Crock pots give us the best sort of deja vu. Just saying the word in our heads reminds us of 1970s shag carpeting, crocheted afghan throws and macrame plant hangers. Crock pots are homey, and so is the food that we cook in them — they are called comfort foods for a reason. Fast forward to today and your kitchen is more likely to have a slow cooker or if you are lucky an Instapot (combination slow cooker/pressure cooker). The good news is, most of the best crock pot recipes also work for a slow cooker. Because a crock pot is essentially a type of slow cooker, where the dish that sits inside is made of ceramic. Here are 12 crock pot recipes for easy weeknight meals that will work in either a crock pot or a slow cooker.
While crock pots are known to be great for soups and stews, really any dish where you can dump all the ingredients into one pot and let it cook all day will work. Crock pots can be used to cook a surprising array of things, from bread to dips to desserts. Here are 30 surprising slow-cooker recipes, including some desserts.
I find that meats come out a lot tastier when you sear them first, before putting them in the pot. Some will say that this defeats the purpose of one-pot cooking, but in my opinion it’s not that much extra work and the flavor is all the thanks you need. To sear first, just season the meat with salt and pepper, heat up some oil or butter in a skillet until it is piping hot, then brown the meat on all sides on high heat. Browning meat causes what chefs call the Maillard reaction, and it is more about instilling flavor than it is about changing the color. Not to go all sciency, but searing at a high heat rearranges some of the simple sugars and amino acids naturally occurring in the meat and gives the finished dish complex bitter-sweet flavors. Way more flavorful than you get with steamed or boiled meat, which is essentially what you get when you just put the meat in the crock pot with some liquids and other ingredients.
Over at The Kitchn, they are whipping up some crock-pot Boeuf bourguignon, Julia Child–style — and, yes, they are searing the meat first.
If you desire the seared meat flavor but still want the one-pot cooking, the Instapot has a stainless steal pot, which allows for searing before you toss in all the other ingredients, set it and forget it.
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(Photo via The Kitchn)