Despite the name, slow cookers can actually save you a ton of time. With a little planning and preparation, you can create nutritious meals that don’t require you to spend hours in the kitchen at the end of a long day.
Here are some ideas, tips and a recipe to get you started.
How Do Slow Cookers Work?
Slow cookers use gentle heat to cook your meat and vegetables, which means you can prep your meal in the morning, turn your slow cooker on low, and by the time you walk through the door at the end of the day — dinner’s ready!
Your slow cooker is your best friend when it comes to preparing easy healthy recipes that include tasty briskets, chilies, stews and pot roasts. Why? Because a slow cooker uses low heat (usually around 200°F on low to 300°F on high) and liquid to produce moist, succulent dishes.
The other bonus is that the gentle heat breaks down tough cuts of meat (which are generally less expensive), rendering them melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
Trying to eat healthier? See more delicious recipes.
Tips & Tricks
It doesn’t take much to master the art of using your slow cooker, but we’ve got a few tricks to help you make mealtime that much better!
- Use fewer liquids. Because slow cookers have tightly sealed lids, less liquid will evaporate than if you’re using a conventional oven. Any liquid you use should just cover the food.
- Replace water with broth. Deepen the flavor of your final dishes by adding broth instead of water to your ingredients.
- Preheat your slow cooker. This is one of the most overlooked steps. Make sure you preheat your slow cooker before adding your ingredients. This will maximize results at mealtime.
- Thaw & brown your meat first. If you have the time, you’ll want to invest in this extra step. Thawing and browning your meat before adding it helps maximize flavor.
- Some foods taste better on day two. Some recipes actually taste better after they’ve had an extra day to marinate in the cooker. Be sure to carefully read your recipe before letting your meal stay in the slow cooker for a second day.
Prepare what you need the night before and turn your slow cooker on low before leaving in the morning. Chop your vegetables ahead of time and put them in their own airtight containers in your fridge, though never in the same container as uncooked or cut meat.
Marinated Beef Stew With Fall Vegetables Recipe
Ready to get started? Here’s a great healthy, hearty stew that’s perfect for when the weather gets cooler.
- 2 lbs of stewing beef, cubed
- Approximately 2 1/2 cups of dry red wine (such as Malbec or Shiraz)
- 1 cup of beef stock
- 2 sprigs each of fresh parsley, thyme and rosemary (tied in a bundle with twine)
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 1 teaspoon of black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of paprika
- 1 teaspoon each of dried thyme and parsley
- 1 bay leaf (dried)
- 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup of sliced cremini or white button mushrooms
- 2 medium carrots, sliced into 1/4″ slices
- 2 ribs of celery, sliced
- 1 small head of garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 cup of Greek yogurt (optional)
- Place the cubed beef in a big bowl. Pour in enough wine to just cover the meat.
- Stir in the salt, pepper, paprika and Worcestershire sauce, and add your fresh herb bundle. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- Wash and cut all of your vegetables. Place them in separate covered containers and refrigerate. (Tip: Keep the garlic and onion together in one container. The rest of the vegetables can go in another.)
- In the morning, to assemble the dish, start by draining about half of the wine marinade and pick out the fresh herbs. Discard the fresh herb bundle.
- Transfer your beef to your slow cooker stoneware, and pour in the remaining wine marinade and the beef broth.
- Add your carrots, celery, mushrooms, bay leaf and dry herbs. Stir your ingredients.
- In a pan, sauté the diced onions with a drizzle of olive oil until golden brown, adding the garlic towards the end of the process and cooking it slightly. Add to the crock-pot and stir.
- Turn your slow cooker on to the low heat setting, cover and let cook for eight hours.
- Before serving, make mashed potatoes, rice, noodles or gnocchi, and warm some rustic bread. If you like, stir yogurt into the stew or drizzle a little on top of each bowl. Serve while hot and enjoy!
It doesn’t get much easier than that. With a little preparation and the push of a button, in just a few hours you’ve got a quick and tasty meal ready to go.
What do you love about your slow cooker? Let us know in the comments.