How the Slow Cooker Changed the World
November 22, 2022 7:50 AM   Subscribe

The Crockpot arrived amid a slew of innovations, from the microwave oven to the breadmaker, that promised to save women from the drudgery of cooking for their families. But unlike its technological contemporaries, the slow cooker didn’t speed up a working woman’s cooking, it slowed it down. The crucial part was being absent for almost the entire cooking process: A woman could actually leave the house and enter the workplace, without neglecting her wifely duties. posted by warriorqueen (80 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
Written by someone named Potts? How wonderful!
Roger Ebert and his rice cooker.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:09 AM on November 22 [6 favorites]


A slow cooker was wildly helpful when I was really starting to cook for myself. And, depending on various factors, slow cookers can be significantly more energy efficient than ovens, stoves, etc. (More detailed analysis [PDF], though I haven't checked the math.)
posted by cupcakeninja at 8:24 AM on November 22 [3 favorites]


I will slow cook a pot roast for this Thanksgiving. This is the one time I allow myself this luxury. Please don't take this away.
posted by SPrintF at 8:25 AM on November 22 [13 favorites]


I will slow cook a pot roast for this Thanksgiving. This is the one time I allow myself this luxury. Please don't take this away.

MetaFilter FPP tomorrow:
Why Slow Cooking A Pot Roast Is Toxically Problematic
posted by star gentle uterus at 8:45 AM on November 22 [54 favorites]


Why Slow Cooking A Pot Roast Is Toxically Problematic

If you keep the temperature low enough, it can be toxic for sure.

I had a slow cooker for a while but never had great results. I don't know if I had a dud version or just wasn't picking recipes well. Now I do all my slow cooking in the oven, which seems to work very well and consistently; I'm not sure what the difference is between this and the old slow cooker I had other than better temperature control but the results are very different.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:53 AM on November 22 [3 favorites]


I read the contrarian article. And it seems to be focusing mainly on the differences between cooking something in a Dutch oven and cooking something in a slow cooker; some things just don't work quite as well in a slow cooker, they say, and "for best results" you often have to futz with cooking some things on the stovetop first.

Well - like with any tool, there are some things that a slow cooker just isn't the right thing for. But that doesn't mean that there's nothing it's good for. I made apple butter in mine a couple weekends ago - you do have to give the apples an initial cook on the stovetop first (boil the chopped apples down with a bit of water for 30 minutes), but then instead of hovering around the kitchen for a whole day and periodically jumping up to stir the apple butter, I could just dump it in the slow cooker, add a drift of cinnamon and then let it do its thing for several hours.

Also - the "contrarian" article is talking about things like a slow cooker's inability to really get some good browning on the meat, but from my experience, the people most often using their slow cookers are cooking for people who don't give two shits about the Maillard reaction anyway, they're just trying to get the family fed.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:53 AM on November 22 [25 favorites]


Totally agree about the getting family fed angle. :) I use ours, which is an Instant Pot so sometimes I pressure cook something and then let it sit on warm, 2-3/week. We don't eat much meat though so it's mostly for soups, stews, chilis, curries, and 'stewy bean"-type things.

When we do meat it's usually something like adobo.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:00 AM on November 22


Also: this great episode of Nice Try about The Crock Pot
posted by stevil at 9:02 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]


Oh, man. I remember when the Crock-Pot came on the scene. It was like a meteor hit the planet. Everyone was "OMG! How have I lived without this thing????" It really did change things. That said, after the initial excitement wore-off, the most popular uses for the things seemed to be keeping queso dips and meatballs hot during parties.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:05 AM on November 22 [11 favorites]


Although the Instant Pot has a slow cooker function, it does not have the enveloping heat like the regular crockpot. Plus many of the things you can do in the crockpot can be done using the pressure cooker function.

The problem sometimes is that it takes a while to get it up to pressure. So, to speedup my pressure cooker time, I have started using my hot water kettle to boil the water before adding it to the pressure cooker. It has significantly reduced cooking time.
posted by indianbadger1 at 9:10 AM on November 22 [9 favorites]


Also - the "contrarian" article is talking about things like a slow cooker's inability to really get some good browning on the meat, but from my experience, the people most often using their slow cookers are cooking for people who don't give two shits about the Maillard reaction anyway, they're just trying to get the family fed.

I hadn't read that article before I commented above, and I see that it pretty much answers all of my questions about why I wasn't getting satisfactory results from the slow cooker I had.

