The 9 Most Basic Rules for Making Ultra-Easy Slow-Cooker Meals

The 9 Most Basic Rules for Making Ultra-Easy Slow-Cooker Meals

What do you get when you use an old-fashioned slow cooker to whip up healthy, hearty recipes that require one—yes, one—easy step? Cheap, simple, supernutritious meals that practically cook themselves.

One-step meals are less about following a recipe than about knowing a simple set of rules. Read this, get yourself a slow cooker (we like Cuisinart’s 3-in-1 Cook Central Multi Cooker, which also lets you brown meats and sauté or steam vegetables, and has an auto “keep warm” mode so food’s still hot when you get home), then go create your own one-step combos. 

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1. Cheap meat is OK

Tough, inexpensive cuts of meat actually get tender and juicy after cooking for a long time. While lean cuts are better for the stove or grill, any meat will turn out great in a slow cooker.

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2. The slower the better

The longer food cooks, the more intense the flavors become. A veggie-only dish can be cooked on low in as little as four hours; for meat, the larger the animal, the longer it needs to cook. (Oh, and a pro tip: Beans will take as long as beef.)

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3. Fish goes fast

Seafood can cook in two hours or less on high; never cook mussels in a slow cooker for longer than an hour, though.

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4. Some veggies melt

Root and cruciferous vegetables are hearty enough to withstand eight hours on low, but vegetables like tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms will eventually melt and turn into sauce. Leafy greens will wilt if added too soon as well.

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5. Broth turns into soup

A bit of broth or tomato paste boosts a dish’s flavor, but know that it won’t boil down the way it would in a saucepan. In other words, you need only around a half a cup. More liquid (two to three cups) is sometimes needed for beans and grains like rice and quinoa, which absorb water as they cook.

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6. Oil isn’t essential

You don’t need much oil—just two tablespoons will cover the bottom of the pot before cooking.

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7. Thickeners turn soup into stew

For a thicker stew, add a tablespoon of gluten-free flour like almond flour or cornstarch 30 minutes before serving.

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8. Certain ingredients are better as a finishing touch

If a recipe calls for dairy products, leafy greens like spinach, or fresh herbs like mint, basil, or dill, add them near the end of cooking. Add them too early and overcooking will diminish the flavor.

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9. Breakfast is better slow, too

Slow cookers transform oatmeal. Add steel-cut oats, dried fruits, cinnamon, and some milk before bed and wake up to the best hot cereal you’ve ever tasted.

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