Which kind of slow cooker cook are you: the type whose slow cooker basically lives on the bench and is used multiple times per week? Or the kind whose slow cooker sits in the deepest depths of the cupboard, rarely ever seeing the light of day, except for a week or two of enthusiastic use at the start of winter?
Whether you're the former or the latter, we've got some recipes that'll change the way you use your slow cooker. CHOICE's kitchen expert Fiona Mair shares her favourite tips and hacks to help you put your slow cooker through its paces.
Yep, you heard that right! By wrapping potatoes individually in foil, you can pop them in the slow cooker and come home to delicious jacket potatoes for an easy dinner or after-school snack.
- Wash and dry the potatoes with their skins on, then pierce them with a skewer.
- Coat with a little olive oil and season with salt, then wrap each potato individually in foil and place directly into the slow cooker bowl.
- Cook on the high setting for 5–6 hours, or 8 hours on low, with the lid on.
- At the end of the cooking time, pierce through the foil with a skewer and lift the potato. It should slide out slowly when cooked.
- Serve with butter or sour cream, and top with your choice of toppings, such as bacon and cheese, chilli con carne, bolognese and so on.
Oil infused with herbs can add some beautiful extra flavour to salad dressings, or drizzled over dishes to really make the flavours shine. A bottle of infused oil can also make a lovely gift.
A slow cooker is the perfect appliance for making infused oils because it stays at a constant low temperature, so the oil won't get too hot.
A slow cooker is the perfect appliance for making infused oils because it stays at a constant low temperature
Pop some dried herbs into jars, fill with oil and put the lids back on. Put the jars into the bowl of your slow cooker and add enough water to cover the jars about two-thirds of the way up. Put the lid on your slow cooker and cook on low for 3–4 hours.
Try combinations such as chilli and fennel seed, lemon and thyme, rosemary and garlic – or create your own.
July might be over but that doesn't mean you can't continue celebrating Christmas in July throughout August. A pot of mulled wine (also known by its German name Glühwein, literally 'glow wine') wafting its delicious Christmas-y smell all through the house can transform a regular Sunday night into a celebration.
Yes, you can make it on the stove, but your slow cooker can take care of it while you attend to other things.
"You can plug the slow cooker in anywhere you're entertaining and have warm mulled wine on hand, so guests can serve themselves," Fiona says.
"Plus, it keeps a consistent temperature and looks after itself until you need to top up with another bottle of wine."
Here's Fiona's tried-and-tested mulled wine recipe, plus tips for reheating and even freezing mulled wine.
Hosting an alfresco winter get-together? Help your guests stay warm with slow cooker hot chocolate. You can prepare this before your guests arrive so you're free to mingle.
For adult gatherings, you can mix things up with some liqueur (think hazelnut, coffee or Irish cream), spirits such as rum or bourbon, or spices including nutmeg, cinnamon, star anise, or even a little chilli to liven things up.
And don't forget the marshmallows!
Here's our slow cooker hot chocolate recipe:
- 180g dark chocolate, very finely chopped or chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup heavy cream, optional (add an extra 1 cup of milk if not using cream)
- 6 cups milk (can be full-cream dairy or plant based)
- Marshmallows, optional.
- Using the low setting, put all ingredients except marshmallows into the slow cooker and stir to combine.
- Place the lid on and cook until everything is melted, stirring occasionally, for roughly two hours.
- Once the chocolate has melted and the hot chocolate is heated, switch the slow cooker to the warm setting.
- Add the marshmallows just before serving.
Think making cocktails for parties is too much hard work and mess? This slow cooker cocktail will change your mind!
It's so easy to make – just throw all the ingredients in a few hours before the party and let the slow cooker do its thing.
- 1 litre apple juice
- 1.5 cups cranberry juice
- 1/2 litre spiced rum
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 apples, sliced in thin rounds
- 3 star anise.
- Place all ingredients into the slow cooker and stir to combine.
- Turn slow cooker on low and cook for 3–4 hours.
- Once warmed through, switch the slow cooker to the warm setting.
- Ladle into mugs to serve.
Cooking stock in a slow cooker frees up your cooktop space and lets you cook the stock on a controlled setting.
"This is a great way to use up any vegetables that are looking a little the worse for wear or any leftover roast chicken bones or beef bones from a roast," Fiona says.
"If you're starting from scratch, roast off any meat and bones in the oven. This will give the stock a stronger depth of flavour.
"Keep in mind that any strong flavours such as garlic, ginger and chilli can overpower the flavour of the stock, so use only bland-type flavours unless you have a specific use for the stronger flavours."
- Place bones, vegetables, salt and pepper into the slow cooker bowl and fill with water to the maximal capacity.
- Cook on low setting for no more than 12 hours.
- Strain and discard any bones or vegetables.
- Fill plastic containers and freeze for later use.
- Once frozen, the fat will rise to the top. Before use, scrape off any solidified fat and discard.
"Cooking porridge in a slow cooker can be tricky, as the oats can stick to the bowl," Fiona says.
"It's best to cook the oats on a low setting, but this will take a long time to cook, so it's best to start cooking the night before.
"It will also need stirring a couple of times during the cooking process – stirring is what helps to give porridge that lovely creamy texture. You might also find that a crust forms around the edge of the bowl."
Here's how to make slow cooker porridge oats:
- 3 cups oats (steel-cut or rolled oats, soaked in water for a few hours)
- Pink salt
- Half a litre milk (full-cream or low-fat dairy, or plant based)
- 1 litre boiling water
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Maple syrup or honey.
- Grease the slow cooker bowl thoroughly with butter or oil (this will help stop the porridge sticking to the bowl).
- Combine the oats, salt, milk and water in the slow cooker bowl.
- Cook on low for 8 hours, overnight. Stir a few times during the night if possible.
- Before serving, stir in butter and maple syrup or honey. Add extra hot milk or water to get the consistency you want.
- Serve with accompaniments such as baked fruits, berries, stewed prunes or banana slices.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.