Pick Out Your Favorite Crock-pot Recipes and Plan Your Meals for the Week!

A slow cooker can easily earn the Most Value Player award in your kitchen by doing the hard work and leaving you with a house that smells wonderful and a ready-to-eat meal at the end of the day. Another added bonus—slow cooker recipes are notoriously easy to prepare. Just dump all the ingredients in, turn the slow cooker on and let it do all the work.

Temperature Matters

Just like your oven, your slow cooker will benefit from preheating before you toss in the ingredients. And because the insert is made of ceramic, be sure to avoid abrupt shifts in temperature. For instance, don’t set a hot ceramic insert on a cold counter. Ideally, ingredients should all be at room temperature. Definitely don’t add frozen ingredients; that can put the whole dish at a temperature where bacteria can take hold.

Keep a Lid On It

Resist the temptation to peek under the lid and give things a stir. That wondrous little crockpot is made to make the most of its enclosed environment and every time you lift the lid, you increase the cooking time another 15 minutes or so.

Choose the Right Cut

Cuts of meat that you might usually pass by, such as fatty, less lean and tougher meats, are perfect for the slow cooker. Chuck roasts, flank steaks, pork shoulders, ribs, dark meat chicken and lamb shanks are all good choices. Be sure to take the time to trim excess fat from the meat to keep the cooking liquid less greasy.

Browning Gives a Boost

It can be tempting to throw all those ingredients in the crockpot and then forget about it—and you will likely get just fine results with this plan. But take a few extra minutes to brown your meat and you’ll be rewarded with a deeper, richer flavor. Want even more flavor? Deglaze the pan you browned the meat in and pour all those tasty bits in the slow cooker as well.

Keep It Uniform

The more that all the ingredients are the same uniform size, the better. Your entire dish will cook more evenly. Layer potatoes and root vegetables on the bottom, then put meat and other ingredients on top.

The Perfect Ending

Some ingredients simply don’t need to take all day to do their part. Wait to add dairy ingredients such as sour cream, milk or yogurt until the last 15 minutes of cooking. Fresh herbs can also wait until the last few minutes to brighten the flavors of your dish.