I know how difficult it can be to get meals on the table at a reasonable time when you work. If you’re like I was, you might not even get home before your family eats. So how do you make a healthy, nourishing meal ready to go by dinner time? That’s why quick crockpot meals are an absolutely essential tool to have in your arsenal. I use mine every week, sometimes more than once. When I don’t know what to cook, I know my slow cooker friend will help! So pull out that crockpot that has been sitting in the back of your cupboard since your wedding, dust it off and let’s go!
(This post contains some affiliate links, but all opinions are mine.)
Tips for quick crockpot meals
- Any large chunk of meat will be cooked to perfection in the crockpot (see #4 for the exception). If you don’t know what to do with it, put it in the crockpot. I have tried literally every large cut of meat (after buying a whole hog and half a beef) and it all works. I will say that really tough cuts like chuck roast and pork shoulder are best with an extra long time like 18 hours or more on low (yes 18; trust me, I know my meat).
- The ingredients don’t even have to be defrosted first. I have thrown in a whole frozen chicken, sprinkled it with salt and pepper and called it good- and it was good and made me look like a genius. The same goes for the veggies. Layer frozen veggies on the bottom with the meat on top.
- Size really does matter and larger is better. Sure you can find three and four quart crockpots, but why not use a bigger six to seven quart one? It doesn’t take any more time, and if you can’t eat all of the leftovers, you can freeze them for later. I always have some leftover pork or pot roast in the freezer for a future quick meal.
- Don’t use the crockpot for tender cuts like pork tenderloin, filet or steaks. They would just turn into shoe leather, and that would be sad for us meat lovers. Those are best saved for the grill or broiler.
- Don’t limit the slow cooker to just dinner. It’s great for breakfast too! I’ve made overnight oatmeal like this and it smells wonderful in the morning, plus you just scoop it out when you wake up.
- You don’t need much if any liquid for meat. I don’t add any liquid for roasts or a whole chicken, unless it’s a tiny (no more than a tablespoon) amount for flavor (wine, vinegar, etc.). The meat and veggies you use will release its own liquid and the liquid won’t evaporate since the crockpot is sealed. Of course, soups and stews can have more liquid added since they’re supposed to be soupy.
- Season, season, season your meat with at least salt (preferably coarse kosher salt) and pepper. This is the best way to coax the best flavor out of your food. If you’re layering ingredients, season each layer with salt and pepper. Please don’t be afraid of salt, as it truly enhances the natural flavor of food. Here is an article explaining all about salt. And yes, I’m a bit particular about my salt, as I have three different kinds on my counter next to my stovetop (in these adorable bamboo salt boxes) and two more down in my spice rack.
Examples of quick crockpot meals
- Whole chicken– As mentioned above.
- Pork shoulder– My favorite cut to work with, as it is foolproof and completely delicious. Here is my favorite recipe that is heaven in a pot, kalua pig, I kid you not (I’m a poet and I didn’t even know it, ha).
- Chile– I don’t even cook the meat first if I’m in a hurry (gasp!). You won’t get browned meat, but it still turns out tasty, although I wouldn’t use ground beef with more than 10% fat for that. I usually just go without a recipe, but here is a pretty classic one if you need help. I always add extra veggies, because my mission in life is to get my family to eat more veggies.
- Chuck roast– I have tried this one many different ways, from being whole to cut into chunks. It makes a delicious pot roast, as shown here.
- Chicken tacos– Super simple. Take some boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs (a juicier choice and my pick) and plop them into the slow cooker and cover with salsa. Eat with taco shells and whatever toppings you like. Voila, done.
- Short ribs– All I can say is yum, because they become fall off the bone tender and super rich. Here is a simple recipe.
- Here are some quick vegetarian crockpot recipes for those of you who aren’t carnivores (clearly that’s not me).
- Here is a fun variety of slow cooker recipes just to give you an idea of the diversity of this fabulous pot.
If you don’t already have one, here is the crockpot I use. Yes, it’s pricey (but hey it was a gift), but it’s a workhorse, which is important since I use it every week. Plus, I don’t have any problems with it burning anything. Here is a more economical version. This is the crockpot I have been coveting but can’t rationalize the purchase of yet, since I already have a good one. You can actually saute right in the pot, as well as make rice and yogurt! Plus, it’s a safe pressure cooker, so you don’t have to worry about it blowing up. Can you sense my enthusiasm for this pot? You might also want a travel bag to make it easier to transport your slow cooker for potlucks. No one wants to get burnt from food sloshing out of the sides. Also, this crockpot recipe book is a handy reference for just about any recipe you could think of, and it includes useful tips. I still use mine for ideas when I’m not sure what to make.
Hopefully by now I have convinced you to try out that slow cooker if you don’t already use it or to use it more regularly for quick crockpot meals. I promise you it will become your favorite tool in the kitchen, especially when the kids are asking “What’s for dinner mom”!