Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

06 April 2014

Adventures with the slow cooker

There are various topics that will comprehensively divide the Facebook community.  I did it once when I asked, tongue in cheek, if people thought it was OK for one's four year to drink tea.  (Leave no comments on this matter.  Truly, I have heard them all.)  And then there was the comment I put up at the beginning of January.

So, supposing I was going to suggest to my menfolk that they buy me a slow cooker for my birthday, any advice I should give them on brands, types, things to look for?

Thus began two debates running simultaneously over the merits of slow cookers versus a good cast iron pot (with a few people weighing in with pressure cooker comments as well) and also whether or not a slow cooker was actually an acceptable birthday gift. 

Eventually a brave friend gave me this answer.

Meredith I'm not sure if I'm brave enough to wade into this discussion but I love my slow cooker. I always brown everything first and use it endlessly in winter for curries and casseroles and mass quantities of spaghetti sauce. Would recommend one with low, high and keep warm settings and a heavy ceramic dish. Have heard lots negative about the new ones you can brown in - non stick surfaces that easily damage and leach funny taste/chemicals. Good luck and happy New Year! x

And so armed with that advice, off they went and on THE day I unwrapped one of these.

The irony of this post from Deb, appearing a week after my birthday was not lost on me.

So the new slow cooker sat there for a while and eventually I was ready to give it a go.  The first recipe?  Jane's pulled pork.  I sent a quick message to clarify what sort of BBQ sauce one would require.

Do I just use Masterfoods BBQ sauce? I couldn't see a BBQ marinade in Coles today...but it may be that I have whole new section of the supermarket to explore. What do you suggest?

Says Jane,

I'm sure Masterfoods BBQ sauce would be fine, but I've only used a BBQ marinade from the sauces section of the supermarket. I totally think regular BBQ sauce would work - just make sure you use about 375mls of it. The pork will produce lots of liquid throughout the cooking process as all the fat renders off - just let it drip on a wire rack over the slow cooker for a good five minutes before pulling apart and serving.

OK.  I have everything I need to know so off I go to the shop to find the marinade.  I walk up and down the relevant aisles and eventually I stop right in the middle of one and sigh a deep sigh.  The accompanying son asks what's wrong and I tell him I am about to have to go home and write a really silly email to someone because I can't find a bottle of sauce in a supermarket and therefore I am going to expose myself as a complete goose.

And as the word "goose" leaves my lips I see the marinade.

Anyway, to cut short what is turning into an unnecessarily long story, a few days later (because I needed to recover from the stress of the shopping trip before venturing into new recipe and appliance territory) I made the pulled pork.  And in my excitement with the ensuing aromas I invited people over for dinner.  New recipe.  New cooking method.  Throwing caution to the wind.  Outrageous.

And it was lovely.  If for this one dish only, I am sold.

Since then I have tried a beef dish that came in the recipe section of the instruction manual.  It was OK.  A beef casserole of sorts.  Too much thyme. Not really to our tastes.

Then I did a version of beef stroganoff very close to Jane's recipe.  I think Jane's addition of some tomato paste would seal the deal with this recipe.

And I am looking forward to having a go at this lamb dish - the lamb rival for pulled pork I do believe.

Somewhere along the line I worked out that the slow cooker is really just an electric casserole dish.  You can use it on high and it will cook in the equivalent time it takes to do a casserole in the oven.  And I am a convert to browning everything before placing ingredients in a casserole anyway, so this is no different.  The benefit is to be found in the slow cooking function that turns tough, cheap meat into tender deliciousness over a much longer cooking time.  So I am looking forward to trying out some of my tried and tested casserole dishes in the slow cooker and seeing how they go. 

And I have been told this is THE
slow cooker recipe book to own.
What I'm liking, which is new to my limited cooking skills, is the pulled pork/sticky lamb sort of genre.  So here's the call out.  If you have a great slow cooker recipe that isn't a casserole - I can do them - something really amazing and wonderful, can you please share it with me?  You could email me or leave the recipe in the comments section below and as I try them out I will put them in their very own post.  Complete with scores out of ten from my family if you like.  You could opt out of that last bit if you prefer...they are pretty tough judges, this lot.  Anyway, please, please, PLEASE tell me your "go to/it's not a casserole" slow cooker recipe.

And as for gift suitability, this one worked for me.  I like a practical gift although not so practical as to be a lawn mower, iron or vacuum cleaner. There's a fine line.  They landed on the right side of the line with this one.   


Unknown said...

Hi Meredith,

I am very keen to try the pork recipe in my slow cooker after reading your blog post. Always keen to try something new and yummy.

Just a quick question (this is a bit embarrassing!) but do I remove the skin/fat layer before putting in the slow cooker? Also do I then brown the meat?

Thank you

Amellia Grosser

Deb said...

Hmmmmm, I think I could smell that delicious pulled pork as I read your post. I could be talked back into giving it another try... I'll watch this space with much interest!

