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.
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Dust off those slow cookers and Dutch ovens. This week, we’re breaking down the most comforting stew recipes by protein. When simmered low and slow, even the toughest meats transform into soft, no-knife-necessary morsels. In the end, the theme here is gentle cooking, and just about any ingredient will do.
Oftentimes, when a stew hankering hits, it’s of the beef genre. Paula Deen’s Old-Time Beef Stew is deeply rich and ultimately classic. Food Network Magazine’s zesty Slow-Cooker Caribbean Beef Stew is over-the-top with a hit of hot sauce.
Sausage may not necessarily require low-heat cooking for its finer side to emerge, but Food Network Magazine’s Sausage-and-Vegetable Stew and Shrimp and Chorizo Stew are savory and heartening.
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This week, Small Kitchen College and The Naptime Chef are teaming up to host a Slow Cooker Challenge and Giveaway. So what do college cooks and moms have in common? They’re both extremely busy. We couldn’t agree more.
Winter is the perfect time to get cozy in the kitchen with a slow cooker. The ultimate time-saver, throw everything in one pot before heading off to work or class, and dinner’s ready by the time you get home.
Skip the canned stuff and try Robin Miller’s Minestrone Soup With Pasta, Beans and Vegetables (pictured above). It’s a well-rounded meal full of zucchini, spinach, carrots and cannellini beans. Garnish with fresh basil for even more flavor.
Make this Slow Cooker Chicken Chili for a crowd. Chipotle chiles add a smoky heat, while a pinch of ground cloves and a splash of beer keep things interesting.
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The slow cooker is our friend in the test kitchen, and we’ve discovered some helpful tips to create the perfect dish every time:
1. Pick the Right Cut of Meat: Use cuts of meat that are best for slow braising, like pork shoulder, and try to avoid leaner cuts, like pork tenderloin, that don’t hold up as well.
2. Spend Some Time Up Front: All you need is 30 minutes or less to brown your meat. Make a quick pan sauce or reduce wine before adding to your slow cooker — it makes a big difference in flavor.
3. Choose Your Alliums Wisely: Onion, garlic and shallot all belong to the same genus and when they’re added raw to a slow cooker, sometimes they create a metallically after-taste. We prefer to use leeks (also in same genus), which are milder. We also love to toast thinly sliced garlic in butter or oil and stir in at the end (like in Food Network Magazine’s Vegetable and Lentil Slow Cooker Soup, pictured above).
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The beauty of the slow cooker is endless. With this trusty, must-have kitchen gadget, you’re able to create bold dishes in just one pot, achieve flavors that normally require constant monitoring without the time-consuming commitment to them, and can essentially let it do the cooking for you. For a taste of the slow-cooked life, try our easy recipes below that can be quickly prepped in the morning and enjoyed at night.
This veggie-friendly Slow-Cooker Squash Stew from Food Network Magazine is perfect for an easy Meatless Monday main dish or healthy lunch any day of the week. Leafy Swiss chard, hearty butternut squash and chickpeas combine to create a warm, comforting stew, while a final squeeze of lemon juice brightens up the bowl.
Cooking Channel’s Kelsey Nixon uses her slow cooker to simmer seasoned pork shoulder in a tomato sauce with brown sugar, chili powder and cumin for her Slow Cooker Shredded Pork recipe. After a few short hours in the slow cooker, the pork becomes fork-tender and has adopted the spicy flavors of the sauce. Pile the pork atop a lightly toasted bun for instant sandwiches or serve with Food Network Kitchens’ Cornbread to enjoy a barbecue feast.
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It’s official: Now’s the time to bust out the slow cooker (if you haven’t already). Food Network recently asked Facebook fans to fill in the blank: “I can’t wait to cook ________ in my slow cooker.” Most of you said you’d cook everything in a Crock-Pot if you could, but out of the 2,000 plus comments of fall favorites, a few meaty dishes really get you excited.
For dry-rubbed pulled pork that’s finger-lickin’ good and brined in molasses, look no further than Alton’s Pulled Pork. Kept at a slow simmer for 12 hours, this dish doesn’t need any extra sides or fixings.
Make it a sandwich when you try Bobby’s Pulled Pork Sandwich With Black Pepper Vinegar Sauce and Green Onion Slaw. Taken from his pulled pork Throwdown, Bobby proves this recipe is the real deal. Delicate drizzles of sauce are the key to keeping everything super moist.
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