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Slow cooking tips

Slow cooking is an easy and affordable way to cook for the family using cheaper cuts of meat like lamb shoulder, stewing beef, sausages or chicken drumsticks. 

Slow cookers make your favourite warming meals like casseroles and stews all the more easy. Not only is slow cooking a super easy way to create delicious, low and slow meals that are packed full of flavour and nutrition, it’s also a great way to get more for your money.

What can I cook in a slow cooker?

There are many different cuts of meat that you can use and all the meat at PAK'nSAVE is butchered in store so there's a wide variety to choose from. These cuts do great in the slow cooker: 

  • Beef Shin
  • Gravy Beef
  • Beef Rump
  • Lamb 
  • Pork 
  • Chicken Legs 
  • Using less expensive cuts of red meat in casseroles can be beneficial as it is a really good source of iron without the expense of using the pricier cuts. 

    What vegetables can I use?

    As well as the variety of meats you can use there is also a variety of vegetables. Claire Turnbull uses seasonal vegetables, so that is anything that's cheap. You can also use up any vegetables you might have in your fridge that are getting a little past it. Any odds and ends you can pop in will help you reduce your food waste. This is an excellent way to save yourself money. 

    Slow cooked chicken

    There are all sorts of delicious chicken meals you can put together with a little help from your crock pot. Kiwi favourites like butter chicken and even a whole roast can be served straight from the slow cooker.

    When cooking chicken in the crock pot, opt for bone-in cuts with lots of tasty dark meat like thighs and drumsticks. Because the bone conducts heat, these cuts will cook evenly and remain juicy even when they’re falling from the bone. Dark meat also holds more flavour and retains moisture well, so pieces can be cooked for 4-6 hours on low. Pieces like these are perfect for slow cooker casseroles or curries, but what if you want to cook a whole chicken? Elevate your chicken from the bottom of the slow cooker insert using a rack or tin foil, then cook with your favourite herbs and spices for 3-4 hours on high.

    Leaner cuts like chicken breast are best left for a frying pan or the oven, as they can easily dry out in a slow cooker. If slow cooking chicken breast, only cook for 2-3 hours on low.

    How long can you cook chicken in a slow cooker?

    • Cook bone-in chicken pieces like whole legs, thighs or drumsticks for 4-6 hours on low.
    • Roast a whole chicken for 3-4 hours on high.
    • Cook leaner cuts like breast for 2-3 hours on low.

    Looking for more ways to cook chicken? Browse our range of affordable, easy chicken recipes.

    Slow cooked beef

    We love our beef here in Aotearoa, so it’s no surprise a good stew goes down a treat with the whole family. From a traditional pub stew with lots of gravy, chunky vegetables and fall-apart pieces of beef, through to rich creamy beef stroganoff, a slow cooker really makes affordable cuts of beef shine. Some of the best cuts for the slow cooker are fatty or tough beef cuts such as brisket, chuck or blade steak, beef cheeks, or bone-in oxtail pieces. You can even roast a whole beef joint!

    All of these cuts are on the cheaper side because they need a long time to cook, but that’s perfect for a slow cooker meal. Over time, the tough tissue of these cuts breaks down and you end up with flavourful, tender pieces of red meat. Pay attention to the cuts you’re buying in the supermarket and avoid using any that are more suited to fast, high heat cooking like rump, sirloin or eye fillet steaks.

    How long can you cook beef in a slow cooker?

    Using appropriate cuts, beef can be kept in the slow cooker for a good length of time.

    • Smaller pieces of beef such as diced gravy beef, chuck or blade steak can be cooked for 6-8 hours in the slow cooker on low.
    • Whole joints such as a bolar roast or brisket will need at least 8 hours on low.

    Slow cooked pork

    Like beef, pork is right at home in a crock pot. One of the best things you can do with pork in a slow cooker is making a big batch of pulled pork from a whole shoulder or leg roast. Slow cooked with tomatoes, chillies and spices, pulled pork can be used for a range of lunches throughout the week such as tacos, nachos, sandwiches, pizzas, salads or loaded fries!

    Or cut up pieces of pork and slow cook for a reduced length of time for a tasty Chinese-style sweet and sour pork.