But, your point that the slow cooker shines for busy people needing to feed a family is key. In a lot of situations it will produce results that are good enough, or better than good enough, with very little time and energy. It also, as the main article points out, heats up a kitchen a lot less than using the oven, which matters in the summer.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:22 AM on November 22 [4 favorites]


This is a little tangential but it's bean related so it's ok...if you're planning on cooking beans from dry in a crockpot, make sure you give any kidney beans (and white kidney beans...cannalini) a good hard boil for 10 or 15 minutes on the stove before you put them in the slow cooker, those beans need to get cooked above boiling temp to decativate actual toxins in the beans.
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee at 9:27 AM on November 22 [11 favorites]


Not only are there lots of really great uses for slow cookers, the contrarian article really only makes me roll my eyes. Perfection can be the enemy of good. Or in cooking, "best results" can be the enemy of "normal people cooking a variety of yummy foods regularly". Shades of the jarred garlic discussion lol
posted by wellifyouinsist at 9:32 AM on November 22 [11 favorites]


Crockpots are also great for low and slow simmers for those who have gas stoves that are incapable of such a thing.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:34 AM on November 22 [3 favorites]


I still use mine, coupled with a temperature controller, to do some sous-vide cooking.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:37 AM on November 22 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: people who don't give two shits about the Maillard reaction

The low temperature on most slow cookers is 190 degrees, according to Google. There's no way a large corporation is going to risk a lawsuit (right?)

I use a Hot Logic mini in my office, which cooks food at 160 degrees. It sounds fussy, like complaining about the refresh rate of your cell phone screen, but the even heating from the HL Mini is satisfying in ways that the microwave can't match. My relationship with the Hot Logic mini is not financial, it more closely resembles that of a cult member to their object of adoration.

There is a relationship between time, temperature, and food safety. The longer you keep the food heated, the lower the temperature can be. There was a great chart that showed this relationship but the author took it down, perhaps due to fear of litigation.

I've noticed the differences between slow cooking, our instant pot, and sous vide. All excel at slightly different tasks, but the instant pot has replaced our slow cooker except when my wife stubbornly continues to use it because the interface is 100x simpler than the instant pot.

Let that be a lesson to designers everywhere.
posted by mecran01 at 9:54 AM on November 22 [9 favorites]


Two tools that I would say are indispensable in my kitchen are the immersion blender and crock pot.

cooking for people who don't give two shits about the Maillard reaction
Turning yesterday's left-overs into chilli con carne since 1971!
posted by The Power Nap at 10:04 AM on November 22 [6 favorites]


I think on whole slow cookers produce food that's "fine". The serious eats article doesn't bother me too much given that on whole serious eats is a site aimed at people who cook as a hobby, not just for nutrition. I do agree though that pressure cooking usually produces a superior result in less time but does generally require some fussing with to get the seasoning right given that there's no evaporation.
posted by Ferreous at 10:09 AM on November 22 [3 favorites]


For soups, it's perfect.
posted by tiny frying pan at 10:14 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]


Yes, as the article states...The benefit if the slow cooker is that it can be started in the morning/evening and then it's finished when you get back to it.

The slow cooker is king for making caramelized onions=flavor gold in big batches. I freeze, then am able to toss the small frozen blobs of this gold in anything that wants extra yum.

I also have a large zip bag in the freezer into which I toss bits of vegetables. Eventually it's full enough to use for soup base: frozen veg goes straight into crockpot with some seasonings, water or stock and it's cooked for however long until I'm back in the evening. Then the immersion blender makes it into a creamy soup. I can have it as is or add whatever else I have on hand. And, I don't have to think about cooking after a long day. The instapot seems to need more interaction as an initial learning curve.

It's not epicurean cooking; it's sustenance with little bother.
posted by mightshould at 10:23 AM on November 22 [10 favorites]


Hard agree on the comments above pointing out the differences between the types of cooking. I remember when America's Test Kitchen put out their first slow cooker cookbook, focusing on how to develop more flavor which involved a lot of pre-cooking--browning and suchlike--and got absolutely slammed by reviews complaining that the slow cooker was meant to remove the burden of all that work. Their follow-up cookbook focused on building flavor in the slow cooker instead of beforehand.

I own both books because sometimes I just want to dump stuff in, hit a button and go, and sometimes I'm more concerned with not using the oven to heat up the entire house for several hours.
posted by telophase at 10:26 AM on November 22 [2 favorites]


The slow cooker is for people like me who would otherwise just eat cheese sandwiches every day. The finer points of flavor don’t really come into it.
posted by brook horse at 10:30 AM on November 22 [19 favorites]


You can get slow cookers with anodized aluminum inserts instead of crockery so you can brown up a good Maillard reaction then slow cook. It’s a game changer.

My mom used to use an electric skillet that could brown then slowly braise. Lots of cream and mushroom soup won’t into that thing! It was also great for fried chicken. I got one as a gift after reminiscing about that but am ashamed to say I’ve never gotten around to using it.
posted by sjswitzer at 10:34 AM on November 22 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: people who don't give two shits about the Maillard reaction

Pressure cooking temperatures (around 250F) does take care of that.

