Benefits and Tips for Crockpot Cooking
We all know how hectic life can be. Between work, errands, and social obligations, finding time to cook a nutritious meal can be tough. Enter the crockpot, also known as a slow cooker. This humble kitchen appliance can help you prepare a delicious, healthy meal with minimal effort.
What is a Crockpot?
A crockpot is a type of slow cooker that's designed for busy home cooks. It allows you to set it and forget it, as it slowly simmers your food over several hours. This is ideal for busy weeknights or when you want to come home to a hot meal without having to put in any work.
How Does It Work?
Crockpots and slow cookers work by slowly heating food at a low temperature. This allows the flavors to develop and meld together over time, resulting in a tastier final product. Additionally, if you are cooking animal proteins, they are often more tender as the food is cooked slowly over an extended period. Crockpot settings vary, but typically there is a high heat setting, which can cook dishes in as little as 4 hours, and a low heat setting, ideal for overnight or daytime cooking.
Benefits of Using a Crockpot
#1 - Set it and Forget it Convenience
One of the best things about using a crockpot is that you can set it and forget it. Simply add your ingredients to the pot, set the timer, and go about your day. No need to worry about checking on the food or stirring it occasionally - the crockpot will do all the work for you.
#2 - Affordable Meals
Another great benefit of crockpot cooking is that it is very affordable. Crockpots are ideal for cooking cheaper cuts of meat that require longer cooking times to break down the tough fibers. This type of meat is usually much more affordable than its more tender counterparts. In addition, beans and other budget-friendly ingredients can easily be cooked in a crockpot.
#3 - Hands-free Cooking
Crockpot cooking is also great for those who don’t enjoy spending a lot of time in the kitchen. With this type of cooking, you simply add your ingredients to the pot and let the machine do its job. This leaves you free to do other things around the house or take some time for yourself.
#4 - It'll make your house smell amazing.
Don't underestimate the power of smell - it can trigger positive emotions and anticipation at the end of your day. There's nothing like coming home to the mouthwatering smell of a home-cooked meal waiting for you—and your family will love it too!
#5 - Versatile Cooking Method
One of the best things about crockpots is that they're incredibly versatile. They can be used to make recipes from hearty stews and soups to quinoa dishes and vegetable medleys. They're great for throwing together a quick and easy dinner, but they can also be used for breakfast, lunch, and even dessert recipes!
There are tons of recipes for breakfast staples like oatmeal and quiche that can be made in a crockpot. So whatever meal you're looking to make, chances are there's a way to make it in a crockpot.
When it comes to crockpot recipes, there is a basic formula that you can follow to ensure that your dish turns out perfectly. In general, the recipe formula for crockpot dishes is as follows:
Add the seasoned meat or protein of your choice to the crockpot [browning optional]
Add plenty of vegetables, cut to about the same size
Pour in a sauce or broth to cover the ingredients
Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours or on high heat for 3-4 hours
Once you finish cooking, stir in some fresh herbs and canned beans
Selecting a Recipe
There are thousands of crockpot recipes out there, so it can be tough to know where to start. When you're looking for a recipe, make sure to choose one that includes plenty of fresh, whole-food ingredients. Opt for recipes that require simple, real ingredients that you can easily find at your local grocery store.
Another thing to consider when choosing a recipe is cook time. Some crockpot recipes can take eight hours or more to cook, which might not be practical if you're trying to get dinner on the table in less time. Also, if you are using dried beans, a super economical and nutritious base for meals, you may need to soak them overnight first before placing them in the crockpot with vegetables.
Here are some of my favorite easy recipes from my meal plans for hands-free cooking:
Instant Pot/Crockpot/Stovetop Chicken Cacciatore
Slow Cooker Chicken Carnitas
Slow Cooker Herbed Turkey Breast
Slow Cooker Italian Herb Chicken
Slow Cooker Beef
Slow Cooker Curried Chicken
Cuban-Style Black Beans
Now that you know the basic formula and tips for preparing crockpot dishes, you can start experimenting with different ingredients and flavor combinations. The possibilities are endless! Get creative and have fun with it. Crockpot cooking is a great way to make healthy and delicious meals with minimal effort. So give it a try and see for yourself how easy and enjoyable it can be.