If any kitchen tool has been unfairly stereotyped, it’s the slow cooker. Yes, it makes fantastic soup and chili, but it has a vast array of hidden talents. Our food editors spent more than a year exploring dishes that maximize the appliance’s assets (steady, even heat; set-it-and-forget-it dependability) while making up for its well-known limitations (bland flavors, mushiness). The delicious result is "Martha Stewart’s Slow Cooker," which features 110 rich and satisfying recipes, from classic coq au vin to divine desserts. Here’s a sneak peek at six ways to see this countertop wonder in a whole new light.
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It elevates basics...
A genius alternative to roasting, poaching vegetables in a slow cooker frees up your oven for other duties at big meals. Carrots, parsnips, and beets prepared in a spiced oil confit result in a silky, savory main course to serve over grains, or a hearty side for roasted meats.
...and creates otherworldly goods.
Flank steak is a lean, relatively inexpensive cut that’s often grilled or broiled -- or served like sizzling fajitas. But it also develops nicely at a slower pace, which breaks the meat down into tender shreds. Use it in this Cuban take on beef stew, with a spoonful of cumin seeds for spice, and the bonus that you don’t even need to cut the meat into cubes before searing. Stir in briny capers and olives at the end for bright acidity, spoon it over rice, and put some plantain chips on the side for salty-sweet crunch.
It infuses fish with flavor...
If you’ve ever suffered from FOOF (fear of overdone fish), the slow cooker is your new best friend. Because the heat is low, there’s a longer window for checking on fillets. And if you’re an impatient chef who has been known to scorch a sauce, the machine protects you from your worst impulses, since it can only crank the heat so high. Let this fragrant curry slowly bubble for a few hours. The flavors will meld without burning -- and you don’t need to stir it once.
...and sends stews into the stratosphere.
Shoulder is a fantastic cut for the slow cooker -- it melts into supple strands when braised low and slow. If you’ve only prepared pork this way, you need to try lamb. Dried lime and saffron lend this stew a Middle Eastern flavor, as does a garnish of dill and pomegranate seeds. (Just as crucially, a bed of quinoa soaks up the sauce.) Don’t skip the step of browning the aromatics and meat: That 15 or 20 minutes of prep work creates a flavor base and helps the meat maintain texture after hours in the cooker.
It goes vegetarian...
A healthy, hearty ribollita soup -- it means “reboiled” in Italian -- is traditionally prepared on one day, then reheated and eaten the next. With our method, you get same-day deliciousness, along with loads of healthy greens and a new use for stale bread. If that doesn’t entice you to start chopping right now, keep the recipe in your back pocket for when you need a vegetarian main course (vegan, if you skip the Parmigiano-Reggiano at the end).
...and improves upon classic treats.
This breakfast recipe is a game changer, and we don’t use that term lightly. What makes these warm, yeasty buns brilliant? They’re even better prepared in a cooker than in the oven, because the machine seals in moisture and makes them extra-gooey. Just be sure to wrap the lid with a towel to absorb condensation, and note that you’ll want to rotate the insert once to avoid overcooked areas. Finish with a drizzly glaze, and drop the mic.