Slow-cooker pulled pork

Photo: Christina Holmes

An Effortless, Smoky, Meaty Classic
This throw-it-all-in-the-pot version of the ultimate potluck dish from the new book, One Pot: 120+ Easy Meals from Your Skillet, Slow Cooker, Stockpot, and More, is great for days when you're just not feeling like brining the meat for 12 hours, and then smoking it for at least another 10. It combines onion, bay leaves, crushed and whole tomatoes and boneless pork shoulder with one magical ingredient: chipotle in adobo sauce. The pepper adds just the right amount of smoky heat, which you can temper with coleslaw and pickles on the side.

Get the recipe: Pulled Pork
Slowcooker short ribs

Photo: Mark Boughton

Tasty Short Ribs Without a Grill
Tender, falling-apart short ribs are hard to beat, but many recipes require a significant amount of attention, either by browning the meat over the stove or cooking it on the grill. This shortcut take from The Southern Slow Cooker Bible: 365 Easy and Delicious Down-Home Recipes has you just place everything—the ribs, wine, tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, parsley and bay leaf—into the cooker and leave it for eight or nine hours. Thick slices of bread are all you need to accompany the dish.

Get the recipe: Wine-Braised Short Ribs
Vegetarian crockpot soup

Photo: Mark Boughton

A Surprisingly Filling Vegetarian Soup
Garbanzo beans are one of the best legumes for slow cookers, since they hold up well through hours of simmering. They're also wonderfully satiating, cheap and a protein-packed alternative to meat. Mixed with garlic, onion, spices, tomatoes and spinach, all of which require no precooking, they make for a warm and hearty meal, as in this recipe from The Southern Slow Cooker Bible (you can add pasta, too, if you'd like).

Get the recipe: Garbanzo Bean and Spinach Soup

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A Southern Go-To with a Modern Update
Dirty rice and hoppin' John are two beloved staples of the South, and while combining them may not be traditional, it yields a tasty and economical dish that doesn't require any more work than microwaving a few ingredients and then pouring them into a slow cooker. In this version, quinoa replaces the rice; for an even heartier meal, add some cooked crumbled or chopped sausage just before serving.

Get the recipe: "Dirty John" Quinoa
Herbed chicken

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An Herbed Chicken You Can Learn by Heart
Here's a chicken dinner that's so simple you can memorize the directions (repeat after us: "Place chicken and all ingredients into a slow cooker and cover with water."). Yes, subsequent steps suggest making dumplings and vegetables to serve on the side, but this chicken is so good, so falling-apart tender, that it's perfect on its own.

Get the recipe: Chicken and Dumplings