3 Unusual Ideas for Your Slow Cooker

Chickpeas

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Years ago I did an experiment where I cooked coq au vin in a slow cooker and another batch in the oven and compared the results.

To cut a longish story short, the slow cooker won on tenderness. The oven on flavour.

So being the good minimalist that I was (and am) I gave my slow cooker away to one an SVCS Member.

Then a few years later, after ruining a lovely piece of brisket by forgetting to turn down my oven, I decided it was time to revisit the slow cooker.

This time I’m happy with my purchase.

Not only am I able to make super succulent brisket, I’ve discovered a few other less obvious uses as well…

3 Unusual Ideas for Your Slow Cooker

1. Cooking Dried Chickpeas & Beans
An idea from the lovely Nigella, the slow cooker is perfect for making a big batch of beans or chickpeas without worrying about your pot going dry.

Just soak and drain as per usual then cover with plenty of water and let your slow cooker do it’s thing. Will take 5-6 hours on low.

2. Steaming
Everything from whole chickens to vegetables. If I’m in the mood for steaming my slow cooker is my go-to.

Add 1cm (1/3in) water or stock to the base of the slow cooker then put the food on top of the little rack that comes with it.

If you don’t have the rack, build your own using balls of foil. Or sticks of lemon grass or rosemary.

3. BBQing
What?! Especially in Summer when I don’t want to heat up the kitchen I love the combination of slow cooker + BBQ.

Brilliant for larger cuts of meat like lamb shoulder, pork shoulder, brisket or a whole chicken. Just pre-cook the meat in the slow cooker then brown or smoke on the BBQ just before serving.

To Make Slow Cooker Meals Taste Amazing

The problem with the slow cooker is the lack of flavour because there aren’t any caramelisation or Malliard reactions going on. Here are my favourite ways to compensate…

1. Add some browning.
Some slow cookers have a stove top insert so you can brown the meat / veg before slow cooking. Mine doesn’t so I generally slow cook first and brown second.

Usually this is on the BBQ but occasionally I pop the slow cooker insert uncovered in the oven for 1/2 hour or so just before serving.

2. Use Soy Sauce.
Soy sauce is a magical ingredient full of caramelized flavours and umami… the very things that slow cooker meals tend to lack.

While you can go fully Asian, like these Chinese Beef Cheeks, adding a few tablespoons of soy sauce to other slow cooked dishes can add depth of flavour (and colour) without making it overtly Asian.

Plus it can save you from the extra browning step mentioned above.

3. Reduce the cooking liquid.
Given there is very little evaporation from the slow cooker, sauces tend to be on the watery side. To overcome this, ladel the excess liquid into a saucepan and let it simmer and reduce before serving. Even 20 minutes can make a big difference.

Slow Cooker Recipes

Are you a slow cooker fan?

Like to see more slow cooker based recipes on Stonesoup or not so much? Let me know in the comments below…

Have fun in the kitchen!

With love,
Jules x

ps. Looking for simple tools to eat healthier?

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Then check out The SVCS.

It’s an online cooking school that helps you eat healthier by using a simple approach to cooking and habits.

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27 Comments

  • Hi! I am a huuuuge slow cooker fan, and I have quite a few recipes on my blog (in a dedicated category). I love these appliances so much I started importing them to Greece because they didn’t exist here. Some of things I make?
    Custard (brilliant, no curdling, just use a heatproof pudding basin in a water bath inside the slow cooker),
    lemon curd (or other fruits – again, no worries of scrambled egg),
    whole potatoes (instead of baking, just wash them well, rub a tiny bit of olive oil all over, pop them in without water or anything else, cook for 8 hours or until a knife glides in).
    Same applies to beetroot (best ever beetroot guys… best ever.
    Also butternut squash (stick the little guy in there, no water nothing, let it cook, open up and scoop out flesh).
    Steamed puddings (again, invest in a pudding basin that fits in the insert)
    Whole heads of garlic (instead of roasting – squeeze out and make paste)
    Whole fish (I have a recipe for sea bream – just make a parcel with baking paper and in it goes)
    Frittata (when it’s too hot to put the oven on)
    Fudgy self saucing puddings (think chocolate cake with gooey sauce underneath)
    The slow cooker is NOT just for stews, and it is NOT just for winter! Haha, you’ve got me going now… I love slow cookers (but I supposed you guessed that already!)
    Eleni
    x

    • Re-reading my comment is making me cringe. Typos are due to overexcitement – talking about slow cookers does that. So, I meant whole *baked/jacket* potatoes! And also, the garlic, you cook it in the slow cooker *then* squeeze it out and make paste… I hope everything else makes sense.