From the article:

In a pressure cooker, there is zero evaporation, so you can have Maillard browning throughout, without drying out surfaces first. The resulting browning is also distributed more evenly throughout the food, not just on the surface.
posted by indianbadger1 at 10:38 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]


There’s another benefit to using a slow cooker that goes beyond the meal itself. You put a roast and veggies in the crockpot and then you go to work. When you come home, ohhhhhhh the house smells so good, it feels like a warm homecoming after a long day. Once you’ve got yourself reset a little bit and have a chance to eat, that tasty, hot, tender food is just *perfect*. Is it serious foodie quality? Maybe, maybe not. But it feeds the soul.
posted by azpenguin at 10:42 AM on November 22 [19 favorites]


The modal meal in long history is probably simmered, yes? Three-stone fire, hamlet bake oven, thermopolium pottage, hotpots, haycookers, casserole, crockpot. It’s unusual when we have the spare labor and energy for "everyone" to have a fiddly time-sensitive meal.

That was a nice collection of articles that assume people have reasons for what they do, even the contrarian one, thanks, warriorqueen! And I thought the López-Alt one silently made a big point for the slow cooker: every bit of flavorful browning has to be scrubbed off your heavy Dutch oven. (And off the slow cooker if you let things reduce. Hence the plastic crockpot liners. I wouldn’t touch that one either.)
posted by clew at 10:45 AM on November 22 [2 favorites]


I don't have an Instant Pot, but I do have a crock pot which I bought at a thrift shop for $3 circa 2002. When I was taking it home on the bus, the bus gave a lurch and the crock pot bounced off the seat beside me where I had placed it and began to roll down the centre aisle of the bus. I got up and ran after it, the bus gave a second lurch just as I was bending over while still running and about to nab my errant crock, and I wound up in some man's lap. (Anecdotes like these prompted a friend of mine to tell me I ought to start a blog entitled, "Things I Have Brought Home in the Bus".)

Anyway, I love my crock pot because sometimes it's the perfect way to incorporate cooking into my day's activities. Sure, it takes time to work, but like a washing machine, once one sets it up and turns it on, it does the job of cooking things or keeping them hot unobtrusively and independently, giving the cook useful downtime. As noted above, it's good for keeping food such as meatballs hot for the duration of a buffet/potluck meal. I've used it to serve hot apple cider during a party. Another time I made a sweet and sour chicken stew in it on a day when the plan was for me to meet friends from out of town at the AGO, see an exhibit, and then head back to my place for supper. I'd set the table and made sour cream rolls, a salad, and a maple apple cake in advance, so it took me very little time to put supper for four on the table. I used to make big batches of oatmeal in it, until I realized that it would be easier and more efficient to just cook individual bowls of oatmeal in the microwave as I wanted them -- I had to reheat the single servings of oatmeal in the microwave anyway.

A woman could actually leave the house and enter the workplace, without neglecting her wifely duties.

This line is really getting on my nerves for some reason. People who have jobs still have to eat, and having a good set of appliances that give one pacing and scheduling options facilitates that. It's not the tools that are the problem -- it's the gendered expectation that women will do or at least supervise their household's production of food.
posted by orange swan at 11:01 AM on November 22 [6 favorites]


I had a slow cooker and some mediocre success with it and eventually passed it on to someone else. I had oodles of free time and love to cook, so what did I need one of those for!? And, of course, now that I have a kid and zero free time, I'm eyeing them again.

Any recommendations for super long cook time recipes? I remember being a bit disappointed in how many recipes called to set it for 4-6 hours, which doesn't match up well with a 9-5 plus commute. While we're at it, any decent cholent recipes? Or other 12-24 hour recipes?
posted by carrioncomfort at 11:02 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]


I'm very fond of the Instant Pot. I used to regularly make my own Greek yogurt, flavored just as I like it with a little maple syrup. The thing is, I'm not a lazy cook so much as I am a very lazy washer of dishes, and the results of putting the pot in the dishwasher itself are indifferent at best. Plus there's scrubbing all the other parts. I have fallen off using it lately for this reason. If I had children or a spouse to order to do this, it would be different.

It seems like, between trucking, van life, RVs, and maybe boats too, they're leaving at least a bit of money on the table by not making a travel-adapted slow cooker. I have heard that you can cook food -- or in any case apply heat to food -- by wrapping it in foil and putting it underneath the hood, but I bet if it was really worth doing he'd have something to say about it.
posted by Countess Elena at 11:06 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]


It seems like, between trucking, van life, RVs, and maybe boats too, they're leaving at least a bit of money on the table by not making a travel-adapted slow cooker.

Oh, these exist.
posted by mecran01 at 11:07 AM on November 22


The slow cooker and its benefit of trading time for reduced cognitive load is also a metaphor that I use when working with software engineering teams who obsess on making super fast but complicated build processes. Yes, your bespoke build pipeline may help me get code out in 5 minutes, but if the tests are flaky and it fails on its own 50% of the time and getting software out is like playing with a slot machine, then I prefer a code pipeline that might take 15 minutes but always. just. works. Let me kick off the build and move on with the rest of my day rather than commit me to watching tests runs and hoping/praying that everything passes this time.
posted by bl1nk at 11:10 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]


A crock pot is an excellent way to conveniently cook dried beans and save money and having to recycle a bunch of cans. That’s all I’ve got to add, but it has proved a useful bit of knowledge at our house.
posted by ryanshepard at 11:21 AM on November 22 [3 favorites]


Any recommendations for super long cook time recipes? I remember being a bit disappointed in how many recipes called to set it for 4-6 hours, which doesn't match up well with a 9-5 plus commute.

