Crock pot beginner needing some guidance
July 21, 2012 1:59 PM   Subscribe

Crock pot noob! I just bought a crock pot and have a few questions about some things I'd like to make, and would like recommendations for good sources for recipes.

I just got a crock pot for the first time and haven't used it yet, and I could use some help with my cluelessness. I have checked some of the other crock pot threads on askme so far, and I think this one has some good ideas I'd like to try.

One of the things I'd like to make is some sort of chicken broth / soup using the leftover carcass of a rotisserie chicken from the store. I love the rotisserie chickens and eat the breasts right away, but I want to make use of the rest of it. Do you know the best way to do this? I am not sure how much water to use, or if I have to take the chicken apart into pieces (it may just fit into my crock pot whole, I haven't tried it yet - crock pot is 4 quart size I think).

I'd also like to do some sort of big beef roast or something, but have never done this before. I think this recipe looks good, but I want to know if there's anything important I should ask / tell the butcher when I get the meat, or something more I need to know? I don't want to make any big expensive mistakes and I'm a bit nervous about the whole crock pot thing.

What are some good crock pot recipe books or sites for a beginner like me? There are so many out there I just find it a bit bewildering and would like to know your favorites. I'd also be grateful for any tips you have for someone who has never used a crock pot before, things to watch out for, etc.

Thanks for any help you can provide.
posted by marble to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 81 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oops forgot additional question about the beef roast - what kind of knife do I need to cut it up? I have only serrated steak knives and a small paring knife, but I know I probably need to buy a Real Knife to cut the roast. I don't know what kind. I would like to get something cheapish rather than super-fancy.
posted by marble at 2:02 PM on July 21, 2012

I don't like, so I'm gonna throw another one out there. It doesn't appear to require a knife of any kind. The kind I remember from my childhood I do remember being sliced, which I'm sure all of your knives can handle. A carving knife is thin like your paring knife probably is, just longer.

For sites, I suggest avoiding, and If Google still allowed me to block sites, I would put those Google-cloggers into it.
posted by rhizome at 2:09 PM on July 21, 2012

Congratulations on your new crock pot! Don't worry too much about making expenisve mistakes, the beauty of the crock pot is that you mostly use cheap cuts of meat.

I love this Year of Slow Cooking website, as well as the slow cooker part of for recipes and tips. has some really terrible recipes, I would not use them if I could help it.

As far as your knife, so much of this is personal preference. I have over $1000 worth of knives in my kitchen and my husband still uses a steak knife for cutting most things.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 2:11 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't cook chicken bones in a crockpot - they crumble away into a horrible grainy mush that's inedible.

The important thing to remember with a crockpot is to seal the meat first in a skillet before it goes into the crockpot. You can prep everything the night before (including sealing the meat), then throw it all in the crockpot in the morning.

A standard recipe that'd suit all kinds of meat is this:

- cut meat into chunks and seal it in a skillet until it's browned.

- into the crockpot put the meat, onions (you can even used dried for this), some kind of root vegetable (carrot, butternut squash, sweet potato, those little waxy potatoes in their skins), stock of choice, herbs & spices of choice (garlic or garlic powder, dried or fresh herbs, a bayleaf or two, salt & pepper) then leave it all to cook.

- when you get home, test the meat with a fork to make sure it's tender, and thicken the sauce (you can use a little powdered mashed potato for this). Add other veggies that don't take too long to cook (frozen peas, sliced zucchini, broccolini, asparagus, etc) and give it another half hour or so until the veg is tender. Or cook the green veggies separately and serve 'em on the side.
posted by essexjan at 2:14 PM on July 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have used the slow cook Allrecipes site and also like it a lot. I also got this book and have found several recipes that are now in standard rotation in our weekly meals.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 2:15 PM on July 21, 2012

Here are all my crockpot links, including a similar question from last year. I've never found a good site for crockpot stuff; this subreddit is as close as I've come to decent source of crockpot recipes.
posted by yerfatma at 2:40 PM on July 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

My comment just got eaten. Here are the bullet points:

Don't worry about searing meat. You probably won't notice the difference. I find that it's not worth it to get a stove-safe pan dirty with slow cooker meals, which are supposed to be dead simple.

