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Kiss the Slow Cooker

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.

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46 comments

Comments

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!

Cary Okoro says …

What size slow cooker (4qt? 6qt?) are these recipes for? Thanks!

CoonDawg@Austin TeXas says …

What is ah slow cooker ....? Are you talking about ah "Crock Pot" type kitchen gadget ...? Thanks ..

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.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@COONDAWG - You got it! "Crock-Pot" is a specific brand of slow cookers.

Susan. moses says …

Would one recipes to try.

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!

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

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.

bluzette says …

anyone know where to ge a 10 quart slow cooker?

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

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.

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?

Steve Weissberg says …

Can you recommend several slow cookers?

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.

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!

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.

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.

Mara says …

Love the veggies and beef and pork but how about some slow cooker chicken ideas?

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! =)

Ellen says …

Stewed pork chops in mine right now! Can't wait to get home. Thanks for the recipes

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

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

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.

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.

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.

Mom says …

check it out

MsRoxy says …

Can't wait until this time of the year.Slow Cooker Time!!

jennie toney says …

Thanks for the slow cooker recipes.

NW girl says …

Recycling at it's best: there is a great selection of slow cookers at Thrift shops. Just be sure the cord is in good shape, the ceramic isn't chipped inside, and the lid fits. Nothing like coming home to dinner already done!

DE says …

I make my meatballs in the slow cooker. Just form them and layer them in the crockpot. You don't need any liquid. They will be done in about 3 hours on low. They will not turn into a big meatball - and no fat, no standing over the frying pan, no heating up the house, your oven stays free for other things. If you are making stew or something else calling for wine, reduce the wine by about half - the crockpot will not permit the alcohol to burn off the way that it would in the oven or on the stove. The reducing will concentrate the flavor and really make a better tasting dish. I brown my meat even if a recipe does not call for it. If you are really pressed for time, take your roast and brown all the sides and then cut it up into cubes - and do not forget to deglaze the pan with some wine (good time to reduce it also) or a bit of broth. Add a little vinegar or lemon juice towards the end - long cooking can make the taste a bit tired, and this helps perk it up. Many recipes you find are for the original crocks that cooked at a lower temperature. Check the dish an hour or two early to check for doneness. I know, this makes the dump it in the morning and eat in the evening not quite so doable - but do you really want your roast cooked to mush? I cook chickpeas, beans in the crockpot - done in about 4 hrs on high - and freeze in one and two cup portions. So much better tasting than canned. Wrap potatoes, sweet potatoes or beets - well scrubbed - in foil and cook in your crockpot. Your oven stays free. Hope this helps!

Leslie says …

Crock Pot was the brand name of a pot shaped slow cooker. Most slow cookers today are oblong shaped. Not as deep as a crock pot. Most recipes I have seen are for 6 Qt crock pots. I just reduce the ingredients to make it for my 4 QT. Just make sure it is not more than 2/3 full.

Chris Harris says …

Please send any mor slow cooking tips! Thank you! My husband brought me a slow cooker cuisart last year so this is the year to break it in!

Donna Mae says …

I use my slow cooker to do my steel cut oatmeals for breakfast from the night before with cut up fresh apples or pears and sometimes raisins or dried cranberries with a piece of cinnamon stick in it. It turns out so good and ready to go for busy morns. Hope this helps those that are pressed for time for a wholesome breakfast. Its delish.

lt says …

Hope this info will be in the next cookbook.

Mona says …

How's about some vegetarian recipes for fall!

Alyce says …

something I will surely try...thanx for the hint

Zach says …

How come no chicken, turkey or fish recipes for the semi-vegetarian!

Zach says …

How come no chicken, turkey or fish recipes for the semi-vegetarian!

joyce bannon says …

This is such a great idea I dont have a slow cooker and I will invest in one soon. It will save time and money standing over my gas stove for hours watching a stew. Always heard of a slow cooker but never had one. thanks.

Starr says …

The 'Slow Cooker" recipes sound great! Can't wait to try a couple!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ZACH - I found a few chicken options for you. I am guessing that with certain types of fish, the end result would end up pretty mushy. I did find one with shrimp though and you could sub a chicken sausage! SLOW COOKER CHICKEN WITH SAGE AND STUFFING (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/1937); CHICKEN GUMBO WITH FRESH OKRA (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/367) and SAUSAGE AND SHRIMP GUMBO (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/1930). Enjoy!

Dena Leon says …

Perfect for Fall! Very nice article, well written. I love my slow cooker and I am always looking for new ideas. I enjoyed all the information and will add the recipes into my meal rotation. Thank you!

Cheryl LeDoux says …

Made my first meal in the new slow cooker, Swiss Steak, and it was absolutely delicious. Hubby gave it a thumbs up. My new favorite way of cooking.

Elizabeth says …

Hi friends, would you please let me know where I can buy a bpa free, lead / cadmium free slow cooker? Thanks! Elizabeth

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ELIZABETH - Hopefully one of our readers has a great recommendation for you!