new slow cooker

Delighted to acquire the 7 qt. All Clad slow cooker. In the past I was skeptical of slow cookers, but now realize the need they fit. I love braises and stews. Can you suggest any tips for converting your braises to a slow cooker? I have the model that allows you to brown, steam, cook rice, etc. I'd welcome any slow cooker favorites, too!

Stephanie G


Smaug September 17, 2016
Slow cooker never really worked out for me; the timing always seemed to have me starting dinner at 4 AM, and I really wasn't crazy about the way things cooked. I did go through the America's Test Kitchen book- it seemed like a good resource all in all- better than anything else I saw, anyway, but it did have it's peculiarities. They seemed to go to great lengths to avoid browning things for reasons I didn't really get, using stuff like tomato paste and anchovy paste to "Umamify" things instead it works OK, but why not just brown it? I also had some real reservations about some of the recipes for traditional dishes- I remember that there was a Stroganoff that was a sort of stew, a Feijoada based on Kielbasa, a very peculiar Bolognese (don't remember what they did to that) and some others. On the other hand, lots of tips, and their recipes can usually be depended on to come out.
Susan W. September 17, 2016
It sounds to me like you are speaking of their second book which they simplified because so many people wanted to skip the extra steps and extra pans of browning meats. To be fair, the tricks like tomato paste and anchovies work to substitute for the umami that browning provides.

Many people want dump and go recipes. I really don't use my slow cookers that way. The slow cooker provides lots of time to run errands or other activities, but it doesn't always work for people who are away from their house for 10-12 hours. The original book by them has you brown foods that need to be browned. That's where a slow cooker that has a browning feature comes in handy.
Smaug September 17, 2016
I'm sure you're right about the edition- it was whatever my friend handed me to try. My problem with timing had more to do with being retired when I first tried the thing- it seemed to be easier for me to just put in the hours in the afternoon, but I know a lot of people don't have them.
Stephanie G. September 17, 2016
Thank you Susan. I love have beans and I could easily double the recipes to fill the cooker. Berrybaby, thank you too! I can't wait to get started.
BerryBaby September 17, 2016
I love my slow cooker as well. The one thing most people do, which is NOT necessary is add water when it is isn't necessary. Roasts require no water. The water and fat from the meat will add to the rich flavor, add ing water dilutes the natural flavor. With some recipes, like beef stew or chili, liquid is required but use sparingly. JMO Enjoy! BB
Stephanie G. September 17, 2016
That's great information, Susan. Have you ever tried cooking beans? We eat ALOT of beans but I always understood beans should boil first for ten minutes. Is this an old wives tales???
Susan W. September 17, 2016
Definitely a wives tale. Here are 3 bean recipes that I cook in my slow cooker. I do soak my beans for 24 hours and never use the quick soak method whether I cook them on the stove or in my slow cooker.

Merrill's beans are not written for the slow cooker, but beans take 6-8 hours on high or 10-12 on low.
Susan W. September 17, 2016
I just thought of something else. It's important not to under fill your slow cooker. I use my 4.5 qt for beans. I've never done this, but you can use a smaller dish or pan inside of a slow cooker. I think the rule is the food needs to fill the cooker 1/2-2/3 full. Your manual will tell you.
Susan W. September 16, 2016
I have 3 slow cookers. I know..crazy. They are all my favorites. My 6qt Cuisinart brand also has the browning and steaming feature. It's great for stews, chicken adobo and any other recipe where the flavor is improved with Browning.

Something I would suggest would be to figure out what temperature your slow cooker cooks at on low and high. Fill the insert 2/3 full of water. Let it cook on low for 5 hours and take the temp. Do the same for high. Supposedly, the only difference is that they reach 209f, but high gets there faster. I don't find that to be true. All 3 of my slow cookers cook at different temperatures.

I find that most foods cook better on low. This is especially true for soups and braises. An exception would be bone in, skin on chicken thighs. Just salt and pepper them, place them in the insert, cook on high for 4-5 hours. Mine are almost always ready in 4 hours. Add no liquids. The skin becomes crispy and the meat is juicy and flavorful.

Add dairy and herbs later in the cooking process. Dairy sometimes curdles and herbs poop out with the long cooking.

A great slow cooker cookbook is Slow Cooker Revolution by America's Test Kitchen. It's not a dump and go book, but having a slow cooker that Brown's makes even the fussy recipes a cinch.

You'll get the hang of converting recipes after a while. The Kitchn has some good tips on that.

I could go on and on. :)
Stephanie G. September 16, 2016
Thank you Susan! So helpful. Especially the chicken thigh part. When you cook the thighs on high for 4-5 hours, do you brown first? It seems like you are saying you just place in the insert without browning, correct?
Susan W. September 16, 2016
Stephanie, it's hard to believe, but the fat under the skin melts and the skin crisps up. Just don't add any liquid. Also, don't over cook. Chicken overcooked in a slow cooker tastes like I imagine sawdust would taste. Lovely thought. :)
Susan W. September 16, 2016
Stephanie, I just looked at my notes. The chicken is cooked on low for 6-7 hours. I tried high and they were overdone before the skin was crispy. I hope you didn't run out and plop some thighs in on high. Mine have never taken longer than 6.5 hours and are often ready in 5.5. My slow cookers run hot and I've heard the newer ones often do.
PHIL September 16, 2016
Pulled Pork is great. I don't have the browning feature so I do it separately. Having it all in one is nice. Chili , meatballs. any kind of stew. Tried overnight oatmeal but did not like it.
Samantha W. September 16, 2016
Hi Stephanie! There's a good post coming up next week on this. Stay tuned!
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