Falling for Your Slow Cooker All Over Again

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The slow cooker, also known as the Crock Pot, is a decidedly retro kitchen appliance that’s making a well-deserved comeback. Now is the time to pull that slow cooker out from the back of the cabinet and dust it off. What’s better than coming home on a chilly day to a cozy, aromatic kitchen and dinner hot and ready to be devoured?

Once upon a time, slow cooker recipes relied heavily on canned cream-of-something soup, and resulted in dinners that were varying shades of beige. But no longer; set your slow cooker free from these dated limitations, and explore the wide variety of innovative and delicious ways this little appliance can add to your menu.

One of the slow cooker’s greatest strengths is thoroughly tender and succulent meat. Don’t shy away from cuts of meat that are fatty; lean meat will get dry and tough more quickly. And though it’s tempting to dump it in and head out the door, taking the time to brown beef or pork roasts before plopping them into the Crock Pot is worth it. The sear will help maintain the meat’s color and juiciness. Employ these tactics for pot roast, beef or pork to shred for tacos, or for barbecue sandwiches.

The staff at Sweet Cheeks Meats are experts; “Choose cuts that are active muscle with plenty of fat an sinew,” says Nick Phillips, owner of the butcher shop. “Shanks are great because they have lots of collagen, and that creates really wonderful flavor.” Simplicity is key, especially when cooking excellent meat. A traditional braise — stock, red wine, garlic, onion and herbs — can go a long way.

Short Ribs from Sweet Cheeks

If something with a little spice or international flair is your style, look no further than these supremely cheesy Black Bean Slow Cooker Enchiladas. Topped with sour cream, green onions and cilantro, these practically define comfort food. Alternatively, find some Indian inspiration in this Chicken Cashew Curry with Coconut Milk. Warm, spicy, sweet and rich: isn’t that what everyone craves on a chilly fall evening?

For those who haven’t used a slow cooker much, or want a perfect go-to meal for a busy day, look no further than chili. This recipe from Bon Appetit relies on big, bold spice flavors to create a complex and hearty dish with both ground beef and short ribs. (Recipe below!)

The slow cooker is also ideal as a sous-chef; while you focus on a show-stopping main like steak, roasted chicken or turkey, let it make these fabulous Three Cheese Mashed Potatoes.

If you’re looking to really embrace the creativity and whimsy of the slow cooker, venture into the world of desserts and cocktails. This Molten Chocolate Cake is bound to impress, especially if you serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and berries. An Apple and Pear Crisp showcases the warm, nutty flavor profiles of fall, and is guaranteed to make your kitchen smell amazing in the process.

Mulled Wine, Apple Cider with Bourbon, and Slow-Cooker Coconut Hot Chocolate represent the mere tip of the iceberg when it comes to warming drinks to create in your Crock Pot.

As the forecast promises cooler days and frosted nights ahead, do yourself a favor: drag out that slow cooker and challenge it with something new. Just leave the cream-of-whatever soup out of it.

CrockPot

 

Bon Appetit's Best Slow-Cooker Chili

Ingredients

  • 2 guajillo chiles
  • 1 dried ancho chile
  • 1 dried pasilla chile
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound boneless beef chuck, cut into ½" pieces
  • ½ pound boneless beef short ribs, cut into ½" pieces
  • ½ brisket, cut into ½" pieces
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce, chopped (optional)
  • 1 12-ounce can lager
  • Sour cream, shredded cheddar, chopped red onion, cilantro leaves, and chips (for serving)

Instructions

  • Toast guajillo, ancho, and pasilla chiles in a medium dry skillet over medium-high heat, turning occasionally and pressing down to help chiles make contact with the pan, until darkened in color and beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and cover with 2 cups boiling water; let sit 30 minutes to soften. Drain; discard seeds and stems. Working in batches if needed, purée chiles and broth in a blender until smooth, about 1 minute, and set aside.
  • Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high. Season chuck, short ribs, and brisket with salt and pepper. Working in batches, cook, stirring occasionally, until browned all over, about 5 minutes. Continue cooking until liquid accumulated in pot has evaporated, 8–10 minutes more. Transfer beef to a plate.
  • Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in same pot, then add onions and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until onions are softened, 6–8 minutes. Onion juices should help loosen any bits of beef stuck to bottom of pot, but if the surface looks too brown, add a splash of water and cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits. Add cumin, oregano, and chipotle, if using, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.
  • Transfer mixture to a 4–6-quart slow cooker. Add lager, reserved beef, and reserved chile purée, season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Cover and cook until meat is very tender, 7–8 hours on low or 4–5 hours on high. If liquid seems too thin, simmer until thickened to desired consistency.
  • Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve chili topped with sour cream, cheddar, red onion, cilantro leaves, and chips.
  • Do ahead: Chili can be made up to 4 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Reheat gently over low heat, adding a splash of water to loosen, if needed.
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