Back to School Slow Cooker Favorites

With school starting up again, I have found myself back in the slow cooker mode….I have several slow cookers of various shapes and sizes and use them fairly often. With a little bit of upfront planning, you’re rewarded with dinner already done by the time you get home from work or wherever your day takes you! When the weather is hot, they’re great because they don’t heat up the whole house like the oven does. In the winter they’re great because you can keep a pot of soup warm all day long. They’re great to have just to keep food warm on a buffet table or in a classroom or potluck, etc.
If I have a really busy week, sometimes I’ll put dinner in the slow cooker the night before, let it cook while I’m sleeping, stick it in the refrigerator for the day, then just reheat it for dinner that evening. Sometimes I’ll cook a dinner on the stove top, then transfer it to the slow cooker to keep it warm while I take the kids to afternoon sports. Dinner is warm and ready to eat when we get home.
Here are some of our slow cooker favorites and some slow cooker safety tips below:
Slow Cooker BBQ Beef Sandwiches

Slow Cooker BBQ Beef Sandwiches


Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos


Slow Cooker BBQ Baby Back Ribs

Slow Cooker BBQ Baby Back Ribs


Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin with Orange and Hoisin Glaze

Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin with Orange and Hoisin Glaze


Slow Cooker Au Gratin Potatoes

Slow Cooker Au Gratin Potatoes


Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos

Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos


For these and all of our slow cooker recipes click here


Tips on using a Slow Cooker

Using a slow cooker when you are going to be gone all day can be a convenient and easy way to come home at the end of the day to a ready to eat, home cooked meal. Slow cookers can add flavor to a dish, and can turn a lower cut of meat into a tender and savory meal. Because the slow cooker retains moisture during use, and the heat is gently and evenly distributed, even tough and inexpensive cuts of meat turn out moist and tender in the slow cooker.

When purchasing a slow cooker, look for one that has a cook time feature that will turn off when the time is over. Or, there are timers that you can purchase that plug into the electrical outlet, and then you can plug the slow cooker into the timer. In addition, there are slow cookers on the market that are cast iron on the inside, allowing you to use it to brown the meat on the stove first, and then place it into the slow cooker.

You can convert many stove top and oven recipes into slow cooker recipes. Keep in mind that when you use the LOW setting on a slow cooker, it is about the same as cooking something in a conventional oven at approximately 200 degrees F.The HIGH setting on most slow cookers is approximately 300 degrees F. Check your slow cooker manual to verify the temperature settings, as newer slow cookers tend to cook at a higher temperature than older models. Most recipes won’t require as much water or other cooking liquid when cooked in a slow cooker compared to being cooked in the oven or on the stove top.

Cooking Tips:

A dish that would normally cook in the oven for an hour, will most likely take approximately 6-8 hours on LOW or 3-4 hours on HIGH in the slow cooker.You can see that in general, 1 hour on HIGH is equal to about 2 hours on LOW.

Browning meats on the stove top before placing in the slow cooker will add both flavor and color to the meal, however, in most recipes it is not required. When using ground meats such as beef, pork, and chicken, you should brown the meat before placing it in the slow cooker to avoid clumping and having excess oil/fat in the dish.

Vegetables take less time to cook, and can usually be added at the start of the last hour of cooking.

Baked potatoes and butternut squash turn out great in the slow cooker. For baked potatoes, wash them, prick the tops a few times with a fork, wrap each potato in foil, and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours depending on the size of the potatoes.

If you are roasting a whole chicken in the slow cooker, prop it up from the bottom of the dish by placing a few rolled up balls of foil underneath the chicken.

Don’t remove the lid during the cooking time, as this releases the heat, and you will have to increase the cooking time by 20 to 30 minutes.

Use only the liquids that are listed in the recipe since extra juices cook out of the ingredients, and fewer liquids are evaporated in a slow cooker.

You can thicken sauces by removing the lid of the slow cooker for the last 20-30 minutes of cooking time and turning the temperature to high.

Food Safety Tips:

To keep the temperature of the food even, fill your slow cooker no more than two thirds full and no less than one-half full.

Cook raw meat and poultry on high for the first hour to reduce the time it takes to get to a safe temperature. After the first hour, you can reduce the heat to low for the rest of the cooking time. If the meat is browned before placing in the slow cooker, then you don’t need to be concerned with this.

Roasted Summer Vegetables on FoodistaRoasted Summer Vegetables

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