Try pork shoulder, which is dirt cheap, like 1.60 a pound at my discount club. That plus a bottle of BBQ sauce will keep you fed for weeks.

Get this Victorinox chef's knife. You'll put more vegetables in your dishes than you would without it. Quartered onions, half potatoes, chunked carrots-- all easier with a decent knife.

If you're not picky, dried soup and dip packets will amp up flavor with a minimum of work.

If you find stewing meat on sale, stock up and freeze it. To go the extra mile, get a small chest freezer.

Don't try to slow-cook chicken breast or seafood. Not worth it.
posted by supercres at 2:43 PM on July 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

Making the chicken broth from the carcass is super easy - but better done in a real pot on the stove! As mentioned above, the crock pot just won't bring things to a boil and break down the bones.

Just use a tall pot, throw in the carcass - and then put in celery, carrots, onions, garlic, various herbs to your liking, salt & pepper. You don't even need to trim or skin the veggies or garlic... just give them all a quick chop and throw 'em in the pot. Then fill up the pot with water till the chicken/veggies are just covered... Simmer for about 4 hours. Then drain and strain and you've got chicken stock! You'll be amazed how much of that carcass 'disappeared'.

I recommend portioning the stock into freezer bags for future use.

We've found great use out of the Williams Sonoma Slow Cooking book, but you really can find a million wonderful recipes online.

Have fun!!!
posted by matty at 3:08 PM on July 21, 2012

My favorite crockpot recipe is:

5-6 chicken breasts or thighs
16oz salsa

Put chicken in crockpot. Dump salsa on top. 7-8hrs low, 4-5hrs high. Awesome in burritos, tacos, etc. So much reward for such a tiny effort!
posted by apparently at 3:35 PM on July 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

Here is my pot roast recipe, which is really a combination of recipes from a couple different places mixed together. It's very simple and almost impossible to mess up.

I have a crockpot beef stew recipe as well, though this may not be the right season for it.

The Crockpot 365 blog is a great resource.
posted by brina at 3:46 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

One of my favorite crockpot recipes is a little like apparently's:

Some chicken thighs (they can still be frozen, even!)
Dump a can of black beans in.
Dump a jar of salsa in.
Dump a can of corn in (frozen corn is fine too).

When the chicken is cooked enough (6ish hours on high or 8ish hours on low) then you take it out and shred it, then add it back to the pot.

Add a block of cream cheese and let it melt all in the crockpot for 30 minutes or so. Give it a stir to make sure it's good and melted.

Excellent as a filling in burritos or tacos, and is delicious just on top of rice as well. Plus it makes a ton of food, and the leftovers are always good.
posted by fancyoats at 3:46 PM on July 21, 2012 [17 favorites]

easy to make the what you want -

So do I understand correctly you eat the breasts off the chickens, but not the dark meat? Ok. If that's correct pick all of the other meat off your chicken. If there is some part of it that just seems like something you would eat as meat, leave it on there or throw it in separately into the pot. Take the sorta picked clean carcass and break it up into a few pieces. Grab an onion, a few carrots, maybe some celery or what ever root veg you want to use - wash them clean, really scrub the outside. You do not need to peel things if you don't want to. Cut the root end off of the onions and the bloom end. hack everything up into big pieces. Do you have some thyme? toss a bundle of that in. Some whole peppercorns and a big pinch of salt (almost half a handful). Fill the slow cooker up til you get just above the highest point of the stuff you've got in there. Plug it and go to bed. In the morning strain your stock and put it in the fridge. When you get home that night you should have some slightly jiggly stock with a layer of hard chicken fat on top. Take a spoon and take that fat off. Put enough stock for your soup in a bowl. Add some finely diced root veg, maybe some greens. Cook those until they are tender. Add in the chicken meat you picked off the bones the day before and just warm the meat up. Serve.

