On days when you know there’s not going to be any time to devote to cooking, there’s just one tool that makes it easy to get dinner on the table quickly: the slow cooker. This user-friendly gadget is perhaps the most go-to kitchen appliance in many families’ homes, as it will do most of the mealtime preparation for you. Once you slice and dice a few vegetables, season the meat, and add spices and liquids, all you have left to do is flip on the machine; you can leave the machine unattended for hours, then come home to a ready-to-eat meal. While soups and stews are classic slow-cooker favorites, the machine’s versatility is far-reaching, as it’s able to turn out pastas, pork and even candy with ease. Check out Food Network’s top-five slow-cooker recipes below to find both sweet and savory dishes that are easy enough to make on hectic weekdays.
5. Slow-Cooker Chocolate Candy — Trisha uses just four ingredients to make her salty-sweet treat, studded with peanuts for a welcome crunch. She lets the candy cook in the slow cooker before spooning it into cupcake liners and letting it cool.
4. Slow-Cooker Pork Tacos — Guarantee moist and tender shredded pork by cooking the meat in a richly flavorful sauce of pureed chipotles, honey and vinegar, and let your family members build their own tacos by serving the pork with a spread of classic toppings.
3. Slow-Cooker Chicken Chili — Filled with both white and kidney beans, plus hearty sweet potatoes and ground turkey, this comforting bowl is finished with a heaping pinch of chili powder, which “brightens the flavor of the chili,” according to Food Network Kitchens.
2. Slow-Cooker Macaroni and Cheese — Trisha’s big-batch mac boasts an extra-creamy texture, thanks to a duo of milks — evaporated and whole — plus plenty of cheddar cheese.
1. Slow-Cooker Beef Paprikash — Satisfying and simple to make, this stew-like dish (pictured above) features tender meat cooked in a tomato sauce with paprika and caraway, then finished with a swirl of tangy sour cream. Make it an all-in-one supper by serving plain noodles or your favorite potatoes on the side.