When the chill sets in and the days get short, all we want after a hard day’s work is a hot meal dished up by a Male Monday. But sometimes these guys just ain’t around when you need ‘em. The next best thing? A slow cooker. Didn’t see that coming did you? Stay with us—we’re totally serious. Though the words “crock pot” never call to mind the sexiest of dinner situations, we’re ready to reframe it as a modern convenience, it’s like a Dutch oven that you can leave unattended all day long. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Get your hands on a shiny new toy: If you didn’t get a hand-me-down crock (or if it’s time for an upgrade), we like Crock-Pot’s Touchdown model ($79.99)—anything good enough for Cook’s Illustrated is good enough for us. And this Cuisinart model looks slick enough to leave out on the counter, sans embarrassment ($99.99).
2. Low ‘N’ Slow: When it comes to slow cooking, the effects are best felt on tough cuts of meat, which are rendered from off-the-bone delicacies. Buy accordingly: this is one place you can save a few bucks on a shoulder or a Chuck roast. Sear the meat before you toss it in for extra texture and flavor. Veggie dishes are good in here as well—just dump everything in and let the heat work its magic.
3. Pick the right recipes: We’re avoiding the ugly brown disasters that gave slow cookers a bad name the 70s and instead hunting out the stunners that look like you spent all day slaving over them.
4. Go unconventional: They’re not just for main dish meats. Yep, turns out you can make everything from bone marrow stock to brioche, even mulled wine without a second thought. Now that’s working smart, not hard.
Got a vintage dish you think we should bring back? *cough* cheese fondue *cough* E-mail us firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com