5 Unexpected Ways to Use Your Slow Cooker
If you're a slow cooker convert, you know how useful this little workhorse appliance can be in your cooking practice. From soups to stews to braises of all kinds, a slow cooker is capable of cooking a wide variety of recipes, and the ability to set it up and let it go without having to worry about it is a huge relief. Indeed, nothing feels better at the end of a long workday than coming into the kitchen to a hot, prepared meal at the ready.
We know we don't have to tell you about all of our fabulous slow cooker recipes, but did you know that your slow cooker can do so much more than cook a great pot roast or simmer an excellent pot of chili? We use ours in all sorts of unexpected ways that you might not have thought of, and we can't keep these tips and tricks secret anymore. Here are our top five favorite non-traditional uses for our slow cookers.
RELATED: The 6 Best Slow Cookers to Buy
1. Steamed Desserts
From cheesecake to crème brulée, an old-school British figgy pudding, or a Cuban style flan, your slow cooker can be a godsend for desserts. The gentle, moist environment, no different than using a water bath in your oven, makes for super creamy treats with terrific textures.
2. Overnight Breakfasts
Whether you are feeding a passel of hungry kids or visiting relatives, waking up to a hot breakfast is a wonderful thing. The good news is you don't have to get up early to make it happen. From overnight oatmeal to an eggy strata and breakfast casseroles, it's a great thing to put ingredients in right before bed and wake up to a hot delicious breakfast. Better yet, everyone can serve themselves as they wake up.
3. Melting Ingredients
Melting butter, chocolate, and shortening can go wrong very quickly if you're not babysitting your stove or microwave. With a slow cooker, however, you don't have to worry about scorching ingredients. Put a couple inches of hot water in the bottom of the slow cooker and whatever you want to melt into a sealed glass mason jar. Then pop the lid on and set to high. You'll have everything melted and at your fingertips, no danger of burning. Once melted, you can shift to warm to keep them liquid until you need them.
Flavored oils and butters or simple syrups can be wonderful ingredients. And even better, they're super easy to make in the slow cooker.
Put your ingredients into sealed mason jars, place them in your slow cooker with water to come halfway up the sides of the jars, and set to high. After an hour, turn the heat to low. The longer they go, the more the flavors will infuse, so think two hours for a subtle flavor or up to four for more intensity. Then you can just strain and store.
5. Keeping Things Warm
Consider your slow cooker an alternative warmer when your oven is occupied. Whether you're dealing with a batch of sterilized canning jars that need to keep warm before filling, a pan of rolls out of the oven that you want warm on the dinner table, hot dog buns you want steamy soft, or a sauce or side dish that needs to be kept warm, the slow cooker can be a backup warmer.
Place a damp, clean towel on the bottom of the slow cooker, and stack whatever needs to be kept warm on top. Lay a clean, lint-free tea towel over the top and then seal with the lid, if needed, to prevent condensation dripping on the contents. Set to warm, and the slow cooker will hold things without accidentally overcooking or damaging them.
RELATED: How to Clean a Slow Cooker