Meredith said...

Hi Deb,

That's pretty funny. I had a slow cooker a decade ago and I got rid of it. Didn't like the whole boiled meat thing, the recipes tasted all the same, everything you said. But it seems to me that slow cooker recipes (probably thanks to the slow cooking movement) have grown up a bit. So do watch this space. I'm as interested as you are.


Meredith said...

Hi Amelia. Thanks for dropping by to visit.

No need to be embarrassed by your question. Having to ask Jane where to find the marinade in the supermarket was going to be embarrassing. Yours is a very reasonable, not embarrassing question. And I can hardly believe I am about to sound like the slow cooker expert and give you an answer!

Jane's advice was to leave the fat on because it renders off - and to pull the meat out of the slow cooker at the end, place a cake cooling tray over the slow cooker and sit the meat on it for a few minutes while the juices drain.

When I cooked it the fat didn't render off it especially - I'm guess I probably left the skin on too which may have prevented that from happening although I can't really remember now... - but I let it drain anyway. I removed the fat before tearing it up. The good thing about that was that it meant the juices weren't fatty and I was able to pour them over the meat once I had "pulled" it which made it lovely, without having to spoon off the fat first. So I would probably do that again.

I imagine leaving the fat on either gives the opportunity for it to render off or else to protect the meat. Either way it has to mean the meat is going to be kept moist. I don't think I would take the fat off before cooking it.

If I had taken the fat off I wouldn't have thought to brown it - given that pork is a pale meat - but then again browning it would seal it. Browning the lamb makes sense for colour and flavour - although Jane said she didn't bother browning the lamb either.

They would be my thoughts. Do those thoughts make sense? Let me know how you go


Wendy said...

Have you heard about the tea that Japanese people give their 4 y.o.s? Barley tea, it is caffeine-less and commonly served at kindergarten.

Anyway, I'm a slow-cooker convert. If I can avoid browning something before I cook it, I will (less washing up in a non-dishwasher household). You can "roast" chicken in it. Just brush the chicken (whole, or bits) with some soy sauce and garlic and pop it into the slow cooker raw. ( (Enchillada "casserole" is more like lasagne using tortillas rather than lasagne sheets).

I don't know the definition of a casserole, but I don't think this is one: Satay Chicken. Probably the recipe that converted me to slow cookers. (

I also make meatballs, and spaghetti "Sauce" in my slow cooker.

And that's just some. I recommend getting a recipe book, I've got two and continue to find they're wonderful.

Meredith said...

Thanks for the links Wendy. The satay chicken one looks especially good. I can't wait to try it.

Someone also shared a honey garlic chicken recipe with me on facebook (it's on my page under January for this year) which may well find its way onto this blog once I cook it. That recipe said to cook the chicken on low for four to five hours so that may be enough for chicken. Which is probably right because chicken doesn't take that long to cook in a wok/frypan.

Karen said...

We did the pulled pork recipe in our slow cooker a few weeks ago. Very nice indeed. Although the recipe said it was to serve 10 people, our family of 6 managed to polish off almost all of it in one sitting :)

I don't brown stuff before I put it in there. That's the laziness in me...

Meredith said...

Hi Karen. It's been a while. How are you?

Yes, well four adults and two growing boys left only just enough for lunch for me the next day. But I can see how it would stretch OK in a feeding the crowd situation.

But it was delicious.

Wendy said...

Meredith, willing to share others recipes?? I am always on the lookout for more options besides the casserole type in the slow cooker. We have lots of casserole variations, but sometimes they all seem like they are a bit the same! I did do a pot roast once with a bolar roast cut of beef, that was lovely. And be willing to try soups, anything that needs to be pureed after (with a stick mixer) can be done - potato & leek, pumpkin, etc, - perfect to come home and puree after church on Sunday. I will send you my minestrone slow cooker recipe though, it's a winner in our house. Especially with rolls from the bread mixer, yet another appliance!! W x

Sarah said...

I'm all for not browning meat before putting it in the slow cooker - I'm just lazy and don't own a dishwasher. ;)

I can't share my favourite recipe because I cheat with Masterfoods packets. But I did get sent links to oodles of slow cooker recipes a few years back. I'll forward the email to you.

Meredith said...

Hi Wendy and Sarah.
Wendy - I promise to share the goodies as I stumble upon them. It will be a slow process but I promise to share.
Sarah - thanks for that link. Wow. Never seen so many recipes in one place! There is sure to be a good one in there somewhere. Maybe not the stuffed cabbage casserole.
And Wendy in Japan - a casserole is a stew. That is probably the best translation.

Libby said...

Pretty sure this is the lamb shanks recipe I love

Meredith said...

Thanks Libby for the lamb shank recipe. That looks lovely. And thanks too for the pea and ham soup. I am more glad than you know about receiving that recipe - I will reply to that email soon. :-)