I'll check when I get home - I have a whole category of recipes in a collection that call for 10 hours on "low" in the slow cooker.

....And introducing another whole angle - the concept of "dump meals". There is a whole category of slow-cooker recipes where the recipe prep involves simply throwing things into a slow cooker and turning it on. A lot of people even use them as the basis for monthly advance meal prep - they get the ingredients for a months' worth of dump meals, portion things out amongst a bunch of freezer bags, then chuck everything in the freezer; and then "cooking dinner" the rest of the month involves pulling a bag out of the freezer the night before, letting it thaw in the fridge overnight, and then dumping the contents into a slow cooker the next morning and heading out to work. When they get home, dinner's ready.

A lot of them are some variant of stewed-something that you serve with rice or on bread; there are a LOT of pulled pork-type of things. And sometimes that hits the spot - yes, sometimes you want the finely-seared steak au poivre, but sometimes you want the greasy homey comfort mom food.

(There is a slow cooker cookbook my parents gave me when they realized they weren't using it themselves; the recipe I've made in it most often involves layering cut-up kielbasa, shredded cheese, and tater tots in a slow cooker and drizzling some milk over the whole thing and cooking for a few hours. It's the kind of thing that would make my doctor scream, but I don't care.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:25 AM on November 22 [9 favorites]


Slightly tangential, I use one of these marvelous German Bricknic pans for crockpot-style recipe cooking in the oven. They aren't all that slow-cooking, though.
posted by bz at 11:27 AM on November 22


I wish the first article went more in depth into how automation made women's (and single men's) lives easier and better, instead of slow cooker Facebook group drama.

I had a slow cooker for a while - eventually gave it away and side-graded to an instant pot - but never got past the fear of leaving the house with something hot (ish) turned on. It made stew fine, can't complain.
posted by meowzilla at 11:31 AM on November 22 [2 favorites]


Have any vegetarians gotten any real value out of their slow cooker? I was gotten one years ago and I think I’ve maybe used it once.
posted by vanitas at 12:01 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]


I'm not used to crockpot cooking (or crockpot-style Instant Pot cooking during the day), so I have some dumb questions:

About the beans thing: to get rid of the toxic/irritant stuff, do you have to throw out the water after boiling? And if so, when do you add onions and spices? Do you have to do two phases? How does this work if you have to leave home for work?

Also, aren't folks really busy and rushed in the morning with getting ready for work? How do you have time to prep ingredients for the crockpot or Instant Pot?

And how do you avoid overcooking beans if they are warm all day after boiling?

(I currently have an Instant Pot but I only use it in the evening, right before a meal. Would like to hear more about the workday set-it-and-forget-it usage.)
posted by splitpeasoup at 12:07 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]


Beans should be soaked and boiled before going into the crockpot as they can still have toxins in them unless boiled for at least 10m
posted by Ferreous at 12:10 PM on November 22


vanitas: does yours cook rice? If so, there's a world of possibilities in combining beans, vegetables (frozen or not), and rice or other grains. Soups, too. Also there's Greek yogurt, as I wrote above, although I gave that up because I was sick of creating a whole bunch of whey that I had to throw away somewhere. There are household uses for whey, but I don't have them. Still, if you don't want it Greek you can make it without draining the whey.

I also used to make a week's worth of delicious steel-cut oatmeal with maple syrup and almond milk at once.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:11 PM on November 22 [4 favorites]


I go through phases where I use my slow cooker a lot, especially in wintertime (is there a difference between a slow cooker and a crock pot, other than the slow cooker is a lower oval and the crock pot is a taller cylinder?) I'd love to get an instant pot, but we have no space in our apartment for another appliance.

I'm really curious about this, from the first article: posts about slow cooker liners (thin plastic bags that sit in the crock and minimize washing up) are verboten. I still don’t entirely understand why, but I’m definitely too scared to post and ask. I don't use liners, but now I want to know why too. Environment? Fire hazard? Past forum entrenched warfare?
posted by Mchelly at 12:18 PM on November 22


(is there a difference between a slow cooker and a crock pot, other than the slow cooker is a lower oval and the crock pot is a taller cylinder?)
I think that crock pot is a brand name, and slow cooker is the generic version. It's like kleenex and tissue.

I used mine all the time before I went vegetarian and have used it a lot less since. I do occasionally make slow cooker applesauce, but I wouldn't buy one just for applesauce. I should play around with more vegetarian recipes sometime, since I own the thing and might as well use it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:22 PM on November 22 [2 favorites]


Have any vegetarians gotten any real value out of their slow cooker? I was gotten one years ago and I think I’ve maybe used it once.

