr ETcourtesy flickr jason lamcourtesy flickr tim pattersoncourtesy flickr tsayles
All Clad Slow Cooker
All Clad Slow Cooker
courtesy flickr baskyes
courtesy flickr baskyes
courtesy flickr ET
courtesy flickr ET
courtesy flickr jason lam
courtesy flickr jason lam
courtesy flickr tim patterson
courtesy flickr tim patterson
courtesy flickr tsayles
courtesy flickr tsayles

Using Slow Cookers and Crock Pots

Most people remember crock pots from the early days when we all used them to make up a pot of chili while we were at work that was ready by the time the gang all piled through the door after a long day of school, activities, sports, etc.

Well, the slow cooker of today is much more versatile and has many, many uses for the purposes of applying culinary basics.

I've used my slow cookers since I was in my 20's because it is an easy way to make food ahead - something that is vital if you are as busy as I tend to be.

Even though I work at home, taking the time to start a soup or stew, a roast chicken or even bread pudding can be an annoying task for me because usually I start it, go back to my office and forget about it! In the case of regular cooking on the stove top or the oven, this is not a good thing! However, I have always found that the slow cooker or crock pot allows me to get my meals started but then while they are leisurely cooking and simmering away, I'm free to finish my job or mush the dogs or go for a walk!

All cookers are not created equal and I have found that to be true over the years. I have had many different models and brand names - some of them cooked so slow you could leave a roast in it for a day and a half and it would still be cooking!

Some of the slow cookers I've had cook so hot and so fast that I never leave them on overnight or if I wanted to leave for a minute! They seem on the verge of bursting into flame because the temperature is so high.  I actually purchased 2 of the same kind and they both ran just as hot.

The most important thing about slow cookers is to know your pot! This particular brand is a Rival crock pot and I still have both of them. I just have to be careful not to overcook foods and always run them on low.  I use them to do roast chicken, a small turkey breast or roasts if I need to shorten my cooking time. I've also done a ham in those and they worked great.

The Rival crock pots that I have are large in size and for that reason, I've always kept them. They are nice if I'm doing a party and I need to cook several meats at the same time for sandwiches or dinner. The Rival crock pots also do not require water for chicken or meat to be roasting in them, whereas the All-Clad does.

What I love about the All-Clad is that it is huge for my purposes. It also cooks 'just right'. Not too hot and not too cold. I have tried everything from tapioca pudding to roasted chicken in it and everything always turns out perfectly done.

The only complaint I've ever had about the All-Clad was that it did not come with an instruction manual or 'recipes' per se. It had the basics on how to care for it and clean it, what not to do, etc. but no real recipes or ideas. I like having those just to make sure you're using it properly, as in roasting a chicken for instance.

While I could pretty much find recipes left and right to use in the crock pot, which I did, when I gave it to my mother, who doesn't use the Internet at all (gasp) and who doesn't have 200+ cookbooks like I have (double gasp), she had to pretty much trial-and-error to get the groove going on how to best use it.


What To Do in Slow Cookers

I use my slow cookers a lot. Here are some of the ways I find to use them:

