Slow Cooker Lentil Stew with Polenta opens in a new tabCold weather is the ideal time to pull out your slow cooker. Not only are the temperatures chilly — calling for recipes that warm from the inside — but this time of year is always hectic, and cooking is often the last thing on one’s mind after a long day.
My slow cooker is one of my favorite tools in the kitchen. From braising meats to creating a deeply flavorful stew, cooking low and slow without turning on the oven is one of the best ways to create nourishing meals. Plus, slow cooker meals often feed a crowd and make plenty for lunch the next day.
Steps to Success
Go budget-friendly. Ingredients such as beans and whole grains in our bulk section let you buy just what you need and experiment with a variety of new flavors.
Layer ingredients. Foods at the bottom of a slow cooker (nearest the heat source) cook faster, so place thick vegetables and large pieces of meat or meat with bones at the bottom.
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). For most recipes, you won’t need to add any extra liquid.
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.
Brown first. Browning your meat before adding it to the slow cooker adds an important layer of caramelization to the meat, as well as ensures it will be cooked fully when it’s time to serve dinner.
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, eliminating the hardest part of a slow cooker meal!
Here are a few hearty recipes ideal for low-and-slow cooking.