Whether you call them slow cookers or crock pots – these magical appliances make cooking a breeze! Using a slower cooker is super simple, and when paired with one of my easy slow cooker recipes, you can have a delicious meal prepared in no time. Read on to find out everything you need to know about these kitchen gadgets and discover some of my staple slow cooker recipes.
I honestly love using slow cookers; they make meal times so much easier. I mean, who doesn’t like the idea of being able to prepare dinner in the morning, put it in the slow cooker, and come home to a cooked meal ready to go? That’s why I wrote my cookbook of slow cooker recipes – to share tasty, homemade meals without any fuss!
But before we look at some more yummy slow cooker meals, let’s answer a few common questions and discover exactly how to use a slow cooker.
What is the difference between a slow cooker and a crock pot?
Other than the name, there are no differences between crock pots and slow cookers! Yes, crock pots and slow cookers are the same kitchen appliance. The word crock pot is actually a brand name, while slow cooker is the general term used to describe the appliance. The terms are often used interchangeably, so you’ll see both words being used in this guide.
How do slow cookers work?
Crock pots, or slow cookers, have a metal exterior with internal heating coils. When you turn on your crock pot, the coils warm your food from the bottom and the sides. The lid traps the heat and moisture, allowing your food to slowly cook over time.
A ceramic bowl insert rests inside the crock pot; this is where all of your delicious slow cooker meals and liquids go. The ceramic insert can be oven-safe, but the lid and the rest of the crockpot are not.
There are many variations of slow cookers and crock pots available to purchase, but each functions similarly. You usually control the settings with a knob, with common settings being low, medium, high, and warm.
If you don’t own a crock pot but want to step foot into the world of slow cooking, have a browse through my recommended crock pots below – I’m sure you’ll find one that suits your needs!
How to Use a Slow Cooker
To whip up my easy slow cooker recipes, you first need to know how to use your slow cooker! Don’t worry, it’s super simple, and you’ll wonder why you haven’t been using one all along.
When using a slow cooker for the first time, be sure to check your user guide for the exact instructions – it’s important to make sure you’re using your appliance correctly and safely.
But as a general guide, here is how you would use most slow cookers:
- Choose your favorite recipe and prepare the ingredients.
- Place the ingredients in the ceramic bowl insert of your slow cooker, including any liquids (although you do not need to add any liquids to a slow cooker for it to work).
- Place the slow cooker lid on top, ensuring it is secure.
- Choose your desired setting – low, medium, high or warm – and turn the slow cooker on to begin cooking. All of my easy crock pot recipes come with a complete walkthrough of the cooking process and recommended slow cooker settings.
- Let the crock pot work its magic and enjoy a delicious homemade meal – all while knowing you didn’t spend hours slaving away in the kitchen!
What cannot be cooked in a slow cooker?
Many meals can be prepared in a slow cooker, but as with everything, there are some exceptions to the rule. Here are some foods that you should not attempt to cook in your slow cooker:
- Meats that are to be served rare or medium rare, like steak, as you will not get the desired outcome.
- Quick cook vegetables such as asparagus, spinach, and zucchini as they will become mushy.
- Rice, pasta, and couscous should also be cooked separately and added near the end of the cooking process to prevent them from getting too soft.
- Seafood, like fish and shellfish, as they can become overcooked and dry if cooked for too long.
- Slow cookers do not heat hot enough to burn off alcohol; therefore, any recipes requiring alcohol (like wine) should not be cooked in a slow cooker.
- Slow cookers retain liquid, so make sure you don’t add too much – or you will end up with a soupy mess!
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it should give you a good idea of what foods can and cannot be cooked in your slow cooker.
What is the point of a slow cooker?
Slow cookers first hit the market in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that their popularity began to soar.
Their main purpose is to make meal preparation more manageable, allowing you to prepare meals in advance and then let them cook while you’re busy doing other things. The long, slow cooking process allows for flavors to develop and intensify, resulting in a delicious, flavorsome meal.
Is it worth having a slow cooker?
Yes! Slow cookers are an easy and convenient way to create delicious, nutritious meals with minimal effort. There are so many reasons why a slow cooker is worth having, but here are a few of my favorites:
- Saves time – all you have to do is prepare the ingredients and switch on your crock pot!
- Conserves energy – slow cookers usually use less energy than ovens or stoves.
- Makes meal planning easier – you can simply plan out, prepare and store your slow cooker meals ahead of time, leaving you with more time to enjoy your meal!
- Ideal for various dishes – from soups and stews to roasts and curries, a slow cooker can do it all!
- Cooks cheaper cuts of meat – slow cooking allows for cheaper, tougher cuts of meat to become more tender and juicy.
- Minimal mess – crock pots are the ultimate one-pot meal, with minimal cleaning required afterward.