      • It totally makes sense Eleni!

        And thanks so much for all those fabulous ideas – especially love the vegetable ideas. Can wait to try out the beets and the whole butternut. Brilliant. Also thinking it would be good for wilting down greens. Love when my readers inspire me ;)

        Thankyou!
        Jx

        • Yes, it’s brilliant for cooking greens! In Greece we eat a lot of beet greens. Just pop them in after washing and shaking off excess water, add some olive oil and a tiny bit of water (I’m talking 1/4 of each for a full 3.5lt cooker) and in a couple of hours you’ll have a gorgeous plate of “horta”! Add salt after trying them, for some reason they don’t need that much. Can’t wait to see more of what you do with your slow cooker :)

    • Hi these are great!

      Jules, please could add rough time and high/low for your ideas above? E.g. for the bbq and steaming options.

      Eleni, what’s your blog name?

  • I’m a fan! I cook dried beans about once a week or so in the slow cooker (I don’t even bother to soak them). And slow cooker beef burgundy is a family favorite!

    • Yay Laurie!

      I prefer to soak mine still because it helps make them easier to digest – but you definitely dont have to if you’re short on time.

      I’d love to know what else you put in your beef burgundy?

      Jx

  • Since I get home late from work most nights, I use my slow cooker all the time. My recipe-free go-to for busy mornings is to defrost a protein, add an onion (sometimes garlic, depending on time), dried herbs and some homemade stock paste mixed into about 1/4 cup water. I often make horta with it – whatever leafy green I have (lettuce mixes work great), olive oil, lemon juice and s&p. I put it in a metal bowl and perch it on the rack above the meat, or in a silicone bag. Oven bags work well too, I just like reusable to reduce waste.

    • Haha, I just wrote about horta in my reply above. Brilliant for the slow cooker, and you don’t lose all the nutrients you would by boiling! I wish more slow cooker brands had racks. The ones I import don’t :( In a pickle I’ll use balls of foil but I hate the waste.

  • … I completely forgot to mention that I also throw in some vegetables with the protein – nearly always tomatoes (fresh or tinned) and anything that’s quick to chop – mushrooms, zucchini. Every vegetable works.

    • I just keep my yoghurt in a chiller bag to stay warm while it ferments Melissa… I’m surprised it doesn’t get too hot in your crockpot – the lowest setting must be much cooler than mine :)

      • Jules, I also make yogurt in my slow cooker. Heat a gallon of milk in slow cooker (with lid on) to 180ºF. Cool to 110-115ºF (lid still on). Instant read thermometer is helpful for measuring temps. When milk has cooled, stir in 1 cup room temperature yogurt (I use Greek yogurt). Wrap covered slow cooker in a towel, let sit overnight, and in the morning, let it drain through a double layer of cheese cloth into a bowl. It is best when using whole milk or 2%. The kind of yogurt you end up with depends on how long you let it drain.

  • I gave away my slow cooker years ago for the same reasons you stated Jules. It seemed like an appliance with limited uses and took up valuable real estate in my pantry. Then I returned to work and didn’t arrive home until late evenings. Stopping at a take out joint did not appeal to me so I had to rethink dinner. Researching online I found a multi tasking cooker that slow cooks, browns, steams, cooks rice and pressure cooks. My food horizons expanded exponentially. Right now I have brats simmering in beer, onions and mustard bbq sauce and semmel rolls waiting! Rice cooks in 6 minutes; with the browning feature I don’t have to dirty a skillet; roasts and chickens cook in less than an hour and stay super juicy. I am a huge fan of my multi-tasking pot; my faves are ratatouille, beans of all kinds and bolognese sauces with no worries about scorching or cooking dry. It makes awesome caramelized onions, too!

    • I have a phobia about pressure cookers from my time working at Kellogg – they cook most of their grains in giant pressure cookers that are very scary!

    • Good question Angela

      I think red kidney beans may be problematic but I’m not a fan of them anyway. Chickpeas and white beans are fine.

      Just make sure they’re well cooked and tender and it’s all good.
      Jx

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