We do! Over the last month I've used my slow cooker for:

- red lentil and carrot soup, multiple times
- butternut squash soup
- tomato soup
- several variations of vegan chili
- (coconut) cream of spinach soup
- several variations on lentil and barley +leftovers or minestrone soups
- potato and leek soup
- pea soup (we put in a bit of liquid smoke, no ham bone)
- chickpea and potato and edamame curry (yes we're weird)
- tofu and coconut milk thai inspired curry
- lentils diavolo
posted by warriorqueen at 12:25 PM on November 22 [3 favorites]


liners

Found a ten-year old Reddit and SRD thread. Some reasons are:

- don't like cooking in plastic (chemical leeching)
- don't like unnecessary waste
- they often leak so you have to clean the pot anyway
- cleaning the pot is super easy and people who use liners are lazy

Intersection of environmentalism / laziness / food safety which becomes a religious war.
posted by meowzilla at 12:33 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]


carrioncomfort: Look for a slow cooker with a timer. You set it for x number of hours, at low or high. Then when the timer runs out, it automatically flips over to a "keep warm" setting. The food kinda remains in tasty stasis until you get home.

splitpeasoup: I do any prep, like chopping vegetables, the night before. Then I throw everything in and stir first thing in the morning.
posted by champers at 12:45 PM on November 22


Modern slow cooker "low" setting is factory-set to be a higher temperature than oldschool "low setting."

On my (decade+ old now?) Crockpot (tm) has a "keep warm" setting that is very close to the oldschool "low" setting. Stuff cooks in 8-9 hours instead of 4-5, and comes out much better than the "low" setting.

I only use whole meats - no ground, no mechanically tenderized - and Canada's food safety regs are acceptable for me.

I tried browning ahead, never bother with it these days. My palette is fine with seafood, so in my stews I'll drop in some chunks of sundried squid for the extra umami. A local Korean supermarket sells "remainders" of shaved beef at about the same price as stewing beef from the regular supermarket - so flat iron stew is a constant rotation on my menu.

If you haven't tried, adding cocao powder to the liquid or using dark coffee as the liquid gives an interesting taste profile. Maybe a splash of a decent sipping whiskey.

I'm a weirdo, so I leave chunked up nantes carrots on top of the liquid level (sprinkle a little table salt on top) and it comes out slightly crunchy after 9 hours but still sweetened from the breakdown of starches.

Another favourite of mine is chuck roast, season with a packet of dry onion soup mix, then slather a can of condensed mushroom soup. Toss some cooked pasta into the gravy - then make a salad or cut up some fruits on the side.

The slow cooker is also great for making confit - there's a place near me that sells rendered duck fat - re-use it a couple of times with duck legs (--> ziplock + a little fat --> freezer). The four, do a batch of turkey drumsticks (the bones slide out, the meat goes into a mason jar, cover with fat --> freezer).

I found a 3 year old confit duck leg in the back of my freezer - it was still good, and tasty.

I live alone so being able to prep the night before (no liquids) --> fridge, then add the liquid and start it up in the morning before leaving for work is a great boon.
posted by porpoise at 12:46 PM on November 22 [2 favorites]


Dinner in the slow cooker is a gift from morning me to fuck-it-all afternoon me, who would otherwise let all the ingredients we own rot in the fridge and spend all our earthly money on Doordash, than cook even the simplest dinner after I get off work at 5 o'clock.

This dead-easy Crockpot Carnitas has saved me from ordering many hundreds of dollars worth of mediocre Mexican food, while this 3-Envelope Roast is how I get my husband to remember why he stays married to me, when he's feeling dubious:

3 lb chuck roast
1 envelope brown gravy mix
1 envelope ranch dressing mix
1 envelope Italian dressing mix
16 oz jar of sliced pepperoncini peppers, with their juice
16 oz bag of baby carrots

Put the roast and carrots in the crockpot, dump the envelopes on top and pour in the jar of peppers and juice. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, until the meat falls apart.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 12:56 PM on November 22 [11 favorites]


I love my slow cooker. I pre-brown meat and onions, pre-cook potatoes because my slow cooker doesn't get hot enough to cook them (apparently this varies between brands), and of course pre-boil beans because I don't want that kind of gastric excitement. And pre-boil water in an electric kettle because I always do that when cooking. The mild inconvenience of having to do this with a different tool does not outweigh the convenience of a meal quietly stewing itself for hours with no further input from me.

Things I will never cook in anything else: pureed pea or lentil soup (always burns on the stove, even at the lowest setting), and stock or broth (almost no agitation = perfectly preserved vegetables and optionally meat if I'm not using just bones, which can be separated and used for something else).

The ceramic insert is also larger than any of my pots, which makes it useful for making soups and stews in bulk.
posted by confluency at 1:01 PM on November 22


Adding to this, if you don't have time to clean the pot as soon as you empty it, leave a little water or whatever you cooked liquid in it.

Put the lid on. Overnight* the pot should remain moist and allow easier clean-up.

Leaving the lid off just makes clean-up all the more frustrating.

