Don’t you hate it when you have to cook a big meal in a hurry? I know I can never really make a meal as tasty as I want to, as I don’t have the time to cook it with the proper amount of finesse. It happens far too often in my busy life, but I’ve discovered a secret I want to share with you: the crock pot.
A crock pot is one of the most important items to have in your kitchen. You’ll find that it not only makes cooking a whole lot easier, but your food is much tastier as well. Without a doubt, a slow cooker is an appliance you should always have handy.
You’ll find that it’s the ideal appliance when you only have a short amount of time to make a big meal, but you don’t want to slap together sandwiches. With a crock pot, you can make delicious food in a cinch!
Why to Cook in a Crock Pot
There are many reasons to try slow cooking:
- Cooking in the oven raises the temperature in your house during the summer, meaning you have to turn up the AC in order to keep the house cool. When slow cooking, the crock pot doesn’t release any heat into the air.
- Most crock pot recipes are meant to cook for hours, so the temperature in the slow cooker is much lower than in the oven or on the stove top. This means there is little chance of your food burning or being overcooked.
- The fact that your food is cooking for so long means that the flavors deep in the meat, spices, and vegetables will be extracted. Your food will have a much richer, stronger taste thanks to the long cooking time.
- When your food cooks in a crock pot or slow cooker, your stove top and oven are free for other projects. This becomes very important around the holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas when you need to cook big meals for lots of people.
- Meals are cheaper when you cook in the crock pot. You can buy cheaper cuts of meat–such as stew beef or chuck roast–and place them in the slow cooker. After hours of slow cooking, the meat becomes so tender and soft it nearly falls off the bone.
- Cooking in a crock pot is far more convenient, particularly for those who have little time to prepare meals. You can put all of the ingredients into the slow cooker before you leave the house, and your dinner will be ready when you walk in the door in the evening.
- It’s far easier to clean up after a crock pot meal. There is only one pot to clean, and you’ll find that the ceramic pot is usually much easier to clean than stainless steel pots or oven trays.
- You can use old food easily. If you have vegetables that are withered or dried out, toss them in the crock pot with some meat and water, and you end up with a delicious stew.
- When cooking with a crockpot, you use absolutely no oil. That means there are no added calories in your food, and your food is actually much healthier. Without cooking oil, you food is free of trans-fats.
- A crock pot is a fairly low-energy appliance, so you won’t have to worry about a high electric or gas bill at the end of the month.
- The crock pot is portable, so you can easily transport the dishes from one house to another without worry. Just plug the crock pot back in and heat it up once you arrive at your destination.
- When you cook, a lot of the nutrients in the food goes to waste in the juices. With a crock pot, however, there is no waste, as the juices just boil in the pot and are absorbed into the food. With a slow cooker, you get maximum nutritional value from your food.
Wow, a lot of pretty awesome reasons to start cooking with a crock pot.
Crock Pot Cooking Tricks and Tips
Many people think that cooking in a crock pot means you can just throw in whatever you want and let it boil away for hours, but that’s the kind of cooking that makes boring, tasteless meals.
It’s time to become a virtuoso in the art of crock pot cooking! Before we get into our favorite healthy crock pot recipes, here are a few tips to help you with your crock pot cooking:
- Cook the food on HIGH for an hour or so, as that will boil away all microbes and bacteria. After the first hour, turn it to MEDIUM or LOW.
- DO NOT PUT FROZEN FOODS IN THE CROCKPOT! Always defrost your food before putting it into the crockpot for safety reasons.
- Two hours cooking on LOW is the same as one hour of cooking on HIGH.
- Always take the food out of the crockpot before putting it into the fridge. The thick liner will prevent the food from cooling in time to prevent bacteria growth.
- Don’t overfill the crockpot. Only fill it up to 2/3rd, as it won’t work if it’s too full.
- The food on the bottom of the cooker will be moister and will cook faster.
- Want to thicken the stew or soup? Take the lid off the cooker and turn the heat up to HIGH for the last hour before eating.
- Get rid of the excess fat from chicken and meat. The fat will add a strange taste to your meals thanks to the long cooking time, plus foods with a lot of fat will cook more quickly.
- Cook your meat for at least 8 hours if you’re using the LOW setting.
- Use cheap cuts of meat for crock pot cooking. The more expensive meats will have too much fat, but the low fat cheaper cuts cook better when done in the crock pot.
- Place the veggies on the bottom of the crock pot, and place the meat on top. Veggies take longer to cook than meat when done in the slow cooker.
- DO NOT REMOVE THE LID TO STIR FOOD. A lot of the heat will escape, setting back your meal by at least 20 minutes.
- Spin the lid to remove condensation, and peer through the glass to check on your food.
- Cook ground meats in a frying pan before adding them into a crockpot.
- Avoid using Tabasco sauce and cayenne pepper if you’re going to cook food for long periods of time. They taste odd when overcooked.
- Drop seafood into the crock pot only an hour before serving. Too long in the crock pot and shrimp, oyster, lobster, crab, and other shellfish will taste bad.
- Add spices in the last hour of cooking.
- Reduce liquid by ½ to 1/3, as it won’t boil away like it will in a regular pot.
- Only add dairy products 30 minutes before serving, unless the recipe specifies otherwise.
Healthy Crockpot Recipes
Want some quick and easy crockpot recipes? Check out the tasty meals below, and try them yourself to make some delicious meals right in your own slow cooker!
Chicken is a tasty, low-fat protein that EVERYONE should eat more of. We’ve got a lot of tasty chicken crock pot recipes right here:
The World’s Cheesiest Chicken
This is one of my favorite easy chicken crock pot recipes, and who can complain at the wicked combination of chicken and cheese?
