Slow-cookers – more than just food warmers

Photo by Sara Nicastro

Darla is an an all-American Iowa girl, married to the Chief of Police and mom to an 11-year-old boy (it’s all about the testosterone at her house). Currently she works from home as an accountant and also as a silver power seller on eBay, and is the Managing Editor for Blissfully Domestic. She writes on numerous blogs, such as Sassy Homemaker and Chic Critique.

I know all of you savvy Simple Mom fans are well aware that slow cookers (such as Crock Pots) are more than just food warmers, but did you know that they’re close to a full-service station? They defrost, cook, warm, reheat and beyond.

Here are a few simple tips for getting the most out of your slow cooker:

Baked potatoes are great in a slow cooker – just wrap them in tinfoil, bake them on high, and they’ll be done when you arrive home. Throw some meat on the grill and you’ll have an instant meal.

• I use a slow cooker to thaw and brown hamburger. You do need to be home to make this work, but it saves a ton of energy as well as clean-up (and for even easier clean-up, I highly recommend slow cooker liners).  Place the meat frozen in the slow cooker, turn it on high, and come back every 30 minutes to scrape off the outside meat.  It’ll be defrosted and cooked in less than two hours. Add your remaining ingredients, and you’ll have a homemade dinner start-to-finish in just a few hours and no clean up time.

For chicken, place frozen parts in the slow cooker, checking back every 30 minutes and rotating until they are completely cooked. Add the remaining ingredients, and once more, there’s very little clean up for a full meal.

You can follow the same method for a roast as well. To keep a roast moist, use some sort of a red sauce – anything from salsa, to canned tomatoes, to Italian stewed tomatoes, to tomato sauce will work. I’m not a fan of tomatoes, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the meat was so moist and flavorful.

• Finally, add a can or two of Cream of Golden Mushroom soup to your slow cooker for a nice and simple gravy.

What slow cooker tips would you like to share? I know you’ve got some up your sleeve.

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. Great post!

    I’m a great fan of slow cookers. I use mine for roasts, casseroles, soups and mince. I had never thought of using it for jacket potatoes or for defrosting. Thanks very much for this great advice! I will definitely try out your suggestions!

    I think slow cookers are an absolute kitchen essential for busy women. You can just prepare dinner in the morning and it’s ready when you get home from work! The delicious aroma you encounter when you arrive home is fantastic!! I love my slow cooked roast dinners – the meat is always so tender!

    Thanks again for the great post!

  2. Great tips. Any idea if you can make homemade yogurt in a slow cooker?

  3. I love my slow cooker. The baked potato idea is a good one. I like to put chili, veggie soup, potato soup or any other soup on in the morning before leaving for work. My favorite is making chicken and stuffing and when we come home we have a complete meal, after adding a veggie. Yum.

  4. I like to make stuffing in my slow-cooker too! Great for those big holiday meals as it frees up more space in the oven. Ever want to make a layered dish ahead of time to put in the crock-pot when you’re ready? If you have a round slow-cooker take some cardboard that is the height of the slow-cooker & tape it into a circle so that it’s just a hair smaller than the inside of the cooker. Line the cardboard (you can make several) with a slow-cooker liner. Then you can make layered dishes {like lasagna, swiss chicken, etc.} and freeze them. They will be frozen into the shape of the crock. Simply pop out of the freezer & plop in the crock pot & you’re good to go! Hope this makes sense!

    Carrie: I was just googling the same thing last night! I think it’s possible…..

    Rebecca’s last blog post…Planning: The Thanksgiving Edition

  5. I have to second the suggestion about the slow cook liners. Those are a time saver! I used to avoid my crock pot just because it was a pain to clean.

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  6. Well, lookie who’s here! My favorite commenter Darla hanging out with Simplemom! 😉 You guys are great.

    And what do you know, I have a slow cooker tip! Coming from someone who doesn’t cook, this will be good. I like to cook chicken in mine and then shred it all up and it in baggies. Then I can pull out a baggie of cooked chicken for burritos or casseroles or whatever. TIME SAVER.

    Yeah, not very inventive but it works for me!

    Happy day Simplemom & Darla!


    melissa @ the inspired room’s last blog post…Let the Weekend Fun Begin!

  7. Thanks for the tips. I’ve been having a hard time making my slow cooker do anything much, so I’ll give these a try. As far as the liners go, I wish they were biodegradable! Ha.

    Angie (from over at a

    Half Assed Kitchen’s last blog post…Split pea soup…economical and yummy

  8. Busy Woman says:

    One of my crock pot recipes is super simple. Just toss in a pound of stew beef with a can of cream of mushroom soup and cook on low for several hours. Serve on rice. Very tasty. I also have a recipe for taco soup that is very easy. This is similar to my recipe (but I use 1 pound of ground beef, not 2): I serve it with cornbread and shredded cheese. Sour cream would probably be good, too.

  9. I love the idea for thawing and cooking hamburger meat. I can’t tell you the number of times I forget to take something out of the freezer the night before and I’m scrambling to figure out “what’s for dinner” at the last moment. I’ll be filing that tip for future reference! 🙂

    Michelle@Life with Three’s last blog post…Confession. It’s good for the soul.

  10. I love to put frozen chicken breasts in, a cup or two of chicken broth and taco seasoning then cook on low for 8 hours. The chicken then shreds very easily. I put the shredded chicken back in the crock pot for 10 or more minutes to get a bit more tender and then we use the meat for tacos or salad and the leftovers are great for enchiladas the next day! It also freezes really well.