--
* Going longer than overnight will promote mold or other gross growths.
posted by filtergik at 1:36 PM on November 22 [2 favorites]


I cook a lot of Indian food, and the slow cooker is the cheat code for Dal Makhani. Incredible results without 8 hours of stirring.
posted by Ella Fynoe at 1:46 PM on November 22 [5 favorites]


So, my roommate doesn't cook; he has accepted that about himself and he's good with it. Occasionally I will share things I make, because I cook in huge quantities and like feeding people, and he's grateful and eats pretty much anything.

I say that to emphasize how truly exceptional this slow cooker recipe for butternut squash with cheese tortellini is - because when I made it, he asked me for the recipe.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:57 PM on November 22 [8 favorites]


Comparing my poor little crock pot to a $500 Le Creuset Dutch Oven is like an old VW Beetle racing a Ferrari. Sure, you'll get there in style, but I'll get there too...the winner gets determined after the race, not at the finish line.
posted by lobstah at 2:55 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]


Dinner in the slow cooker is a gift from morning me to fuck-it-all afternoon me,

This. I love coming home to a hot meal, usually soup or some kind of chilli, that I've almost forgotten I made for myself. If I really want some pampering I'll set the bread maker on its timer before I go out.
posted by rpfields at 3:12 PM on November 22 [2 favorites]


I cook a lot of Indian food, and the slow cooker is the cheat code for Dal Makhani. Incredible results without 8 hours of stirring.

Caramelized onions, likewise. Simple, finish them off in the cast iron pan, freezes well, nothing to it.
posted by mhoye at 3:23 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]


The slow cooker is responsible for some of my most vivid dreams, thanks to the apartment filling aromas.

An example. I made pea and ham soup, except I used 'bacon ends'. These are the leftover chunks of bacon from the deli that are too small to make into rashers. A cheap alternative, ham is expensive! Since I put the split peas in dry, this was going to have to cook over night, filling the apartment with the fragrance of bacon.

My year 8 dormitory at school was above the dining hall, so we knew when we were having bacon for breakfast. You can't make five hundred servings of bacon without letting the whole neighborhood know.

So that's where I went in my dreams that night. We were having bacon and scrambled eggs for breakfast, but instead of in the dining hall, we were by the heated pool. Powdered eggs - when they sit on your plate a pool of yellow forms around them. That's what was in the heated pool, yellow egg water. And the dinner ladies kept piling our plates with bacon faster than we could eat, so we started throwing the the bacon in the egg water.

The dinner ladies busted us doing this, the bottom of the pool was full of bacon. They threw us in and we had to dive for bacon in the egg water using only our teeth. While this sounds like punishment, dream bacon is pretty fucking good.

These slow cooker dreams always conclude in the same way. Thirty seconds after I wake up I'm scolding my mouth with piping hot pea and ham soup
posted by adept256 at 4:14 PM on November 22 [4 favorites]


I think the maillard reaction for meat is way overrated, and I've made slow cooker beans without pre-boiling for 45 years with no issues, so I'm not going to start now.

Slow cooker pulled pork or pulled chicken in amazing. Slow cooker pulled pork is as good as regular restaurant pulled pork. Maybe some barbecue joints make it better, the few that don't overcook their pork and therefore it's too dry.

Also, slow cooker baked potatoes are way better than oven baked potatoes! I think I learned that trick here.

I'm not the biggest chili or soup person, but those are great too.
posted by The_Vegetables at 6:30 PM on November 22


Comparing my poor little crock pot to a $500 Le Creuset Dutch Oven is like an old VW Beetle racing a Ferrari.

This too! I own several crock pots in a couple of different sizes, and none was more than $20. All together they are less than $100. Of course, my wife bought most of them, and IMO one is more than enough. But if I want heated cheese for chips and queso, beans, and baked potatoes, I could do it.
posted by The_Vegetables at 6:33 PM on November 22


I adore my Crockpot and my rice cooker has a slow-cook mode as well. It was easy to do potluck suppers in the crock pot, mostly chicken & dumplings I did on the stove, then put in a crock pot, got it hot, then unplugged and schlepped it to work, wrapped in towels. My late Focus has two tip overs on the seat from turns sloshing out before I figured out how to wrap it and put it in a box.

Really should start doing those freezer meals, I've had trouble getting enough sleep and thus being able to drive safely to get groceries, and they do not do delivery groceries in my area from the local grocery stores.
posted by tlwright at 6:50 PM on November 22


Seriously though. A slow cooker / crock pot / casserole is THE way to go in the winter. Soup / Stoup (half way between the next) /Stew / Curry etc

Skip the recipe snobbery of 'brown onions and caramelize the garlic' sort of approach. I have tried varying methods and THE best is - cut up ingredients, line pot with veg, add meat (unless vegan etc), add flavorings (can be added when cutting up), add liquid (less equals stew, more equal stoup, lots equals soup), prep other side dishes if needed, go to sleep, get up, turn on slow cooker, go to work, return, stir, get changed, cook rice (or other carb base if needed)... eat... rinse repeat, Eat.
posted by IndelibleUnderpants at 8:02 PM on November 22 [2 favorites]


