Last November my partner bought me a slow cooker while he was in Buffalo with his family for American Thanksgiving. Things got off to a slow start because the unit had a defective timer. It was a $10 door-crasher special so we had a good laugh about it. I looked online at what would best suit my needs and I found the Hamilton Beach IntelliTime™ 6 Quart Slow Cooker.
In January I wrote a post, Why I’m in Love with My Slow Cooker, and explained why I chose that model. The only thing missing in the post were my own recipes. Keep reading for my slow cooker beef stew with parsnips and carrots recipe.
I’ve used the slow cooker to create my own recipes almost weekly since December I’ve had some great success and a few duds. The duds weren’t terrible but they were a way for me to find what you need to do differently with a slow cooker.
Slow Cooker Variables
- Use less water or any other liquid (stock, wine, etc.) that you would for a stew or an oven roast. In fact, you can even cook a roast totally dry! You will still get some juice at the end which comes from the meat and whatever vegetables you added. I was surprised by just how much liquid there was when I made a dry roast recipe. The meat was just as moist and perfectly cooked.
- When adding spices, use less. If you are using dried spices (like thyme, oregano, basil, bay leaves, etc.) you can probably carry over the same measures from a stove-top of oven-based recipe. However, if you are using fresh herbs, go easy! I used too many sprigs of fresh rosemary in one beef stew and it was so strong I could barely eat it! In another recipe I used one small jalapeño pepper, seeds included, and it was far too hot for both of us. Subsequently I’ve removed the seeds and got the flavour without the ‘heat’.
Benefits of Using a Slow Cooker
The slow cooker produces richly flavoured meat because of the slow cooking time and because the pot is covered for the duration (I’ve cooked everything for 12-hours). The meat bastes in it’s own juices as well as any of the liquids and flavourings from spices, herbs, onions, and vegetables.
- The meat comes out tender. Some beef roasts will flake apart. I cooked a pork shoulder that simply came apart with a fork.
- It is so easy and pleasant to put all the ingredients into a single pot, cover it, and forget about it. No stirring, no scraping the bottom of the pot to make sure it’s not sticking.
- Convenience: My preference has been to prepare the slow cooker recipe around 6pm and turn it on at 6:30 or 7pm for 12-hours. When we walk downstairs in the morning the kitchen and living room smell so damn good! I will lift the pot out of the appliance and put it on the stove or a cork hot pad to begin cooling. I’ll lift out the meat and put it on a wire rack on top of the pot to let it cool down before cutting and drip any juice into the vegetables mixture below. After 20 minutes I slice the meat if it’s a roast, or if it’s a stew I’ll ladle it out into several storage containers and put them in the fridge to enjoy later.
- I’m a trained chef so I know how to cook. However, if you’re new to cooking, or feel that you don’t have a lot of time to commit to cooking many meals in bulk at once, try a slow cooker. They cost between $40-$100 and you can always get one on sale. The Hamilton Beach IntelliTime Slow Cooker that I use was originally $100 at Canadian Tire in Toronto, but we got it on sale for $50. It’s probably my favourite kitchen appliance at the moment.