  11. Wow, you all have great ideas! I knew you would.

    Melissa@TheInspiredRoom, I bet you say that to all the crock pots in your life 😉

    Darla ~ Sassy Homemaker’s last blog post…Using Calphalon cookware as a crock pot

  12. I almost ALWAYS forget to defrost my meat for upcoming meals! I usually always put frozen chicken breasts in the slow cooker on low for 8-10 hours. I add believe it or not-Cheese Fantastico! Salad Dressing instead of chicken broth and it is so yummy! (Knowing I can do hamburger meat is awesome.)

    Michelle Sybert’s last blog post…Photo Friday

  13. Love all these ideas! I use my crock pot at least twice a week for our family of 7. I love that I don’t have to remember to thaw anything out the night before. When I set up the crock pot after breakfast, my day always seems to go smoother. I know that no matter what dinner will be served!

    Christine @ Live to Learn’s last blog post…Vacation Photos from Post #3

  14. I love cooking stew or spaghetti sauce in one. Makes the house smell so good and there’s more attention to give to kids during the dreaded meltdown before dinner.

    I don’t use the liners though. Something about heating plastic with my food oogies me out.

    Lisa- Domestic Accident’s last blog post…Helpful tip from Domestic Accident

  15. It’s slow cooker season again. Time for some comfort food. I have many favourite recipes. A popular one that I even serve guests is Hoisin Ribs. It goes something like this.
    Country style ribs
    2 jars of hoisin sauce
    1/4 C. teriyaki sauce
    4 cloves garlic
    1 T. ginger, grated
    1 bunch green onions, cut in 1 inch strips

    Cook for 8 hours on low. So yum!

    jackie’s last blog post…Paper Dolls Printables

  16. i love the baked potato idea! i am going to use my slow cooker a ton this winter, so i need these great ideas!!

    angie’s last blog post…my happy space

  17. Hi Darla –

    I just love the “whole meal” factor of my crock-pot, and I’ve invented a method of keeping the veggie flavor from overpowering the meat –
    Put your small Roast/Corned Beef/Whatever in an oven bag (complete with marinate if you like), and submerge it among the veggies, but leave the top above the water line.

    Also like the sound of the “stew beef with a can of cream of mushroom soup” recipe above from Busy Woman – anything that saves/time/effort gets my vote.

  18. I make steel-cut oats in mine. You can put it together before going to bed and wake up to healthy hot cereal!

    Vintage Mommy’s last blog post…Another Lap, Another Milestone

  19. Fantastic tips and recipes from commenters!! I love the idea of the veggies in the bag.

  20. I’ve been using the slow cooker once a week — on our busiest day when we are out of the house almost all day.

    Some of my favorites to do are:

    Chicken Adobo (chicken, soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaves, garlic and black pepper). I cook rice in the morning on the stove while we’re eating breakfast and then saute a veggie when we get home in the late afternoon.

    Pot Roast (pork shoulder, broth; add potatoes, carrots the last hour). Then I use the left-over pork the next night for tacos.

    Chili (variety of beans and veggies).

    Paprika Chicken (chicken, onions, paprika, broth). At the end, I add potatoes and carrots and serve with sour cream.

    I always searching for more recipes… and I’m hoping to try out more veggie soups this fall.

    Thanks to everyone for the great ideas!

    Stacy (mama-om)’s last blog post…Things you can say to a reasonable and friendly grown-up…

  21. SafeKitchenMommy says:

    According to my slow cooker instructions, it is not safe to defrost meat in the slow cooker. It says to cook ground meat first, because the cooker doesn’t get up to a high enough temperature fast enough to be safe. It says to defrost other kinds of meat before starting for the same reason. I would advise any users to check their book before following the advice given here to defrost your meat in your slow cooker.
    Love my Crockpot!

    • Recently, a state food inspector suprised me when she stated that one of the main reasons for food poisoning is due to crock pot use. She challenged me to watch my family for upset stomachs or diarrhea after eating crock pot cooked food. She admitted she loves her crockpot, but hardly uses it because it just isn’t safe. I haven’t used it since our conversation to test her theory.

  22. I’ve used mine for a while now, and we’ve never gotten sick. I always overccok though =).
    The most delicious yet simple tip:

    ****Place ribs and BBQ sauce in your crockpot. Cook for several hours until done. Yummy!****

    Karisa’s last blog post…Christianity: The Big Picture

  23. I think you have to be careful with any meat-type food you cook, not just with crock pots. If you don’t get your meat done on the grill you could potentially get sick there as well.

    Thanks for pointing it out though, it’s something I did not mention in the article.

  24. Your blog is timely reinforcement about the purpose of blogs and what I aspire to as well. Really good one!
    weber grill recipes

  25. Loved the Salsa sauce tip to keep the Roast moist, it Worked!
    Thanks from the heart for this great article.

    Amanda from Electric knife sharpeners

  26. One of my water pipes flooded the garage. I had to shut off the water at the source to prevent further damage while waiting for the plumber. NO running hot water. I poured a gallon of bottled water into the crockpot. I had hot water to ladle out for hand washings, washing dishes and general cleaning. While there was such an ample amount I also ladled some into hot chocolate. If the plumber doesn’t come tonight, I’ll still have hot water to ladle into another vessel to wash my hair with first thing tomorrow morning. It is also a very inexpensive way to keep the water hot during this time using about 75% less electricity than the stove.

    I love my crockpot. I use it for soups and sauces consistently. One of my favorite meals is to make stuffing the night before layer it in the bottom in the morning, put chicken on top of that and a can of cream of chicken soup mixed with a little white wine and let it go. It is amazing.

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