It’s a good thing not all dutch ovens cost $500.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 8:11 PM on November 22 [2 favorites]


Tuesday is stewsday at our place in the cold months. I use this recipe, more or less. But the beauty of the slow cooker is that you don’t have to measure ingredients, I just chop and chuck it in. One household member is veggie and I do a dried mushroom subbed for meat version for her that is very filling.
posted by Cuke at 8:20 PM on November 22


1. Put dry beans + water in instapot, put lid on, press buttons.

[beans soak in instapot for hours, get pressure cooked, and then keep warm]

2. Tada! 1-step beans!
posted by aniola at 10:04 PM on November 22


Sweet potatoes and carrots work beautifully, but Daniel doesn’t really recommend pressure-cooking butternut squash, which somehow tastes like pretzels.

From a mailard reaction link above.

Just wanted to highlight this in case I am not the only person who would much rather eat pretzels than butternut squash and is excited to discover yet another way pressure cooking saves the day.
posted by aniola at 10:10 PM on November 22 [2 favorites]


One thing about using hot water instead of cold in the pressure cooker (as mentioned above) is that it does reduce cooking time ... but this means cooking time is reduced! ie, your food may not be fully cooked when using this method. The time spent getting up to pressure is still part of the overall cooking time, even though the timing mechanism doesn't start until the proper pressure is reached. This is why you can often time some things for one minute and they come out cooked -- that pressurizing time AND, often, the depressurizing time is part of the whole time it takes to prepare that item or dish.

So in other words, if the indicated cooking time is 10 minutes plus natural depressurizing (you don't vent the steam out, you wait for it to subside on its own), the actual cooking time is however long it takes to get to the proper pressure (let's say 5 minutes for something like rice) PLUS the cooking time you've programmed (the original 10 minutes) PLUS depressurization time (let's say 5 minutes). So your whole cooking time for the rice is around 20 minutes. But that's like the same as the stovetop, you say! Yes, it is. Unlike many other dishes, there's often little or no time savings in pressure-cooking rice, it's just a lot easier. Dump and go. Don't worry about overcooking, or forgetting and burning the bottom of your rice, or the rice coming out too sticky or undercooked, or the whole mess bubbling over all over the stove if your pan is too small. Etc. The pressure cooker is like a rice cooker in this way.

Also it's important to note that you can use frozen food in a pressure cooker and you generally don't have to adjust the time. If you are cooking chicken and the recipe time is 30 minutes, you set it for 30 minutes whether the chicken is fresh or frozen. The reason for that is that the timer does not begin until the cooker comes to pressure, so even if the chicken is frozen, it just means that it will take longer for the cooker to come up to pressure. If you preheat your pressure cooker with hot water in this instance, it means your chicken will be underdone.
posted by taz at 11:06 PM on November 22 [3 favorites]


(And, oh, since I mentioned rice, I really should mention that rice settings are not "one and done." Different rices require different timing, so it's worth looking up the suggested cooking time for whatever you are using.)
posted by taz at 11:12 PM on November 22


Oh, a point of order regarding the critical article: yes, I have also observed that slow cooker soups and stews tend to be more separated and less broken down than stovetop equivalents. But if I'm bulk cooking and freezing them in portions, I have the option of finishing them on the stove when I thaw and/or reheat them. This is typically how I prepare pasta anyway ever since I found out about the pasta water thing.
posted by confluency at 11:42 PM on November 22


I have never seen a slow cooker or crock pot in real life and I wouldn't be sure where to look for them if I wanted one. If this is something that changed the world, then it somehow managed to miss my country.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:56 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]


Whoops - sorry, I promised carrioncomfort I would share links to long-cook-time slow cooker recipes! I have three:

Salsa Chicken (bonus - this is in a serves-two portion). Cooks 8-10 hours on low.

Chicken Chili from Smitten Kitchen. Cooks 8-10 hours on low.

Slow cooker black bean chili. Cooks 8-10 hours on low.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:37 AM on November 23 [5 favorites]


Man, one thing I love love LOVE my slow cooker for is caramelized onions. Slice them up pretty thin, sprinkle some salt in to draw out moisture, dump them in and add a glug or two of olive oil or something for heat transfer. Cook on high with the lid ajar for like 12–24 hours and they’ll have cooked down to a fraction of their original volume, but every single spoonful will be culinary gold.
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:08 AM on November 23 [3 favorites]


I've gone through a lot of stages in my 35+ years of adult cooking life, and I've had and used crock pots in nearly all of them. That said, I left behind my last crock pot and got an Instant Pot when I separated/divorced in 2016, and haven't looked back. One reason is that I've been WFH for 15 years now, so what I need these days is not something I can prep in the morning and have cook all day. Instead, what I need is something that I can prep at 5 pm, walk away from for 30-40 minutes, and open up to delicious food ready to serve around 6 pm.

