Like many of you, since the Rival Company introduced America to the nation’s first Crock-Pot® in the early 1970’s, I don’t use my slow cooker as much as I used to. I’m not sure why that is exactly, because using a slow cooker was always very amusing. We place our uncooked food into the pot and several hours later, as if by magic, out came a fully-cooked meal. If you are new to using a slow cooker, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, the easiest slow cooker recipes are the ones that do not require any pre-browning of meat or sautéeing of vegetables. With a little trimming, chopping and opening of some cans, jars or bags, a slow cooker meal is ready to go in minutes. Also, recipes that can be cooked on a cooker’s LOW setting are good recipes to consider if you plan to be away from the kitchn all day. Foods cooked on LOW will have less opportuity to dry out and require the least amount of attention, particularly good if you get delayed coming home. Second, to keep meals that contain meat from swimming in accumulated fat for hours, select lean cuts, or trim away fat before placing it in the cooker. And lastly, slow cookers come in various sizes, so depending on the size of your recipe, choose a cooker that will meet your needs. The recipes here were tested in a 5 1/2-quart-size cooker with a volume sufficient for food to move around in the the liquid and steam contained inside the cooker. For a slow cooker to do the job it was designed to do, fill it from halfway to more than about one inch from the rim. Using a slow cooker that is too big for the amount of food used will yield just as poor an outcome as a cooker that is too small for the task.
Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.