    Of course, you can also use a slow cooker to roast a pork joint and render out lots of fat, so in the end you get a juicy roast that’s not too fatty. 

    How long can you cook pork in a slow cooker?
    • For pulled pork, cook large pork joints for 8-10 hours on low.
    • If you’re after an easily sliced pork roast, reduce that time to 6-8 hours on low.
    • Smaller pork pieces should cook for 5-6 hours on low.

    Slow cooked lamb

    Whether it’s a lamb casserole or a tender falling-off-the-bone shanks, lamb cuts love a low, slow roast in the slow cooker.

    Just about every classic Kiwi lamb recipe can be even easier with a slow cooker. Whole pieces of lamb can be roasted and then sliced or shredded to feed a crowd, while smaller cuts are perfect for stewing. Slow cooked, frenched lamb shanks are an easy way to impress with very little effort - or try adding lamb to your favourite curry for loads of deep flavour.

    Lamb shoulder is a popular, more affordable alternative to leg and works marvelously in the slow cooker due to having a bit more fat on it. That said, most cuts of lamb are suitable for slow cooking, though you may need to reduce your cooking time for leaner options.

    How long can you cook lamb in a slow cooker?
    • Lamb shanks should be cooked on low for 6 hours to allow the meat to get nice and tender.
    • For a roast leg of lamb, use a high setting for just 4 hours.
    • Lamb shoulder can go for 5 hours on high or 8 on low, which will give you nice shreddable meat.
    • For smaller pieces, 5-6 hours should be plenty to achieve tender, flavourful meat.


    The benefits of slow cooker recipes

    Here are just a few things we love about slow cookers:

    • Because a much smaller area than an entire oven is being heated, a slow cooker uses less electricity and doesn’t heat up the kitchen. Not only does this cut costs from your power bill, it means you can stay cooler in the summer months.
    • Many slow cooker recipes are only a few steps long, minimising preparation time.
    • With less preparation time, you can easily prepare and freeze slow cooker meals in advance to cook throughout the week.
    • After a busy day, coming home to a meal in the slow cooker takes some stress off you and removes the temptation for some cheeky takeout.
    • The low, slow cooking method breaks down cheaper, tougher cuts of meats so you can save on your weekly meat shop.
    • There’s a huge variety of food that can be cooked in a slow cooker, from stews through to pulled pork, caramelised onions or even a whole roast chicken.

    Slow cooking frequently asked questions

    Can you put raw meat in a slow cooker?

    It’s perfectly safe to put raw meat in a slow cooker. It’s in the name after all - a slow cooker cooks raw meat so it’s safe to eat. The low and slow method also means that heat is gradually applied, allowing it to penetrate the meat without overcooking.

    That said, some people do prefer to sear their meat in a pan before adding it to the slow cooker. This is entirely optional, but can add a bit more flavour to your final product. Searing the meat gives it a golden brown colour and caramelises the natural sugars, helping to bring out more flavour and visual appeal.

    When selecting cuts of meat for your slow cooker meals, always go for tougher and fattier cuts such as chicken thighs or drumsticks, beef chuck or blade, or whole bone-in pork shoulder. The fat in these cuts melts in the slow cooker, keeping the meat juicy.

    Can you leave a slow cooker on while at work?

    Every slow cooker is different, so it’s important to follow the health and safety guidance included in your slow cooker’s instruction manual. To maximise safety when leaving your slow cooker unattended, be sure to follow these tips:

    1. Keep your slow cooker on a flat, even surface away from other cables or flammable objects.
    2. Use the “low” setting rather than high.
    3. Keep the lid on your slow cooker at all times.
    4. Don’t fill your slow cooker more than three-quarters full. As the slow cooker heats, excess liquid could boil over and into the machine. Always ensure the bottom of the slow cooker bowl is clean and dry before use.
    Slow cooking makes weeknights easy

    With a little help from our slow cooker meal plans and your very own crock pot, weeknight dinners can be a breeze. The best part is you can make fantastic savings buying more affordable cuts of meat and in-season hearty vegetables when shopping at your nearest PAK’nSAVE.