- 6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
- 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
- 1 (11 ounce) can condensed cream of Cheddar cheese soup
- 1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
- Run cold water over the chicken breasts, and use paper towels to pat them dry. Season with the garlic powder, pepper, and salt to taste. Place them in the slow cooker.
- In a separate bowl, combine the three soups. Pour the mixture into the slow cooker, and turn the heat to LOW. Cook for up to 8 hours, or until the chicken falls off the bone.
- 30 minutes before you serve the dish, stir in the sour cream.
Crock Pot Chicken Dumplings
Tasty dumplings served with tender chicken? It doesn’t get much better than this!
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 (10.75 ounce) cans condensed cream of chicken soup
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 (10 ounce) packages refrigerated biscuit dough, torn into pieces
- Wash the chicken breast with cold water, pat dry, and place in the crock pot. Pour the chicken soup over the top, and drop in the butter and onions. Cover the chicken breasts with water, and turn the heat to HIGH to cook for up to 6 hours.
- Half an hour before you turn off the crock pot to serve the chicken, drop the biscuit dough into the slow cooker. Make sure the dough is thoroughly cooked before serving
Who doesn’t love a good chuck roast or beef stew? Beef is particularly tasty when made in the crock pot, so try the recipes below for truly delightful meals:
Slow Cooked Mexican-Style Beef
Who doesn’t love a bit of the taste of Mejico on Cinco de Mayo? Try this delicious recipe and see how easy it is to prepare!
- 1 (4 pound) chuck roast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 1/4 cups diced green chile pepper
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1 (5 ounce) bottle hot pepper sauce
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
Slice the fat off the roast, leaving only the red meat. Rub salt and pepper into the flesh of the meat as desired, and place them in a heated skillet with olive oil. Cook until the edges of the meat are nicely browned.
- Place the meat into the crock pot, and add in the onion, the various peppers, chili powder, the hot pepper sauce, and a healthy dose of garlic powder. Only fill the crock pot with enough water to immerse one-third of the roast in liquid, and place the lid on top of the cooker.
- Turn the heat up to HIGH, and cook the meat for up to 6 hours. You need to check the dish regularly to ensure there is liquid covering the bottom. Once you hit the 6-hour mark, turn the heat to LOW and cook for another couple of hours. The meat should fall apart when you finally turn the crock pot off.
- Shred the meat with a fork, and serve with tortillas, refried beans, and all your favorite taco fixings!
Crock Pot Salisbury Steak
Who doesn’t love a good Salisbury steak? The tasty sauce, juicy meat patty, and the rich flavor makes the perfect hearty meal!
- 2 pounds lean ground beef
- 1 (1 ounce) envelope dry onion soup mix
- 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 (10.75 ounce) cans condensed cream of chicken soup
- 1 (1 ounce) packet dry au jus mix
- 3/4 cup water
Mix the ground beef in a bowl with the onion mix, milk, and bread crumbs. Get your hands nice and dirty as you mix everything together. Form the mixture into 6 to 8 large patties.
- Place a frying pan on the, and heat it with a bit of olive oil in the bottom. Sprinkle a bit of flour over the patties before placing them onto the pan, and only cook until the sides are gently browned.
Stack the patties in the slow cooker, forming them into a meaty pyramid of sorts. In a separate bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients to make the sauce. Pour the sauce into the crock pot, turn the heat to LOW, and cook for about 4 hours.
Pork is a tasty meat that becomes VERY tender when made in the crock pot. For a few easy crock pot recipes using pork, read on:
Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin
The flavors of Japanese teriyaki combine with delicious pork tenderloin for one juicy, dripping pork roast!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 pounds pork tenderloin
- 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 fresh red chile pepper, finely chopped
- 1/2 large onion, sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Place a frying pan on the stove, and add a bit of olive oil into the bottom. Place the tenderloins into the pan, and lightly cook them until they are browned on all sides. This should take less than 15 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, mix the chicken broth, teriyaki sauce, and sugar together. Add the spices, garlic, and onions, along with the chile peppers.
- Place the browned tenderloins into the slow cooker, and pour the teriyaki sauce mixture over the top. Set the heat to HIGH, and cook for about 4 hours. Stir once every 90 minutes to ensure that the tenderloins are evenly cooked.
- Let the tenderloins sit for 5 minutes after removing them from the cooker. Slice and serve!
Slow Pork Chops
Pork chops have to be one of my favorite meat dishes, and with this slow cooker recipe you’re in for a treat!
- 6 boneless pork chops
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- Put your chops into the crock pot, and mix the other ingredients in a separate bowl. Pour the mixture over the top of the pork chops, and turn the heat to LOW.
- Cook for 6 hours and serve!
Crockpot Buying Guide
Want to buy your own crock pot to make these easy crock pot recipes?
Here are a few factors to consider:
- Size — Large families need a 6-quart crock pot at least, while two adults will only need a 4-quart cooker.
- Shape – This really only matters when it comes to cleaning, and rounded pots are always easier to clean.
- Lid – Glass lids are easier to cook with, as you can see how your food is progressing without lifting the lid.
- Settings — Simple is often better, so you need a crock pot with 4 settings: Off, Warm, Low, High.
- Features -- Things like cooking timers, multiple temperature settings, digital dials, and other features are handy, but not necessary.
- Material -- Stoneware inserts hold heat better, can be used to serve food, and are easier to clean than metal inserts.
Which Crock Pot is Best?
Here are a few of the top rated crock pots sold on Amazon: