By Raechel Conover, Cheapism.com
Crock-Pots and other slow cookers tend to emerge from cupboards around this time of year, pressed into service for creating hearty winter meals. This simple appliance has stayed in style since the 1970s for a couple of reasons. For starters, there are lots of easy slow-cooker recipes. You can toss together a few ingredients, leave them to cook all day, and come back to a home-cooked meal that took mere minutes to put together.
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Another reason slow cookers are still so popular: They're cheap. If you don't already have a hand-me-down, you can find a good cheap slow cooker for cost less than $40. Used ones also pop up frequently at thrift stores, in yard sales, and online. Slow cookers cost very little to operate, as well, and make inexpensive meals that can feed a crowd. The Daily Green points out that the energy cost is minimal and the appliance can transform cheap, bland, minimal foods and less desirable cuts of meat into melt-in-your-mouth meals. The easy slow-cooker recipes and tips below can help you get the most out of your Crock-Pot for very little money.
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Easy Slow-Cooker Tips.
Before you get crockin', here are a few tips to make easy slow-cooker recipes more successful without spending any extra money on fancy ingredients.
- Keep in mind that slow cookers work best when they're half to two-thirds full. To make sure everything cooks correctly, be careful not to over- or under-fill yours.
- Try to cut all the ingredients the same size; that way they'll all cook at about the same rate.
- According to the Food Network, browning meats and sautéing vegetables before placing them in a slow cooker helps bring out their flavors (but, of course, takes more time).
- Slow cooker meals rarely need stirring -- on the contrary: Opening the lid adds 15 to 20 minutes to the cooking time each time you peek.
- A slow cooker allows very little liquid to escape, often leaving you with more than you might want. Try taking off the lid for the last half hour of cooking.
- To make a faster meal in a slow cooker, use the high setting and cook for roughly half the time you would cook a recipe on low.
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Easy Slow-Cooker Recipes.
- Sweet chicken: Mix two pounds of chicken breasts, one can of pineapple juice, half a cup of brown sugar, and a third of a cup of soy sauce in the crock pot. Cook for six to eight hours on low. Shred the chicken breasts and serve over steamed rice.
- Chili beef: Brown one pound of ground beef. Add it to the slow cooker with one diced onion, one chopped green pepper, one chopped yellow pepper, two cans of chili beans, one can of tomato sauce, one can of diced tomatoes, and a packet of chili seasoning. Cook six to eight hours on low. Serve with crackers and shredded cheese.
- Pork chops (via CrockinGirls): Place four bone-in pork chops in the slow cooker. In a bowl, mix one can of cream of chicken soup, one package of onion soup mix, one package of dry pork gravy mix, and one-and-a-half cups of chicken broth. Pour the mixture over the pork chops in the crock pot. Cook on low for six to eight hours and serve over egg noodles or mashed potatoes.
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