The Pioneer Woman Tasty Kitchen
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Let’s Talk Slow Cookers

Posted by in Kitchen Talk

Tasty Kitchen Blog: Kitchen Talk (Slow Cooker Tips)

Slow cookers are sometimes the forgotten heroes of the kitchen. They’re either stashed on the top shelf of the cupboard above the refrigerator (you know, the one you almost never open), or in the basement, or behind the waffle maker and panini press. Out of sight, out of mind.

But they shouldn’t be. They’re workhorses, those slow cookers. Just check out all the great recipes in our slow cooker category. They’ll cook amazing meals for you with very little assistance, slaving away while you’re busy working or running errands. And few things are as comforting as coming home to a warm, hearty meal, your kitchen filled with the enticing aroma of a satisfying home-cooked meal.

So let’s talk slow cookers today! We want to know:

What are your favorite tips for cooking with a slow cooker?

We’re leaving this wide open. Do you have a favorite brand or model of slow cooker? A favorite recipe or technique? (The Slow Cooker Korean Short Rib Tacos you see above is one of my favorites.) Any special tips or tricks you’ve learned? We want to hear them all!

Happy Wednesday! Stay warm, cozy, and nourished, friends!



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Ranger S. on 1.18.2015

My largest crockpot will hold up to an 8.75 LB turkey breast. Thaw the turkey completely and rinse/pat it dry. Then stand the breast on its ribs in the crock pot. Use 2 crumpled aluminum foil balls which can be shoved down against both of the turkey’s sides to keep it centered in the crock. Otherwise, it will probably lean against the side which is a disaster. Cook on low for 3 hours and then begin to test with a meat thermometer. Take it out of the pot just before it reaches the poultry setting on the thermometer. Tent and let it cool thoroughly. It will finish cooking under the foil tent. It’s juicy and slices like a dream.

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nikkih on 1.15.2015

I really love using the slow cooker for a pot of pinto beans. And oh! the aroma is divine!

Danette Doucette on 1.15.2015

I just purchased the Breville, Fast/Slow cooker. It is an all in one pressure cooker, slow cooker, steamer and rice cooker. I AM IN LOVE x 1000. Coolest feature is that you can sear off any meats or aromatics right in the removable, non stick insert before you turn on the function you wish to use. The pressure cooker feature just turned a 5lbs piece of cheap pork into absolutely amazing pulled pork in 55 mins. I LOVE IT.

Amanda on 1.15.2015

Reynolds slow cooker liners are my saviour! I used to dread using my slow cooker because of the clean up required, but now that I found these little plastic disposable inserts, I use it a LOT!!

jaime on 1.15.2015

Probably the best tip I’ve ever gotten for cleaning crock-pots–if you have crusted on stuff in your crock (like from beans or barbecue), throw a dryer sheet into the pot with a little dish soap and hot water–it’ll help un-stick all of the crud.

Jeanne (NanaBread) on 1.15.2015

Over the past year, I’ve started using my slow cooker & crock pot to make homemade jams & jellies and applesauce. I love the extra flavor from cooking them slow and low. And because I can leave them on low overnight, I’ve even put jam on at night and woken up to thick, warm jam in the morning. Then it’s just can & store.

America’s Test Kitchen also has an excellent recipe for pork carnitas in a slow cooker. Cooked all day until tender, you finish them under your broiler for a quick crisp up. So stinking good.

Hiromi on 1.15.2015

Ree’s Spicy Dr Pepper Shredded Pork…I have taken this dish to a couple of work pot lucks and it was a hit!

mary on 1.15.2015

I’ve never really wanted a slow cooker and felt the oven offered me all the benefits of low and slow in much less time and the cook-top provided an unending source of textures for separate dishes. Crockpots seems designed to cook things all together like a casserole. Now that I’m cooking for one, I’ve thought about it, but see that the size is calculated only for large and extra large. Leftovers don’t bother me, but my freezer is full and there are no recipes for one or two. Solutions?

