5 Things You Won't Believe You Can Make With a Slow Cooker
The appliance's low and slow heat may turn out great chili and pulled pork, but there's so much more it can do, from pizza to brownies.
The Richest, Gooiest Chocolate Squares Ever
Most brownies, regardless of mix-ins, are either cakey (read moist crumb, a little fluffy inside) or fudgy (dense and very chocolatly). And if you're a fan of the latter, meet your new favorite way to bake the treat. It starts with an aluminum-foil insert, so the edges don't burn, and a parchment paper bottom, so you can easily lift the finished brownies. The batter is basic (it includes a stick-and-a-half of butter, which helps impart a lava-cake-like consistency); make sure you monitor for doneness, so the squares don't overbake (you want the eggs custard-y).
Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Brownies
Pizza You Thought You Could Only Get in Chicago
Making homemade pizza can be tricky: There's the challenge of stretching the dough into an evenly formed shape that's neither too thick nor too thin, and once you get it in the oven, the pizza can quickly go from undercooked to burnt-to-a-crisp in a minute. Using a slow cooker eliminates both problems and has the added bonus of keeping your kitchen way more comfortable than it might be if you crank the oven up to 500. This indulgent-tasting, deep-dish pizza is a light version of the deep-dish personal pan kind served in restaurants, but with much less oil (just a tablespoon) and no butter.
Get the recipe: Puttanesca Pizza
Photo: Chris Granger/Colin Lacy
A Classic Italian Casserole That Lets You Leave the House While It Cooks
Freshly made lasagna on a weeknight is doable, thanks to this handy recipe. It starts with a quick, stovetop meat sauce; you layer it into the slow cooker with noodles (there's no need to precook them) and cheese. It's a terrific technique that lets you enjoy cheesy baked lasagna, even though you weren't home for the bulk of the cooking time.
Get the recipe: Slow-Cooked Lasagna
Less Messy, Just-as-Tasty Meatballs
If you love meatballs but are put off by frying them entirely on the stove, try cooking them in the slow cooker; it keeps them moist and flavorful, but you won't have to stand over a frying pan of sputtering, hot oil for 20 minutes (you just brown them quickly, and then toss them into the Crock-Pot). You can make these, which come from Katie Farrell's cookbook, Dashing Dish: 100 Simple and Delicious Recipes for Clean Eating
, with ground turkey or beef; they also contain a half-cup of old-fashioned oats, which is a trick gluten-free cooks use to avoid bread crumbs (both ingredients help bind all the other components together).
Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Italian Meatballs
Photo: axelbueckert/iStock/Getty Images Plus
A Traditional, Homey Dessert Made Even Easier
Rice pudding is a simple and comforting dish that doesn't require any special ingredients or techniques. When you introduce a slow cooker into the equation, it becomes even more of a no-brainer, since the rice can cook right in the liquid—there's no need to boil it ahead of time. This recipe is fantastic on its own, but you can tweak it with the addition of different dried fruits and spices.
Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Rice Pudding