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We all have favorite dishes that everyone in the family enjoys. Why not adapt them to the slow cooker so you can enjoy them even on the busiest of days or when you’re not really in the mood to cook.
What Can You Slow Cook?
While not every single recipe lends itself to preparing it in the slow cooker, you’ll be surprised how many dishes do. Soups, stew, and casseroles are a no brainer. But have you tried making your famous spaghetti sauce in the slow cooker? Just cook some pasta. When it’s ready, dinner is served. Or how about cooking your grandma’s meatloaf recipe in the crockpot?
Obviously you can’t make a traditional pizza in the slow cooker, but how about a mock pizza that has all your favorite pizza flavors and toppings. There’s so much you can do with this one little kitchen appliance. You’ll be amazed once you start to experiment.
Let’s Experiment with the Slow Cooker
Which brings up a good point. Adapting your favorite family recipes for the slow cooker takes a little experimenting. There may be some trial and error involved. If it doesn’t turn out the way you want it the first time, don’t give up. With a few tweaks, you might just come up with something everyone will love.
What You Need to Know…
There are a couple of things you need to know before you start changing your recipes into slow cooker recipes. I’ll share them below. Another option is to search for a slow cooker recipe someone has already made.
Let’s say you want to adapt your turkey chili recipe for the slow cooker. Look for a few different slow cooker chili recipes paying attention to ingredients and cooking time. Then give it a try with your ingredients, but possibly adjusting things like the amount of liquid you add and of course allowing for longer cooking time. That should give you a great starting point to play with your recipe until you get it just right.
Slow Cooking Conversion Tips
I promised to share some general tips that will work with most recipes for you. Use what applies to whatever dish you are converting into a slow cooker recipe and remember that these are just guidelines. They give you a starting point but it may still take some trial and error to fine-tune your recipes.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that things take much longer to cook in the slow cooker than they do in the oven or on the stove. It’s one of the appeals of slow cooking since that longer cooking time allows complex flavors to develop and even the toughest cuts of meat get nice and tender.
But how much is longer? Here are some rough guidelines:
- If you usually cook something on the stove or in the oven for 15 to 30 minutes, cook it in the crockpot on High for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or on Low for 4 to 6 hours.
- For something you usually cook on the stove or in the oven for 35 to 45 minutes, cook it in the crockpot on High for 3 to 4 hours, or on Low for 6 to 10 hours.
- If you usually cook something on the stove or in the oven for 50 min. to 3 hrs. cook it in the crockpot on High for 4 to 6 hours, or on Low for 8 to 18 hours.
The other thing you need to adjust is your cooking liquids. This is particularly important if you’re adapting a recipe that you usually cook on the stovetop. On the stove and to a lesser extent in the oven, much of the cooking liquid evaporates. In a slow cooker, on the other hand, everything cooks slowly (so less steam) and the lid is closed the entire time allowing almost no moisture to evaporate. Cutting your cooking liquids in half is a good start for most recipes.
Dealing With Pasta and Rice
Yes, you can make pasta and rice dishes in the slow cooker. But you have to keep a couple of things in mind. For rice stick with the long rain plain variety that takes at least 20 minutes of boiling to cook. Stay away from pre-cooked and quick-cooking rice.
Pasta can be cooked from the beginning in the slow cooker, but it comes out gummy in most recipes I’ve tried. What’s worked better for me is to boil the pasta until it is about halfway done and then add it to the slow cooker for the last hour of cooking if I’m home around that time.
To be frank, sometimes it’s easier to just cook the pasta and rice separate and then assemble everything on the plate or stir it in right before you’re ready to serve dinner.
These are some good starting points for adapting your favorite meals to the slow cooker. With a bit of innovation, you may be able to cook a lot of your family meals — at least partially — in the slow cooker.
If you want the recipes from this month in your mailbox, sign up here: Slow Cooker Challenge
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