  • I make our lunch meat - I cook/roast either a chicken or a small turkey breast or a half breast
  • I do a small beef roast
  • I cook a bone-in ham then slice paper thin and freeze
  • I make large batches of minestrone, navy bean soup, veal stew, beef stew, or chicken noodle or chicken rice soup, then freeze portions in freezer containers. There is always lunch or a quick supper available
  • I cook up an enchiladas or spaghetti casserole - divide into freezer bags or containers, label and freeze for a quick and easy meal
  • I use my crock pot all the time for putting together meatloaf and dinner entrees - all I have to do is add the ingredients and then finish it off in the evening with a salad or side dish
  • If I'm having a get-together and want to have a chowder (German sausage chowder) I cook part of it on the stove top and then transfer it to the crock pot and it is ready all evening long. We had this on New Year's Eve with fresh biscuits and it was marvelous!
  • If I'm planning a Super Bowl party or a big get-together where I might be featuring slider roll type sandwiches, I have 3 crock pots going overnight or over the course of a day and a half - one with pulled pork (shoulder roast flavored with root beer), one with beef (cooked in beer for pulled beef or BBQ beef sandwiches), and one with chicken roasting in Marsala wine (chicken sandwiches)
  • I also have 3 or 4 mini crock pots that I use routinely for dips - this keeps a dip nice and warm. I usually have 1 cheese, 1 artichoke and 1 bean dip all going at once. (They have a great little triple crock pot at Costco I've had my eye on!)
  • If I have a large crowd coming and want a simple dessert, I make a batch of tapioca pudding or rice pudding in the crock pot - no fuss and it's delicious right from the crock!
  • Or I do up a delicious chocolate cake in the crock pot
  • Or a bread pudding recipe
  • If I want a breakfast that I don't have to fuss with when I get up in the morning or maybe I'd rather sleep in a bit, I put on oatmeal in the crock pot with apples or a breakfast casserole with eggs. All I have to do is add toast in the morning and I'm done

Mouth Watering Recipes for the Slow Cooker

The possibilities are about endless! I have made these things so far and still going:

  • Stuffed Cabbage
  • Meatloaf wrapped in foil
  • Chili
  • Soup stocks of all kinds
  • Various and sundry soups - any kind
  • Every imagineable kind of stew
  • Chowders
  • Pulled pork (flavored with rootbeer)
  • Roast beef - rib roast
  • Pot Roast
  • Roasted chicken or small turkey breast
  • Stuffed turkey breast
  • Swiss steak
  • Goulash
  • Sweet and sour meatballs
  • Enchilada casserole
  • Spaghetti of many varities
  • BBQ Beef for sandwiches
  • Corned beef and cabbage
  • Pork roast
  • Scalloped potatoes
  • Roasted ham
  • Baby back ribs in peach sauce
  • Chicken cacciatore
  • Baked beans
  • Chicken wings
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Squashes
  • Bread pudding
  • Chocolate cake
  • Bread
  • Tapioca
  • Oatmeal
  • Cheese dips
  • Rancho beans
  • Apple butter
  • Egg casseroles
  • Corn bread

As you can see, there is not too much that can't be made in a slow cooker or a crock pot! The sky's the limit. All you need is a recipe or use your imagination. There are literally thousands on the internet or see many of the fine cookbooks listed.

Williams and Sonoma's All-Clad Slow Cooker Cassoulet
Williams and Sonoma's All-Clad Slow Cooker Cassoulet

Summing Up Slow Cookers and Crock Pots

As you can see, crock pots and slow cookers get a workout at my house! I like to do things the most efficient way possible and having a slow cooker or a crock pot just makes my life that much easier but still allows me to make delicious meals from healthy recipes.

I improvise a lot. I have a sense about what will work in what or in what form and I just experiment. I've not had anything really go wrong on me yet. I find the crock pot an invaluable part of my culinary basics simply because I am so busy.

 It is also a wonderful utensil to have when the temperatures are 90-100 and I want to cook baby back ribs! I only have to prepare my peach sauce and set them to cooking. The result is a melt-in-your-mouth version of a popular favorite.

That's the other most notable thing about slow cooking - because it is slow cooking, you can almost guarantee that the end result will be tender and delicious.

My only wish was that I had seen the other All-Clad before I bought mine. We bought the Williams and Sonoma version for our daughter when she got married last summer. The insert to the crock pot is removable like mine but the insert for this model goes on the stove top.  You can braise or sear meats, create a roux, etc. before you put the insert into the crock pot and begin to cook.

Both are programmable and both are stainless steel. They are a beautiful addition to your kitchen counter as well as one of the most useful utensils in my kitchen!

All-Clad Slow Cooker

Using a Slow Cooker

All American Pot Roast Slow Cooker Style

Five Great Slow-Cooker Recipes


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