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C. L. ( Cheryl ) "Cheffie Cooks" Wiser on 1.14.2015

Well, Well. Well that is indeed a deep subject! I can not live without my two slow cookers and three crock pots! I have lost count on how many recipes alone I have posted on TK using them. They are wonderful and used almost every day for something; because I cook 7 days a week, 3 square meals a day! If you do not have one please do yourself a great favor and service and go out today and buy at least one! Happy slow-cookin” Y’All. Cheryl

Susan on 1.14.2015

I love my slow cooker, pot roast, green chili, stew, and soup all are great for the slow cooker. If I could offer three tips: Using up the last half glass of red wine in the broth is one of my favorite ideas, dont be afraid to put a little coffee in the marinade – overall the cooking liquid should come near the sufaceof the veggies and meat. Also, try to let it go for at least 6 hours, its so difficult when it smells so good to not want to dig in as soon as possible, the especially red meat just keeps getting more tender with time.

Marcia on 1.14.2015

My slow cooker is great! I can make a wonderful pulled pork or some pot roast and vegetables. The key is on spending some browning the meat and keeping an eye on the cooking time to ensure a delicious dish.

Patty Paulsen on 1.14.2015

I love my slow cooker. Have used it at quilt retreats to make delicious apple-oatmeal. I make soup with it (my two current favorites are chicken enchilada: and 7-can taco soup: MMMM they are delicious (btw, they make a lot so you can cook once, eat twice…)

I also love things like beef colorado, baked pork chops, beef stew, chicken for taco meat–just throw in the chicken and your favorite salsa with some onions, shred, heaven! It is perfect for a big pot of pasta sauce, less messy than simmering on top of stove.

Tips: I will use immersion blender to smooth things up (sauces, soups, etc) before I serve. If I am cooking meat, I may brown it first, depending on what I am cooking. I like to add dried spices toward the middle of cooking time as they tend to lose potency after a few hours of cooking. For pot roast, I like to layer dense vegetables on bottom, then meat, adding some broth over the top.

Finally, here is the best tip of all…on Thanksgiving day, I get the turkey stuffed and in the oven. Then I peel, cook, and make my mashed potatoes. Then I load them into the slow cooker, add an extra pat or two of butter, set it on low (or warm if your cooker has that setting), and go about cleaning my kitchen and setting the table. Makes last minute rush at dinner time less hectic!

Did I mention I love my slow cooker???

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Shawna C on 1.14.2015

I use my slow cooker for a lot of chicken things – for example, mexican chicken that can be used on nachos, in burritos, on tacos, etc. can be done using the simplest ingredients (boneless chicken and a jar of salsa), or it can be more complicated if I have more time (boneless chicken, chopped onions, chopped tomatoes, chopped peppers, minced garlic, a splash of broth, chili powder, lime juice, cumin, pepper, smoked salt, a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce). Both are good: the more complicated one is a bit tastier, but the simple one makes me smug about how little effort it was.

Another good and relatively simple one is chicken, onions, garlic, ginger, cubed sweet potato, a can of diced tomatoes, 1/2 a can of light coconut milk, and a spoonful of Indian curry paste such as Patak’s Madras curry paste.

Dana on 1.14.2015

I use mine for roasting chicken breast meat, that I need for a recipe when I get home from work. Chicken breasts are so moist and juicy when cooked this way. When I do use it, I put the ingredients in the crock the night before and set it in the refrigerator. I pull the crock out of the refrigerator and turn it on. I have no extra time before work to prepare. This requires pre-planning, so that’s why it rarely gets used. Ha

DebbieK on 1.14.2015

I have not had luck using my slow cooker for cooking. The texture of the meat is not pleasing to my family. I use it to transport food to potlucks and keep food warm. I prefer my pressure cooker over the crockpot.

