Experts Guide to Using a Slow Cooker

The popularity of slow cookers is growing exponentially across Australia. But what is a slow cooker exactly? A slow cooker is an electrical countertop appliance that simmers food at a lower temperature than other methods of cooking (e.g. frying, boiling etc). Comprised of a pot, a glass lid, and some source of heat, slow cookers became popular in the 1940s when women began joining the workforce in record numbers. Using this slow-cooking appliance, they could begin preparing early in the morning before leaving for work, allowing the food to cook throughout the day and be ready by the time they returned home. 

Now 80 years later, slow cookers are on the rise again to help make our busy young adult lives that much simpler. Slow cookers are easy to use, require minimal effort and do all the hard work for you so you can use your time to focus on other things. And the result is evenly cooked, tender meats, flavourful veggies and full tummies all around. 

How to Use a Slow Cooker

Using a slow cooker is probably one of the easiest methods of cooking ever. You simply plug in your appliance, load in your chosen ingredients (more on that later), set the cooking temperature to either a high or low setting, place your glass lid over it and let it cook. The temperature setting you use depends on what you’re making and what the recipe says to set it at. It typically takes 6-8 hours for a meal to cook – perfect for a quick shift at work or a day of errands. 

What Can You Cook in a Slow Cooker?

Slow cookers are great for making roasts, stews, bread, ribs, soups and more! Perhaps the most valuable benefit of slow cookers is being able to evenly cook food hands-free without constantly turning it over. Given that you also virtually do not have to do anything but turn it on, slow cookers are easily at the top of the list in terms of convenience. 

Realistically, there are so many different options of meals to make in a slow cooker that you could use it every night for over a month and quite easily eat something different each time. This is why it is a must-have kitchen appliance for anyone tired of spending hours cooking attentively and would like to enjoy a nice dinner while not compromising their valuable time.

Slow Cooker Recipes

Using a slow cooker fits into any diet, dietary requirement and picky eating habit you can think of. There is truly something for everyone. When using a slow cooker, there are a few rules you should follow to ensure you get the best possible outcome. 

Firstly, only fill your slow cooker to about ¾ capacity to prevent overflow or overcooking. Secondly, do not remove the lid to peek at your dish while cooking. Removing the lid for even a second will release the heat essential to preparing your food and lengthen the cooking time. Lastly, if you left your slow cooker bowl in the fridge overnight with pre-prepared ingredients, be sure to take it out and set it on the counter 30 minutes before slow cooking, as a cold dish will take longer to simmer.

If you have just purchased a slow cooker and do not know where to begin, try some of these recipes below and find something you love.

Easy Slow Cooker Recipes – Ribs

Why not come out of the gates swinging and prepare a fan favourite, BBQ Baby Back Ribs. All you have to do is prep and let the slow cooker do the rest!

What you’ll need:

580g Stubb’s Original BBQ sauce

55g brown sugar

4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

3 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon chili powder

1.3kg Valanca free range pork ribs

salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Combine BBQ sauce, brown sugar, cider vinegar, oregano, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, and chili powder in a small bowl. 
  2. Salt and pepper the ribs. Place ribs in slow cooker and cover in sauce.
  3. Cook low for eight hours.
  4. After the ribs are done, spoon the BBQ sauce in the slow cooker over the ribs before removing. 
  5. Cut the ribs and serve with BBQ sauce.

And that’s it! Baby Ribs for the family with minimal effort.

Healthy Slow Cooker Recipes – Thai Chicken Soup

For something a bit healthier, try this Thai chicken soup recipe.

What you’ll need:

2 medium carrots, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

½ medium yellow onion, chopped

2-inch piece of ginger, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

4 tablespoons red curry paste

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon palm sugar

3 cups chicken stock

4 boneless, skinless Hazeldene's RSPCA Approved Chicken Thigh Fillets 

2 15-ounce cans coconut milk

1 lime

8 ounces rice vermicelli

Instructions:

  1. Add all the ingredients except the coconut milk, lime, and rice vermicelli to your crock pot and stir together. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.
  2. Remove the chicken thighs and shred using two forks. Return the chicken to the crock pot. Add the coconut milk and stir. Let the coconut milk warm for 10-15 minutes before serving.
  3. Place the cooked rice vermicelli into soup bowls and top with the Thai chicken soup. Squeeze a little lime over the top and serve with any optional topping.
  4. Note that for paleo diets, soy sauce can be substituted for Coconut Aminos and the rice vermicelli can be substituted for zucchini noodles or omitted altogether.

Vegetarian Slow Cooker Recipes – Veggie Lasagne

For those on plant-based diets, give this veggie lasagne a try.

What you’ll need:

1400ml Lello Artisan Pasta - Tomato & Basil Sugo tomato sauce

9 wavy lasagna noodles 

1400ml part-skim ricotta cheese

3–4 cups chopped vegetables of choice 

pesto (to taste)

2 cups shredded mozzarella

That’s Amore Cheese grated parmesan for topping

fresh parsley for topping

Instructions:

  1. Spray crockpot with non-stick cooking spray. Spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce to the bottom to prevent noodles from sticking.
  2. Break noodles so that they fit and mostly cover the bottom. Cover with about 1/3 of the ricotta, veggies, pesto, sauce, cheese, and end with noodles. Repeat layers two more times for a total of three complete layers. End with a layer of noodles on top, covered with a thin layer of sauce and a little bit more shredded cheese.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours. Turn the crockpot off completely and let the lasagna sit for one hour. Serve and enjoy!

Try out a slow cooker with ingredients delivered directly to your door from iPantry and let your meal cook itself!