In reality just about any meal can be made in a slow cooker. Soups and braises especially are easier to make in a slow cooker than on a stove or in an oven because they require long cooking times, which, unless you are home all day, you probably wont be comfortable leaving something on the oven for several hours.
The general rules are:
- chicken cooks in 4 hours on low
- Beef, pork, and lamb take about 6 hours on low
- Unless you have a large cut (a pot-roast cut or a whole chicken) which will take about 5 hours on high.
- You can almost make stock with a slow cooker. Place a used chicken carcass or leftover beef bones in with carrots, celery, salt, pepper, and cover with water. Cook for 6 or more hours on low then strain. You'll need to freeze the stock and then scrap off all the white fat which has frozen on the top.
- The best way to convert a recipe into a slow-cooker is to make sure you sear the meat first and deglaze the pan, pouring the liquid into the slow-cooker. The nice crisp outside is the main different between cooking in the oven and in a slow-cooker but it can be easily faked.
- If you're nervous about your food becoming dry stick to food cooked in liquids. It is literally impossible to have a dry pot roast if it's cooked in ample liquid.
- Your meat will go from raw to tough to fork cutting tender. If your meat is too chewy come dinner time (which means you didn't get your cooking times correct) cut into into serving-sized portions, pour into a casserole dish, and stick it in the oven at 400 degrees. It's wont be perfect but in half an hour or so your food will at least become soft enough to chew.
- If you're gone during the day don't worry about adding an extra hour to a low setting cooking time, or if it's a stew, up to 4 additional hours.
- Don't add dairy products, rice, pasta, or bread until the end. The dairy will overcook and the other foods will become too saturated with liquid and turn to mush.
And finally, if you love the ease of slow-cooker cooking, I encourage you to learn to use a pressure cooker. This is perfect for those days when you've forgotten all about dinner and everyone is hungry and you need to make something asap. Pressure cookers cut cooking time at least two thirds. If you play your cards right you can cook even faster than that.
Here are some of my favorite slow-cooker recipes. To print off the recipe card left-click, go to save image as, save it, and then print it off at your leisure. There are many other great slow-cooker recipes, including ones in the book The Mexican Slow Cooker by Deborah Schneider, which has great conversions for cooking tamales and enchiladas in a slow-cooker. And remember, just as most recipes can be converted to a slow-cooker, most of these recipes can also be cooked on a stove or in the oven.
Smothered Pork Roast
French Dip Sandwiches
Carne Con Rajas
Pollo En Crema Con Chipotle
Pot Roast Caribe
Coq Au Vin
Mustard Glazed Corned Beef
Pork Stew with Chipotle Tomatoes
Let me know if you have any questions, like how to convert a recipe, or if you want more recipes.