Your guide to slow cooking

Slow cooker recipes

When you’re tired after a long day at work, the last thing you want to do is cook — especially when it's chilly outside. It’s at these times a slow cooker can become an essential part of your winter weeknight routine.

If you aren’t familiar with slow cooking, it may be worth looking into one of these one-pot wonders: all you need to do is prep all your ingredients, add them to the slow cooker and allow simmer for several hours, and let the meal take care of itself. The beauty of using a slow cooker is you can create the most delicious winter warming meals with minimal effort.

Another advantage of using a slow cooker is it can help you save money — they work best with more affordable cuts of meat (like beef brisket, pork shoulder, lamb shoulder and chicken thighs) and use less energy than an oven.

Using a slow cooker

This handy kitchen appliance features a heatproof ceramic pot inserted into a metal outer casing. Low, even heat from the side allows food inside to maintain a gentle simmer for several hours, creating tender, flavoursome dishes such as stews, soups, curries and casseroles.

Most slow cookers have low and high settings. In general, slow cookers are forgiving with cooking times — it’s unlikely that an hour or two over the suggested cooking time will affect the outcome.

For best results, keep the lid on the slow cooker during the cooking process. Lifting the lid will cause steam to escape and the temperature inside the slow cooker will drop. You should also fill your slow cooker no more than three-quarters full so the food cooks evenly.

Below is a handy chart to help you convert your favourite winter warmer recipes from conventional cooking methods to a slow cooker:

Oven or stovetop

Slow cooker (high)

Slow cooker (low)

15 – 30 minutes

1 – 2  hours

4 – 6 hours

30 – 45 minutes

2 – 3 hours

6 – 8 hours

45 minutes – 3 hours

4 – 6 hours

8 – 12 hours 

Slow cookers usually have a “keep warm” setting that keeps your food warm until it’s ready to serve.

Slow cooker recipe ideas

A great weeknight recipe idea is slow cooked beef or pork to serve for dinner and then using the leftovers for your lunch sandwich, salad or wrap the next day.

A slow cooker provides advantages for healthy cooking by combining meats and a generous portion of vegetables with flavourful spices that develop a richer flavour with time.  

Several Total Wellbeing Diet recipes that show off the usefulness of slow cooking (available to members only):

All of these dishes are full of protein and use a range of vegetables that provide a great source of fibre, antioxidants and healthy carbohydrates.

How to make your dishes healthier

  • Cut ingredients into similar sized pieces so they cook evenly. This works well for casseroles and curries where lots of different ingredients are included.
  • Thaw meat, poultry or frozen vegetables before cooking. Placing frozen food straight into the cooker affects cooking time and food safety.
  • Prep ahead. Cut and trim any meat, chop any vegetables and measure out any liquid ingredients the night before so all you have to do is add them into the pot in the next morning.
  • If your recipe is not specifically a slow cooker recipe, you should reduce the liquid that is required as it retains liquid well.
  • Browning ingredients boosts flavour. When you take a few minutes to brown your meat and sauté your veggies before adding them to the cooker, you’re able to get a caramelised and richer flavour.
  • Trim the fat. Take a minute or two to cut the excess fat from the meat to avoid oily, greasy cooking liquid, and the extra kilojoules!
  • Herbs and spices added at the end of simmering can brighten flavours and add a fresh addition to long-cooked recipes. It also means you can forget about pre-packaged or pre-made sauces.

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