I’m not exaggerating when I say slow cookers are at the top of my list of favorite things.  As a former busy college student on a budget and as a new nurse with little time to slave over a hot stove, I have found a slow cooker to be a life saver. They’re extremely functional, are super cute (you can find them in a variety of colors and sizes), and take up less space than a toaster oven on the counter.  They can also cook pretty much anything; I’ll give you some tips a little later for adapting pretty much any recipe for slow-cooker cooking. But first, a few recipes to demonstrate the versatility of a slow cooker.

I’m sure you all know that slow cookers are great for dips for parties, but if you’re looking for something a little more creative than the standard Velveeta/Ro-Tel cheese dip, try these jelly meatballs from NSCS’ own Cat Provost:

Grape Jelly Meatballs

2 12 oz jars Heinz chili sauce
1 32 oz jar grape jelly
1 bag meatballs (about 80 in a bag)

Put chili sauce and jelly in a large pot, heat until jelly is melted and sauce is smooth, stirring often. Add frozen meatballs; heat until meatballs are thawed and then simmer for 3 hours.

If you’re looking for something a little more substantial, then try this recipe for stroganoff; I can personally attest to its yumminess.

Slow Cooker Stroganoff

2 lbs chuck roast (cut into 2-3 inch cubes) or 2 lbs of beef stew meat
6 oz uncooked wide egg noodles
4 oz sour cream
16 oz can of cream of mushroom soup (condensed)
8 ozcan of beef broth
Salt and pepper to taste

Add meat cubes, salt and pepper, and uncooked noodles on top of meat. Then add beef broth, a little water, sour cream, and mushroom soup. Cook on medium heat for at least 6 hours.
*(Note: I’ve found that you don’t need to really stir your ingredients; the sour cream, soup, and water, will seep down to cover the meat and noodles)

If you’re not a meat and potatoes (or in the case above, pasta) kind of gal/guy, then this potato soup recipe just might make your day. It takes a little prep, but it’s worth it.

Slow Cooker Potato Soup

8-10 diced potatoes (I like Yukon Gold; they have a buttery flavor)
½ onion, diced
1 8 oz  package of cream cheese
1 can cream of mushroom soup
½ stick of butter
1 tsp garlic powder
Seasoning to taste

In large pot, boil potatoes and onion with enough water to cover potatoes (too much water will equal a thinner soup).  Melt cream cheese, butter, and soup in microwave or slowly on stove top. When melted, place in slow cooker. Add potato water to slow cooker. Cook on low 2-3 hours.  Season after tasting.

If none of the recipes featured here get you excited about slow cookers, then remember that you can adapt nearly any recipe to a slow cooker using the tips below.

  • If your recipe calls for something to “simmer”, put it in your cooker for about 90 minutes on the high setting.  Other conversions (via the instruction booklet from my Crock Pot):
Recipe Calls For Interpret On “Low” Interpret On “High”
15 to 30 min. 4 to 6 hrs. 90 min. to 2 hrs.
35 to 45 min. 6 to 10 hrs. 3 to 4 hrs.
50 min. to 3 hrs. 8 to 18 hrs. 4 to 6 hrs.
  • Put denser vegetables like potatoes and carrots closer to the bottom of the pot; since they’re thicker, they’ll need more heat to cook evenly
  • Put vegetables like peas and corn at the top of your pot in the last hour of cooking to prevent them getting mushy
  • If a recipe calls for rice, add about a quarter cup of extra liquid before adding uncooked rice to your dish during the last hour of cooking
  • If using beans or lentils, consider soaking them the night before to ensure they cook adequately in your slow cooker
  • Usually, the amount of liquids used in a slow cooker recipe can be decreased; slow cookers allow liquid/steam buildup and will generate a good amount of liquid
  • Cheese is best  left until you’re totally  done cooking; they just don’t stand up well in slow cookers
  • Consider buying slow cooker liners – you can find them on the aisle of the grocery store with sandwich bags and make cleaning up a breeze
  • Avoid peeking into your slow cooker as it cooks; each time you open the lid, add 20 minutes to your cook time (I actually never follow this rule; I’m too excited about what’s going on in there to not peek!)

I hope you found the recipes and tips useful; make sure to check out the other sites participating in the Slow Cooker Challenge for other recipes.  And if you’ve been on the fence about buying a slow cooker or have one that you’ve never used, go for it! You won’t be disappointed.

Janna Draine is a Howard University graduate and former NSCS intern currently working as a nurse. She loves television, reading, cooking, all things fitness, and giraffes. You can find her and her musings on Twitter: @thedrainer.