The other thing I've started doing lately, now that I've got a wood stove, is doing slow-simmered stews and soups in a dutch oven on top of the wood stove. This approach definitely appeals to my "free heat from nature" side!
posted by drlith at 5:44 AM on November 23 [3 favorites]


I have shared this recipe on AskMeFi many times. It is the best vegan crockpot recipe I know: Pinch of Yum Crockpot Sweet Potato Lentils.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:57 AM on November 23 [4 favorites]


It’s a good thing not all dutch ovens cost $500.

Yes. It would have been nice if they had made the parenthetical point that there are plenty of cheaper dutch ovens that work just as well, even if the article is featuring their favorite nice one (that they probably get an affiliate payment for if you click on it and purchase). For example, the Lodge enamled cast iron dutch oven is more like $70 - $90 depending on the size, which is still a chunk of money but isn't nearly as painful to the budget.

There are plenty of other reasons for a person to prefer an electric slow cooker to a dutch oven, but they aren't as far apart on price as you would think from the article.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:20 AM on November 23


Man, one thing I love love LOVE my slow cooker for is caramelized onions.

I have a little 1qt. slow cooker JUST for this.
posted by mikelieman at 7:07 AM on November 23 [1 favorite]


Plus many of the things you can do in the crockpot can be done using the pressure cooker function.

I find that most things that can be done in a slow cooker can be done better in a pressure cooker. I think the faster cook (and the pressurization) enhances the flavour and also prevents everything from breaking down into a big pile of mush.

Of course, the advantage of the slow cooker remains the same: it can cook a meal while I'm out of the house. The pressure cooker, despite being much faster, removes this convenience.

**I don't have an Instant Pot, but do have both a slow cooker and a stovetop pressure cooker.
posted by asnider at 7:42 AM on November 23 [1 favorite]


It would have been nice if they had made the parenthetical point that there are plenty of cheaper dutch ovens that work just as well

Hell, the Dutch Oven I use most often is one I got in a thrift shop in Mt.. Tremper for like ten dollars. It was in MINT condition, it was half the size of a regular one so it suited a solo diner, and it was bright purple. Sold.

I have actually heard the slow cooker function on an Instant Pot isn't as good as a traditional slow cooker, can anyone confirm?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:53 AM on November 23 [1 favorite]


3 lb chuck roast
1 envelope brown gravy mix
1 envelope ranch dressing mix
1 envelope Italian dressing mix
16 oz jar of sliced pepperoncini peppers, with their juice
16 oz bag of baby carrots


Take out the brown gravy and carrots, add a stick of butter, and we call it Mississippi Roast. It's a staple of our menu.
posted by COD at 8:56 AM on November 23 [3 favorites]


I have actually heard the slow cooker function on an Instant Pot isn't as good as a traditional slow cooker, can anyone confirm?

It's not - it clearly kind of has temperature differential between the top and the bottom which makes a big difference in some things, like when I used to do ribs - the ones at the top were not as great as the ones at the bottom.

However, being able to saute in the bottom and then dump the rest of everything in and then switch it to slow cooker mode makes a big difference to me, so am a fan regardless. I might be less of a fan if we were still doing a lot of braising of meats.

Another trick with the Instant Pot is to pressure cook your soup/etc. and leave it on warm. It will turn off during the day but the lid is sealed so for me if the recipe is relatively low risk, it's okay. Then when I come home I hit the saute button, it heats up again and is ready to go. Another trick I do is stick all the onions in and pressure cook them for caramelization for French Onion soup. I leave them sealed, and then when I get home I just use the sautee function to finish it off.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:06 AM on November 23 [2 favorites]


Man, one thing I love love LOVE my slow cooker for is caramelized onions.

*slaps forehead*

This is a bit life-changing.

We've got an old-school Rival Crock Pot that my mother in law gave us eons ago. Floral print and all, and three settings: off, low, and high. It does certain things very well, and I use it for those things. No complaints or additional aspirations about the pulled pork I can turn out with it.

I'm going to buy a bunch of onions and give the mass carmelization a shot. Thanks for the tip.

Dinner in the slow cooker is a gift from morning me to fuck-it-all afternoon me

This is awesome. I'm going to remember to thank morning me the next time!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:50 AM on November 23 [1 favorite]


I love my slow cooker but won't touch an InstaPot or anything else that pressure cooks. My mom was severely burned when I was a kid when a pressure cooker blew up in her face. I know they've gotten better but that's all I think about when I hear the term "pressure cooker".
posted by downtohisturtles at 11:26 AM on November 23


I used to slow cook 6 quarts of gumbo or turtle soup at a time but, man, that's a lot of food without an army. So I gave the cooker to a friend who has more mouths to feed.

I just ordered a little 2 qt and that will (hopefully) be perfect.

Thanks mefites! I'm excited.
posted by djeo at 12:20 PM on November 23 [1 favorite]


For those looking for vegetarian slow-cooker recipes, Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson is a treasure trove.
posted by BrashTech at 1:39 PM on November 23 [3 favorites]


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