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DessertForTwo on 1.14.2015

I don’t use mine as often as I should, but lately, I’ve been making broth in it. I turn it on overnight and wake up to the best homemade broth. Thanks for the reminder that I need to put it to use more :)

Brenda on 1.14.2015

Our crockpots are used frequently. We use them for main meals, keeping things warm at larger family get togethers, or pot luck suppers at church. If a crockpot quits working, another is purchased quickly!

CarrieLovesKeith on 1.14.2015

Whenever a recipe calls for cooked shredded chicken, I always pour a bottle of beer over boneless skinless chicken breast, cook on low for 7-8 hrs, or hi for about 4 hrs, and then drain and shred the chicken. For tacos or enchiladas, I sprinkle some salt & pepper, cumin and chili powder on the shredded chicken and toss it. Or I use the chicken to make chicken salad, chicken soup or pot pie. It’s super easy and has a really nice depth of flavor from the beer.

S on 1.14.2015

My crockpot is used at least 3 times a week. With our crazy schedule we would never have hot meal if not for that marvelous appliance.

All of the recipes I use are the quick dump and go kind. Tonight, in fact, is bar-b-q porkchops. I threw frozen porkchops in and covered them with bottled sauce. Set it on low when we left the house at 7:30 this morning and when we get home at 6:30 tonight they will be ready to eat with potatoes I had premade and put in the freezer.

The big thing for me is just to plan ahead, which makes my whole house run smoother because mom is calmer! : )

Robby on 1.14.2015

My most important thing learned about them is that a slow cooker is not a ‘no coooker’. Brown the meat or aromatics before you put them in instead of just chucking food in it. World of difference in the finished product. I am also not above dirtying a pan for some finishing touch on the dish, reduce the sauce, put the pulled pork on a sheetpan in the oven for a bit for some crispy edges, etc.

CarolB on 1.14.2015

I make yogurt in mine. Doesn’t need to be watched as closely as stove top methods and I put the whole crock in the refrigerator to store the yogurt.

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Patricia @ ButterYum on 1.14.2015

I like to caramelize onions in my slow cooker. There are recipes all over the internet, but basically you put 3 pounds of sliced onions, 8 tablespoons of butter, and a teaspoon of fine salt in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours until they reach the level of caramelization you like. You can toss the onions a couple times if you like, but it’s not really necessary. Freeze in small batches to use whenever you like.

kim on 1.14.2015

I have a love/hate relationship with my crockpot. I have a few recipes that work so well – a Tex/Mex barbecue brisket that cooks in the slow cooker is my most requested recipe ever – but I find many other recipes come out washed out or flavorless. I miss the browning I get from oven- or pan-roasting. I know I ought to give it another try, since I work long hours and it’d be a real treat to come home from work to dinner already done.

I’ll keep checking back here, in hopes of finding some good ideas.

Denise on 1.14.2015

I love to cook my spiral ham in the slow cooker. (You will need a rather large crock pot for this!) Cooking it in the slow cooker not only seals in all the juices and keeps the meat moist and tender, but it frees up my oven so I can cook other things while the meat’s cooking, like roasted veggies or dinner rolls.

Allyn on 1.14.2015

I recently made the best chicken noodle soup of my life in the crockpot. It’s the perfect tool for gently poaching a chicken (

Beth B. on 1.14.2015

I’ve learned with my slow cooker, that if I am cooking a pork tenderloin or chicken breast, that to keep the meat tender and juicy,
cook it on low for no longer than 4 hours. Any longer and the meat loses some of its juices. Something larger like a pork butt or roast can survive 6-8 hours on low.

s on 1.14.2015

Although I love to cook using my slow cooker, it is also an excellent tool for keeping food warm for various family members eating at various times on busy evenings or Saturday afternoons..tacos, sloppy Joes, Mac n cheese, chili, soups, pulled chicken, all are easy to transition to a crock pot, after cooking the regular way, to allow buffet style help yourself serving. Especially helpful for teens..the food is all set after a track meet or basketball game and easy for them to unplug and put leftovers away with no worries.