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Slow Cooking

All you need to know to make the most of your slow cooker is right here.

For an easy, delicious dinner, look no further than your—countertop! Slow cookers can produce great-tasting meals for on-the-go families and busy professionals.

The best part, though, is that your participation is minimal. No hovering over the stove or monitoring the oven. Once the slow cooker is loaded, just turn it on and walk away for a few hours…it’s that easy! Let your slow cooker do dinner tonight by freeing up your time as well as most of your kitchen—what could be easier?

 

What is Slow Cooking?

Slow cooking is nothing more than the classic technique of braising in which meats or poultry and vegetables are tightly covered and slowly simmered in liquid, either on the stove or in the oven, until deliciously succulent and tender. The only difference between slow cooking and braising is that slow cooking occurs in an appliance made especially for the job—a covered ceramic or stainless steel crock which sits inside an electrical unit that surrounds the crock with gentle heat. Because slow cooking is much more hands-off for the cook than braising, it’s an ideal option for anyone with a busy schedule!

Like braising, slow cooking is especially good for tougher cuts of meat like brisket or pork shoulder where they can simmer until fork-tender. But it’s also perfectly suited for sandwich meats, soups, stews and other all-in-one dishes. And entrées aren’t the only thing that can be prepared in a slow cooker—it’s also great for side dishes and even cakes!

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Buying a Slow Cooker

Seems like everywhere you look these days, you can purchase a slow cooker. The popularity of the appliance has created a wide variety of options with many features to consider depending on your needs. Think about these things when you set out to buy a slow cooker for your kitchen.

  • Slow cookers come in a variety of sizes ranging from about 1½ quarts up to seven quarts or more. For most families, a cooker in the five- to six-quart range works just fine.
  • You definitely want a removable ceramic or stainless steel insert for easy cleaning. It should have sturdy tabbed handles for moving it from the cooker to the table. And while not absolutely necessary, an insert that can be used on the stove or in the oven to brown meats for an added layer of flavor is a nice feature (traditional ceramic-style crocks are not safe for stovetop browning). Check with the manufacturer’s instructions to determine if your insert is capable of stovetop browning.
  • A programmable timer is a nice accessory to have for pre-setting the cooker if you won’t be around to turn it on yourself. Timers also allow you to program the slow cooker so it adjusts to the warm setting after the recipe is done. This way you don’t run the risk of overcooking the dish.
  • Check for a tight-fitting lid. This is critical to the success of recipes as well as an indication of the quality of construction.
  • Most slow cookers have heating elements in the bottom but high-quality models have elements wrapped around in the body as well. Appliances with this feature are usually more expensive than bottom-only elements, but heat surrounding the insert tends to cook the food inside more evenly.
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Slow Cooker Safety

Although slow cookers are known for being easy to use and don’t require advanced technical skills on your part, there are some important things to keep in mind whenever you use yours.

  • Make sure the slow cooker insert is perfectly clean before using.
  • Thaw all ingredients before putting them in the slow cooker. Adding frozen foods (especially meats which are very dense and take a long time to defrost) reduces the temperature inside the slow cooker and exposes foods to unsafe temperatures for longer periods of time.
  • For the best results, don’t fill the crock more than two-thirds full, and resist the temptation to remove the lid frequently during cooking. Each time you take off the cover, the temperature inside the cooker goes down and it can take about 10 minutes for the temperature to return to normal.
  • Never place a hot ceramic insert on a cold countertop or in the refrigerator. Extreme temperature swings may cause the insert to crack or break. For cleaning, allow the ceramic insert to cool, then wash with warm soapy water (or in the dishwasher if manufacturer recommends).
  • When lifting the lid, raise it carefully and away from you. Steam collects in the slow cooker and is very hot when it’s first released. It also condenses on the lid, so take care to make sure the hot water drips back into the slow cooker and not onto your hands and arms.
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Scrumptious Slow Cooker Ideas

Want to go beyond pot roast and broaden your slow cooker horizons? These ideas will get your creative juices flowing.

  • Put a new spin on beef short ribs or pot roast by slow cooking them with onions, carrots, canned tomatoes, chickpeas and Swanson® Beef stock spiced with cinnamon, ground ginger, a touch of cumin and a bit of honey.
  • Make an Asian-style sweet-and-sour dish by simmering chunks of pork shoulder with onion, garlic, ginger, celery, carrots, pineapple juice and soy sauce until the pork is tender. Thicken the sauce with a bit of cornstarch blended with Swanson Chicken stock or broth, then finish with chunks of red bell pepper and a drizzle of sesame oil before serving over steamed rice.
  • Indian-spiced curries are super simple to make in a slow cooker. Start with lamb stew meat (or chicken thighs if lamb isn’t available), onion, garlic and ginger. Add a generous tablespoon or two of curry powder, some canned tomatoes, Swanson Beef or Chicken stock, a touch of apricot jam for sweetness, and simmer until the meat is fork-tender. Stir in a handful of fresh spinach leaves just before serving with cooked rice or toasted pita bread.
  • For your next tailgating or game-day party, simmer bratwurst in dark beer and Swanson Chicken or Beef stock or broth with thinly sliced onion, cubed tart apple, a couple of tablespoons of caraway seeds, a dollop of Dijon mustard and drained sauerkraut. Simmer until the sausages are cooked through, then serve on Pepperidge Farm® buns or rolls. On the sweeter side, don’t overlook using your slow cooker for cakes, bread puddings, and cobblers—they’re ideal for both cooking and keeping your dessert warm.
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Slow Cooker Summer Tips

Put your slow cooker to good use during the hot summer months.  Try Campbell's® Slow Cooker Sauces - then check out the tips below and try one that sparks your taste buds. Your slow cooker may quickly become your new best friend this summer!