Now here's where you get economies of scale - you'll have some stock left over so the next time you want soup (or risotto, pilaf, or paella, or any of the dishes that need stock) you just grab a container of stock out of the freezer, et voila. And this time since you don't need new stock, once you pick that chicken clean just throw the carcass in a bag and freeze. Collect a few carcasses, and the next time you need stock you are ready to go.

Now that said, I agree stock is better made on the stove. Almost everything is made better on the stove - if evaporation improves and concentrates flavors - stove will be better. Of course home made stock from a slow cooker is still miles better than canned stock.
posted by JPD at 4:06 PM on July 21, 2012

wouldn't eat as meat. not "would eat as meat"
posted by JPD at 4:07 PM on July 21, 2012

I can't speak to meat-based recipes, but this ratatouille recipe was the first thing I ever cooked in a crockpot. It was delicious!

Split pea soup and lentil-mushroom soup are also excellent easy crockpot dishes.
posted by beryllium at 4:35 PM on July 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

The only knife you really need, and really should have, is the 8" or so "Chef Knife". You can find these cheap at Dollar General, Family Dollar, Walmart, and the like, around $5 or less, or a better one. The big knife in this set. The cheapies are good enough to get going. I'm sure a Walmart store has such a knife alone or in an even cheaper set.

(Mine is seven years old and cost $2.88, and it has been fine, but I am no master chef.)
posted by caclwmr4 at 6:17 PM on July 21, 2012

One of my crock pot favorites is baby back ribs, covered in your choice of alcoholic cider (I prefer Strongbow since it's drier than Woodchuck) and BBQ sauce. Cook until they fall of the bone then nom away.

And I second for anything you're cooking. They have tons of stuff and the ratings and comments are usually reliable.
posted by youngergirl44 at 6:19 PM on July 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

My favorite crock pot recipe is:

Brisket of beef. About 3-4 Lbs

A jar of marinara sauce (a good one, not Ragu).

Envelope of Lipton onion soup mix

Baby carrots

Put it all in, cook all day on low. The meat will fall apart. Serve over egg noodles with peas and a salad.

Now you too are a balabusta.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:25 PM on July 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yes, do cook the chicken bones. Here's what I do:
strip the big pieces of meat and put them in the fridge. Put the carcass in the crock pot. Throw in any and all wilty vegetables I have (onion, carrot, celery), a few cloves of garlic, a handful of whole peppercorns, a few cloves, a bay leaf. Then I fill it up with water and run it on low overnight. In the morning, I strain it into quart jars and after it has cooled, put them in the fridge or freezer.

I intentionally do NOT add salt as that should be done when the broth is used.

As for other things, I love doing the beef short ribs recipe from here in a crock pot.

This week, I will be doing pork ribs as well, which means putting on a quick rub, cutting up the rack so it fits in the pot, and covering with sauce and running it on low for the day.
posted by plinth at 7:13 PM on July 21, 2012

I love brisket, and this recipe has served me well.
-Often, I'll save half the juice/sauce and cook something else in it, or use it to make soup.
posted by MansRiot at 7:34 PM on July 21, 2012

Congratulations on your new crockpot! In addition to the links suggested, you might want to check out LiveJournal's What A Crock community which is full of super enthusiastic crockpot owners. There are also some excellent magazines that pop up from time to time, particularly from Better Homes and Gardens. One issue showed how to make master meat recipes that could be frozen or used for meals.

Some things I have found:

- Trim the fat off chicken legs and thighs and skim fat as much as possible before putting in the fridge. I made chicken Jello by accident once (true, it needed to be only heated up, but gross surprise)

- Crockpot meals can overwhelming be brown. Throw in some frozen vegetables to add colour in the last half hour.

- Crockpot lasagna is delish, but don't overcook as it will get mushy

- You can make breakfast in a crockpot! The mini dipper one is perfect for this - fill at night and set a timer to turn on an hour before you get up. Muesli and oatmeal turn out great.

