Your slow cooker has been holding out on you. It’s capable of more than chili, short ribs, stews and oatmeal, and it wants to be there for you, year-round.
Two recent cookbooks lay out their options differently. For “The Slow Cooker Revolution” (ATK, 2011; $26.95; 200 recipes), the editors of America’s Test Kitchen devoted six months in the kitchen lab to figuring out what it takes to improve common slow-cooker recipes and coming up with ways to adapt long-cooking dishes to slow-cooker ones.
“More Make It Fast, Cook It Slow,” by Stephanie O’Dea (Hyperion, December 2010; $18.99; 338 recipes), keeps a cost-conscious eye on ingredients — although the author draws the line at using condensed soups — and features crowd-sourced recipes that were tested in her home kitchen.
Both offer recipes that prompt head-scratching: Why cook a head of garlic for six hours or take that long to make mashed potatoes, as “Slow Cooker Revolution” directs? Do fish fillets and lemonade benefit from two- and three-hour cooking times, as in “More Make It Fast”? Generally, those foods are done in much less time. The tradeoff is hands-free, low-energy cooking. Both recommend programmable cookers that offer the most flexibility, but you don’t need one to make the most of either book.
I found fewer outside-the-box ideas in O’Dea’s book, and the reviews with every recipe tend to be repetitive in a “yummy” way, but it’s a bonus that her recipes are gluten-free. “Slow Cooker Revolution” has the tips and techniques that add great value.