Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Kiss the Slow Cooker

By Elizabeth Leader Smith, September 15, 2012  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Elizabeth Leader Smith

When our plates are full of long days at the office but we still want to fill our bowls with hearty home-cooked meals, my husband and I reach for our slow cooker. A slow cooker is a busy home cook’s BFF; although time may be scarce, plentiful meals don’t have to be. From pot roast to chili, all we need is a little planning ahead to make a big batch of something to see us through the week.

Slow Cooker Classic Pot Roast5 Tips to
 Slow Cooking Success

It may be called slow cooking, but standing by the stove for hours on end isn’t necessary. Investing in a slow cooker will make cooking your meals a breeze — it’ll taste like you put in a lot of hard work with hardly any work at all. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Go budget-friendly. Ingredients such
 as beans and whole grains in our bulk section let you buy just what you need and experiment with an array of products to find new favorites.

  2. Layer. Foods at the bottom of a slow cooker cook faster, so place dense, thick vegetables and large pieces of meat or meat with bones at the bottom.

  3. Watch the level. Fill your slow cooker no more than two-thirds full to ensure food cooks evenly and liquid doesn’t overflow (since water doesn’t evaporate from slow cookers).

  4. Trim the fat. Too much fat left on meat will result in an unpleasant texture, or having to skim lots of fat at the end of cooking.

  5. Think ahead. Store portioned “kits” of chopped fresh vegetables and sliced meats in the freezer. They’ll be ready to toss in the slow cooker in the morning so you can come home to dinner, done!

Slow Cooker Sunday Supper

On any given Sunday, you likely have plans that will take you outside the kitchen…like being with the family, enjoying the last days of summer or watching the game. So stew on this — long, slow, hands-off cooking turns cuts of meat like brisket, chuck roast and pork shoulder into something truly feast-worthy. Check out these ideas:

  • Pulled Pork. Low and slow is the key to cooking a pork shoulder roast with onions in a flavorful barbecue sauce.

  • Beef Stew with Greens. Cook beef and root vegetables in the slow cooker, then stir in chopped kale or collard greens 20 minutes before serving.

  • Pot Roast. Trim chuck roast before slow cooking with parsnips, butternut squash, plenty of onions and garlic plus tomato paste for rich flavor.

‘Tis the Season(ing) for Slow Cooker Soups and Stews

Veggie-lovers rejoice! The slow cooker works wonders with veggies…lentils and beans too.

  • Split Pea. Layer dried green split peas, carrots, onion, garlic and celery to make a satisfying soup—ham hocks optional!

  • White Chili. Combine cauliflower, white beans, corn and chicken with mild poblano peppers for a
hearty game-day favorite.

  • Black Bean. Use chopped bell peppers and chipotle chiles to add big flavor to dried black beans in cooking. Top with pico de gallo and avocado.

  • Chickpea and Lentil Stew. Canned chickpeas, dried lentils and tomato purée form a perfect base for the spices in garam masala. (Tip: Serve with 365 Everyday Value® Tandoori Naan.) Or try our newest lentil stew recipe.

For more comforting, fuss-free meals made possible by the mighty slow cooker, check out these favorites:

Is the slow cooker a part of your meal planning strategy? I’d love to hear what meals you make with it.

