2013-2014 slow cooker books

I've written about slow cookers before here, but they are so popular and published in such volume that I think it might be worth doing an annual review of the genre each January.

Personally, I love my slow cooker, especially at this time of year.  Although it sits unused for months on end, it comes out with the snow about New Year and stays on the kitchen counter through March, its cheerful red exterior promising easy, savory, fall-apart bliss at dinnertime.  Often, I don't bother with a cookbook - slow cookers are so forgiving - but there are three worth looking at this year.

The Great American Slow Cooker Book is perhaps the most familiar of the lot (small number of ingredients, sear-and-braise, lots of recipes) except for one feature: it's scaled for 3 different sizes of slow cooker.  As it comes to us from veteran cookbook authors Mark Scarbrough and Bruce Weinstein, I'd feel pretty confident the recipes are well-tested and workable.  The second volume of America's Test Kitchen's Slow Cooker Revolution offers simpler recipes than those in the first (which used flavor-boosting techniques and ingredients some found time-intensive). It's nicely produced like the first, with a great many soups and stews using prepared ingredients. I'm not sure I'm ready to sacrifice the deep-flavor miracles that front-end browning guarantees, but some of the innovations (cheesecake! brownies!) look worth a go.

Andy Schloss's Cooking Slow isn't a slow-cooker book, per se -  there's just one chapter on slow cookers - but it's a thought-provoking volume on all the different techniques you can use to slowly coax the maximum flavor out of food. It's worth a look if your cold-weather repertory is feeling a bit stale.

These are only a small selection of what's out there (there's the endless line of Fix-It-and-Forget-It cookbooks as well).  Do you have a favorite standby slow-cooker book?

8 Comments

  • sbh2006  on  1/2/2014 at 8:12 PM

    Yes; Michele Scicolone's three slow cooker books (The French Slow Cooker, The Italian Slow Cooker, and the Mediterranean Slow Cooker, which has a chapter of amazing slow cooker cheesecakes, bread puddings, flan and poached fruit).

  • boardingace  on  1/2/2014 at 11:17 PM

    I don't have a slow-cooker, but they do seem really awesome for work days and for days when it's too hot to turn on the oven but you want something hot for dinner.

  • madamepince  on  1/3/2014 at 6:06 AM

    Slow cookers in winter are lovely -- but they're essential to good summer eating! Even if you're eating cold food, you have to cook it first. And you can bake bread to have with all the great veggies without heating up your kitchen! And Scicolone's slow cooker books are my favorites.

  • Queezle_Sister  on  1/3/2014 at 10:57 AM

    I plan heavy use of my slow cooker to get my family through a kitchen remodel. These look like excellent selections -- now to go check the library's holdings.

  • BethNH  on  1/5/2014 at 3:41 PM

    I'd love to use my slow cooker more but my youngest son swears that he can tell when anything is cooked in it and dislikes the texture of slow cooker food. I do agree that many things taste the same and have a similar texture and I hate to experiment and end up with more foods my family doesn't eat.

  • Queezle_Sister  on  1/5/2014 at 5:11 PM

    Beth - I've never made a FANTASTIC (5-star) slow cooker meal. I wonder why, though, because slow cooking can be a good approach. I wonder if its related to the higher temp of new slow cookers? I recently made a corned beef by cooking it on the "stay warm" setting - following instructions from serious eats.

  • tsusan  on  1/6/2014 at 1:03 PM

    What great comments! About that higher temp - I learned more about that this week while playing with my new toy: a sous-vide temperature controller that plugs into my slow cooker and turns it into a sous-vide machine. (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0088OTON4/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0088OTON4&linkCode=as2&tag=cookbfordinne-20) I don't know about other machines, but on mine the only difference between "High" and "Low" is how fast it gets to the target temperature! I think it stabilizes just below boiling point,so around 210 degrees. My new gadget can force it to stay at any temperature up to 200 degrees, so I think I'm going to just leave it plugged in and dial in lower temps at will.

  • rivergait  on  1/7/2014 at 8:02 PM

    Just found out today that my slow cooker on Low makes a dandy warmer to "de-crystalize" a tall plastic bottle of honey. Took about 6 hours, and the plastic was fully intact. Beat the microwave which the honey producer says not to use.

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