- Lastly, be creative! A crockpot had infinite possibilities :) I have five of them (if the crockpot trio counts as three). I make five different child's and invite friends over :D
posted by Calzephyr at 8:32 PM on July 21, 2012

By the way, don't be nervous. I have yet to have anything turn out wrong in a crockpot - it's pretty forgiving. The worst that can happen is forgetting to turn it on before leaving the house or adding way too much liquid. A crockpot can do wonders for cheap cuts of meat and can sometimes revive slightly freezer burnt meat as well. I have put $22 worth of pork roast in and it came out delicious. You could always try being at home to watch the expensive meat for the first time. Just remember that lifting the lid too much results in heat loss.

It's pretty hard to burn something in a crockpot - it would have to be on for a couple of days to do that :)
posted by Calzephyr at 8:45 PM on July 21, 2012

Get a copy of The Slow Cooker Revolution. I have yet to get a bad result from any of these recipes.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 10:58 PM on July 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

I like the Year Of website linked above, also look for the hashing #slowcooker or #crockpot on Pinterest
posted by radioamy at 11:41 PM on July 21, 2012

Use Reynolds Slow Cooker Liners - it is a like a oven bag that goes in your crockpot, when done you simply discard the liner and no scrubbing the pot!!

Keep the lid on, don't lift it to check your food - you lose valuable cooking time doing this - I can't remember what I read but it was like losing over a hour or something just lifting the lid once.

My favorite recipe for a bottom round beef roast: Combine 1 packet each of ranch dressing , italian dressing and an brown gravy packet with a 1/2 cup of water and pour over roast in a crock pot, cook on low 8 hours.

Favorite cookbook: Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook - Feasting with your Slow Cooker. I recommend getting the spiral bound edition because mine came apart at the seams I use it so much.
posted by sandyp at 8:24 AM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook used to be my favorite (and it's still very good), but Slow Cooker Revolution is amazing. Tons of tips for making slow cooker recipes really work. I'd advise reading the introductory material even if you're using recipes from other sources.
posted by asperity at 8:26 AM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Came in here to suggest (and now nthing) Slow Cooker Revolution. I've made about 6-10 recipes from it and they've all turned out amazing. The recipes are amazing, and they have great tips on slow cooking in general. The #1 best tip I got from the book was to use tomato paste + soy sauce/worcestershire sauce for a real meaty, umami flavor.
posted by matcha action at 8:56 AM on July 22, 2012

Fragrant Moroccan Beef, Date, Prune, Honey Tagine -- this is one of my favorites, and very easy to make (crock pot). Make sure to use the dates and prunes--they give the broth/sauce a nice flavor. Serve with rice or couscous. Also be sure to use the Ras-el-hanout spice mixture. Wonderful combination of savory and sweet.
posted by I'm Brian and so's my wife! at 2:06 PM on July 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

I also recently made this Ropa Viega off the Food Network site (using flank steak)--was really delicious--and so easy!
posted by I'm Brian and so's my wife! at 2:13 PM on July 22, 2012

I made chicken Jello by accident once (true, it needed to be only heated up, but gross surprise)

This is actually a characteristic of good stock.
posted by JPD at 4:25 PM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

The Kyocera ceramic chefs knives are amazing and $45 on amazon. Be careful. They are SHARP. And a bit fragile--no prying, no crushing with the flat side.
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:10 PM on July 27, 2012

An excellent Central American recipe is:

2 Cups Fresh Cilantro
Chicken legs or breasts
1/2 an onion
2 Whole lemons juiced with pulp (no skin or seeds)
1 to 3 cups of rice (depending on size of crock)
Garlic powder
Fill the gaps with Chicken Broth or Chicken Stock

Cook on low until chicken cooked thoroughly.

Enjoy - Kanaan Minks
posted by kanaan_minks at 7:45 PM on August 19, 2012

« Older Can I eat this fruit?   |   How to exit gracefully from an unworkable &... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.