What is the difference between a slow cooker and an Instant Pot?
I have and use both a slow cooker and an Instant Pot. The main difference between them is that an Instant Pot is a multi-functional cooking device. Instant Pots offer many functions, including pressure cooking, slow cooking, sautéing, steaming, and more. For an in-depth Instant Pot guide, be sure to check out my ultimate Instant Pot review.
A slow cooker is a single-purpose device that is designed to provide long, slow simmering of your ingredients. When cooking slow cooker-specific recipes, I only ever use my slow cooker. While Instant Pots can have a slow cooker setting – they do not function in the same way as a dedicated slow cooker.
Slow cookers heat from the bottom and the sides, while Instant Pots heat from the bottom only. This means slow cookers heat more slowly and evenly than Instant Pots, which provides the ideal environment for slow cooking.
It is also important to note that the cooking times can be slightly off when using the slow cooker setting on an Instant Pot. As such, I would recommend using a dedicated slow cooker for recipes that are written explicitly for slow cookers and an Instant Pot for other meals.
My all-time favorite crock pots
For some of the best crock pots on the market, I highly recommend the following:
- Cuisinart 2-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker
- Hamilton Beach 7-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker
- Crock-Pot 2-Quart Manual Slow Cooker
- Crock-Pot 8-Quart Slow Cooker
- Triple Slow Cooker
Easy crock pot recipes for beginners
Now you know the basics, it’s time to get cooking! To help you get started, here are a couple of my favorite slow cooker recipes that are perfect for beginners! And don’t forget; my cookbook is full of amazing slow cooker recipes for you to try too.
- Homemade marinara sauce: Everyone needs a go-to marinara sauce, and this slow cooker version is the perfect place to start. It’s full of flavor, low in effort, and makes for a mouth-watering dinner.
- Crock pot short ribs: Short rib recipes can be intimidating, but they are easy and delicious with a slow cooker! Guaranteed fall-off-the-bone tenderness every time!
- Slow cooker Italian beef sandwich: Italian beef sandwiches are always a hit, and slow cooking ensures that all the flavors have time to meld together, creating the perfect sandwich.
- Irish beef stew: Slow cookers are the perfect way to make a hearty beef stew. The long, slow cooking process makes for tender, flavorsome meat in a rich, flavorful sauce.
- Slow cooker mulled cider: Looking for a warm and comforting drink? Slow-cooked mulled cider is perfect for cold winter nights.
Delicious slow cooker recipes for all the family
Slow cookers allow you to create tasty meals that are great for all the family. From classic comfort food to international flavors, there is something for everyone! Here are a few of my tried and tested easy crock pot recipes:
- Meatball sub: Kids and adults alike love this slow-cooked meatball sub recipe. Full of flavor and so easy to make, it’s a winner with the whole family!
- Roast beef: Roast beef made in the slow cooker is tender and juicy, with a perfect savory flavor. Plus, it makes for an impressive yet easy roast dinner.
- Crock pot chocolate lava cake: Crock pots are not just for savory dishes – they can also make desserts! My crock pot chocolate lava cake is so indulgent and simple to make.
- Slow cooker pork ribs: Slow-cooked pork ribs are a family favorite! They can be served as-is or with your favorite sides.
- Cheesy ham and potato soup: Soups are easy crock pot meals that are always a family favorite. This soup is sure to please even the pickiest of eaters, featuring ham, potatoes, and cheese.
- This list has so great options as well, 20 Summer Crockpot Recipes.
Slow cooker chicken recipes to try
Chicken is one of the most versatile meats and creates some seriously good slow cooker meals. Here are a few of my favorite chicken recipes:
- Slow cooker white chicken chili: This white chicken chili recipe is a real crowd-pleaser. Filled with chicken, beans, and spices, it’s warming and comforting.
- Slow cooker chicken enchiladas: Enchiladas are a classic Mexican dish, and this slow cooker version is perfect for busy weeknights!
- Crock pot chicken pot pie: One of my favorite slow cooker chicken recipes, chicken pot pie is the ultimate comfort food. Everything is cooked in the slow cooker for tender, juicy chicken and a thick, flavorful sauce.
- Slow cooker salsa chicken: This salsa chicken recipe is utterly delicious and so easy to make. Serve it with rice or your favorite sides for an effortless yet impressive meal.
- Crock pot poppyseed chicken casserole: If you try any of my slow cooker chicken recipes, don’t miss this one! Creamy, herby, and oh-so-tasty – you really can’t go wrong!
As you can see, there are so many easy slow cooker recipes for everyone to enjoy! Plus, my cookbook is full of slow cooker meals that are perfect for busy weeknights, special gatherings, and everything in between. And now you know everything you need about using a slow cooker; get ready to enjoy all the easy crock pot meals you can make!