Category: Food & Recipes




nik says ...
Thanks for the tips and the recipe links, especially the vegetarian Chickpea and Lentil Stew (I'm vegan so I'll be experimenting with a vegan sub for the yogurt). Love playing with new slow cooker recipes at this time of year, when farmers market veggies are so plentiful!
09/18/2012 3:10:08 PM CDT
Cary Okoro says ...
What size slow cooker (4qt? 6qt?) are these recipes for? Thanks!
09/19/2012 9:29:14 AM CDT
CoonDawg@Austin TeXas says ...
What is ah slow cooker ....? Are you talking about ah "Crock Pot" type kitchen gadget ...? Thanks ..
09/21/2012 5:55:55 AM CDT
Matthew says ...
Great timing guys! I just got one of our pasture raised pigs back from the butcher and these are some great ideas for the coming cooler weather.
09/21/2012 8:41:05 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@COONDAWG - You got it! "Crock-Pot" is a specific brand of slow cookers.
09/21/2012 11:28:25 AM CDT
Susan. moses says ...
Would one recipes to try.
09/23/2012 5:26:39 PM CDT
NJ says ...
I love all your bean recipes! I am not a vegetarian but the recipes on your website are making it easier for me to be one. Please add more slow cooker recipes!
09/24/2012 11:08:57 AM CDT
LGSM says ...
Could you please recommend a few slow cookers that you like I do not have one and would like to buy a good one. Thanks Kindly, Lynn May
09/24/2012 12:04:41 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@CARY - Some of the recipes mentioned above will state what size of slow cooker to use in the recipe method. If it does not mention a particular size, then you should be okay using a 4qt. sized slow cooker.
09/25/2012 9:30:38 AM CDT
bluzette says ...
anyone know where to ge a 10 quart slow cooker?
09/25/2012 5:44:38 PM CDT
Erika Kerekes says ...
One of my favorite slow cooker meals at this time of year is Pumpkin Short Ribs - a little spicy and very rich and delicious. Here's my recipe: http://www.inerikaskitchen.com/2010/10/pumpkin-short-ribs-slow-cooker-or.html
09/26/2012 11:42:59 AM CDT
Frangsty says ...
Your Chickpea and Lentil Stew is my go-to favorite fall and winter slow cooker recipe! Everyone loves it, even the meat-eaters.
09/26/2012 12:52:50 PM CDT
margaret says ...
Most slow cookers have lead in them and I worry about the lead leaching into the food. Can you give us a list of crock pot/slow cookers that do not have lead in the lining?
09/26/2012 1:33:33 PM CDT
Steve Weissberg says ...
Can you recommend several slow cookers?
09/26/2012 1:41:47 PM CDT
Jessica says ...
Any tips for those of that work and need to leave the slow cooker on for 10 hours? Many times I come home to a charred mess in the bottom, even though mine switches to "warm" after the desired cooking time.
09/26/2012 1:45:59 PM CDT
Steve says ...
Funny, just finished prepping and covering a pot of coq au vin in the slow cooker when I came back to the computer and saw this blog. The cool temps here in MN make me start thinking again of warm stews and soups. Other things I make in the slow cooker: ratatouille with sausage, chicken tagine, bbq short ribs, beef daube provençal and hope to try a cassoulet recipe soon. Can't beat the slow cooker for short prep time and hands off cooking!
09/26/2012 2:18:57 PM CDT
Sandi says ...
My mother used to put turkey thighs in with a little chicken broth. We would come home to the most delicious turkey dinner! I have put in a whole chicken before with a little broth and onions--it was juicy, delicious and much cheaper than the rotisserie chickens you get at the grocery store.
09/26/2012 2:26:48 PM CDT
Teresa says ...
Please publish more slow cooker recipes! You can really make a difference since the majority of the slow cooker cookbooks are very middle-America in their approach. The typical Whole Foods customer would love sophisticated recipes which allow them to make the most of the great ingredients you sell in your store.
09/26/2012 2:43:22 PM CDT
Mara says ...
Love the veggies and beef and pork but how about some slow cooker chicken ideas?
09/26/2012 2:55:58 PM CDT
SamiC says ...
I have the crock pot (slow cooker) from Costco & I love it. The pot is removable which is GREAT for cleaning & its ceramic. I've had it several years & never a problem. www.skinnytaste.com (horrible name, but great recipes) has a lot of great crock pot recipes. I am not affiliated with them, just thought I'd share! =)
09/26/2012 3:18:09 PM CDT
Ellen says ...
Stewed pork chops in mine right now! Can't wait to get home. Thanks for the recipes
09/26/2012 3:51:31 PM CDT
Jerri says ...
I am a vegetarian and I love cooking for my carnivore hubs in the slow cooker. So easy & I can then concentrate on something yummy for me. Win win! Just made these beef carnitas inthe crockpot for him & soy this for me - http://www.cooking4carnivores.com/2012/09/good-sense.html?m=1
09/26/2012 4:01:12 PM CDT
Judy Reynolds says ...
Love receiving the slow cooker receipes. I hope you have more coming as when it is busy these are GREAT to have thank you. Judy
09/26/2012 4:48:08 PM CDT
Patty says ...
Hi, I am very concerned about slow cookers. There are too many reviews of cookers, especially those from China, even the ceramic ones, that have traces of arsenic and other dangerous metals. Are there any safe slow cookers that you recommend purchasing? Thank you.
09/26/2012 4:50:13 PM CDT
Geo. McCalip says ...
As a vegetarian I really appreciate the vegetarian recipes. But, unless you can show me the root system on a chicken, the white chili recipe does not belong in that category.
09/26/2012 5:01:35 PM CDT