For Campbell’s® Tavern Style Pot Roast Slow Cooker Sauce

Slow-Cooked Shredded Pork Tacos with Sriracha Slaw

Slow-cook 3 to 4 lb. boneless country-style pork ribs and 1 pouch sauce in 6-qt. slow cooker on LOW 7 to 8 hr.  Shred pork.  Stir 1 tbsp. sriracha and ¾ cup ranch dressing in medium bowl.  Add 1 pkg. (16 oz.) coleslaw mix (cabbage and carrots) and toss to coat.  Serve pork in flour tortillas topped with coleslaw mixture.

Slow-Cooked Shredded Beef

Slow-cook 3 lb. boneless beef chuck roast, 1 pouch sauce and 1 tbsp. honey in 6-qt. slow cooker on LOW 7 to 8 hr.  Shred beef.  Toss ½ cup sesame ginger salad dressing with 1 pkg. (12 oz.) Asian style chopped salad greens.  Serve beef over hot cooked rice and top with salad mixture.

Italian-Style Slow-Cooked Beef Heroes

Slow-cook 3 to 4 lb. beef brisket, 1 pouch sauce and 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano, drained, in 6-qt. slow cooker on LOW 7 to 8 hr.  Slice beef and serve with sauce on long rolls topped with shredded mozzarella cheese and fresh basil.


For Campbell’s® Apple Bourbon BBQ Slow Cooker Sauce

Slow-Cooked Apple Peach BBQ Pork

Slow-cook 4 to 5 lb. boneless pork shoulder, 1 pouch sauce and ½ cup peach preserves in 6-qt. slow cooker on LOW 7 to 8 hr.  Shred pork.  Serve on hamburger buns.

Slow-Cooked Dry-Rubbed Apple Bourbon Ribs

Rub 3 tbsp. dry smoky barbecue seasoning rub on 3 ½ lb. pork baby back ribs, cut into serving-sized pieces.  Slow-cook ribs with 1 pouch sauce in 6-qt. slow cooker on LOW 7 to 8 hr.


For Campbell’s® Hawaiian Luau Slow Cooker Sauce

Slow-Cooked Hawaiian Meatballs

Stir 1 pkg. (28 oz.) frozen Italian-style cocktail-sized meatballs, 1 pouch sauce and 1 can (8 oz.) crushed pineapple with juice in 6-qt. slow cooker.  Slow-cook on LOW 5 to 6 hr.

Slow-Cooked Caribbean-Style Pork Stew

Slow-cook 4 lb. boneless pork shoulder cut in 1” cubes, ½ cup diced onion, ¼ cup creamy peanut butter and 1 pouch sauce in 6-qt. slow cooker on LOW 6 to 7 hr.  Stir in 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, and zest and juice of 1 lime.  Serve pork mixture over hot cooked rice.

Slow Cooker Hawaiian-Style Chicken Thighs

Slow-cook 3 lb. skinless, boneless chicken thighs, 1 cup sliced red onion, ¼ cup sliced jalapeňo pepper, ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk and 1 pouch sauce in 6-qt. slow cooker on LOW 6 to 7 hr.

Slow Cooker Hawaiian Luau Chicken

Slow-cook 3 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, ½ cup chili sauce, 1 can (8 oz.) crushed pineapple with juice and 1 pouch sauce in 6-qt. slow cooker on LOW 6 to 7 hr.

Slow Cooker Spicy Apple-Bourbon Chicken

Slow-cook 3 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, 2 tbsp. hot pepper sauce and 1 pouch sauce in 6-qt. slow cooker on LOW 6 to 7 hr.


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Beyond Entrées: More Slow Cooker Ideas

A slow cooker isn’t just for dinner anymore! Here are some innovative ways to capitalize on the convenience of your slow cooker for courses other than entrées.

  • Keep appetizers like spinach dip, fondue or queso warm during a party by making or serving them in a slow cooker. Unless you’re planning on a really large number of guests and have a lot of dip, though, it’s best to use a small slow cooker (one- or two-cups max) so the dip doesn’t scorch. And use the lowest setting possible. If you entertain a lot, consider investing in a special slow cooker unit either with separate small or divided crocks made especially for keeping foods at a perfect warming temperature.
  • Consider making side dishes like stuffing in a slow cooker! It’s a simple way to free up valuable oven and stovetop space during busy holiday dinners and gives the cook a chance to concentrate on other parts of the menu. A slow cooker is also great for keeping mashed potatoes warm: simply prepare the potatoes as instructed, then transfer to a slow cooker (coated first with nonstick cooking spray) at the lowest setting. Drizzle a few tablespoons of Swanson® Chicken broth over the top to help keep the potatoes moist while they stand. Before serving, stir in additional broth or milk until smooth and creamy.
  • Have you ever thought to make sauces, like applesauce, compote, or chutney in a slow cooker? You can! Most recipes require nothing more than combining ingredients and simmering for a few hours. It’s a great way to use up seasonal produce, such as apples or pears in the fall.
  • Most people wouldn’t think to prepare dessert in a slow cooker, but cobblers and cakes are a breeze to make and are perfect for warm-weather months when it’s often too hot to turn on the oven to bake.
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