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.
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:
- Keep your slow cooker on a flat, even surface away from other cables or flammable objects.
- Use the “low” setting rather than high.
- Keep the lid on your slow cooker at all times.
- 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.
What can you cook in a slow cooker?
You might be surprised by just how many meals can be cooked in a slow cooker, from a scrumptious chicken casserole through to classic Italian meatballs.
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.
Slow cooker weekly meal plans
Over the busy winter months, and even during summer, a slow cooker can be your best friend. Popping a meal on at lunch time or in the morning means that when dinner time rolls around, all the work is already done and you’re able to spend more time with your family.
We asked Kathrine Lynch at Busy Happy Kids to put together a few easy weekly meal plans to get you through the month while keeping dinner interesting. Kathrine was able to put together these recipes on just $3.75 per serving, or $15 per meal if you’re feeding four adults, or two adults and three kids.
All of these recipes can be prepared on the weekend and then frozen, so you simply need to defrost the night before and pop the thawed ingredients together in the slow cooker a few hours ahead of dinner.
You’ll find a full shopping list for each weekly meal plan below, just copy it down or print it out and take it with you when you swing by your nearest PAK’nSAVE.
Slow cooker meal plan: Week 1
1. Monday: Slow cooker mince bolognese
This Italian classic isn’t what you typically expect from a slow cooked meal, but it packs loads of comforting, familiar flavour. With very little prep time and affordable ingredients, this is a staple for many Kiwi households made even easier thanks to the crock pot.
Find out how to make mince bolognese in a slow cooker.
2. Tuesday: Curried sausages
Sausages are a great way to feed a crowd on a budget, and this curried sausages recipe helps you keep dinners exciting and new. Because this recipe only uses four ingredients, it’s perfect for cooking on a budget and feeding a lot of hungry mouths.
Learn how to make curried sausages in a slow cooker.
3. Wednesday: Crock pot chicken casserole
Chicken drumsticks are an affordable cut with lots of rich flavour, and the addition of bacon pieces means this casserole is teeming with tasty morsels. This is the ideal recipe for a midweek pick-me-up!
Read more about this scrumptious slow cooked chicken casserole.
4. Thursday: Beef casserole
Use your favourite stewing cut for this tasty beef casserole. The addition of frozen veggies makes this extra simple to put together and easy to customise - just use your favourite mixed bag.
Get the recipe for slow cooked beef casserole.
5. Friday: Beef stew
End the week with a treat. This beef stew brings flavour from every direction and makes sure to warm you from the inside out. Serve it up with your favourite mash, a few slices of bread or in a crispy pie shell.
Add beef stew to your slow cooker recipe book.
|Meat & Seafood|
|2 cups||Frozen Mixed Veges||4|
|Canned and Packaged
|1 jar||Pasta Sauce||1|
|1 can||Creamy chicken soup||3|
|1 can||Whole kernel corn||3|
|1 packet||Mushroom soup mix||3|
|1 packet||Beef bourguignon mix||4|
|1 tsp||Curry powder||2|
|1 Tbsp||Soy sauce||5|
|1 Tbsp||Worcestershire sauce||5|
|2 tsp||Brown sugar||5|
|1 tsp||Mixed herbs||5|
Slow cooker meal plan: Week 2
1. Monday: Lamb casserole
Start the week with something comforting like this slow cooked lamb casserole. After just 5-6 hours, the meat will be wonderfully tender and gently coming away from the bone.
Find out how to make lamb casserole in a crock pot.
2. Tuesday: Sweet and sour pork
This Chinese-inspired sweet and sour pork recipe shows just how much variety you can get in your slow cooker meal plan. The sauce should thicken up nicely in the slow cooker, giving you sticky sweet and sour goodness.
Learn how to make sweet and sour pork in a slow cooker.
3. Wednesday: Chicken teriyaki
From China to Japan, your Wednesday night should get you pumped for the rest of the week. This slow cooked chicken recipe is sweet, tangy and full of flavour. Serve with udon noodles or a warm bowl of rice.
Read more about this slow cooked chicken teriyaki.
4. Thursday: Burrito mince
This tasty Mexican-style burrito mince makes little-to-no effort to prepare and can be used in all sorts of ways. We recommend wrapping it up with veggies and cheese but you can also serve it on top of corn chips for nachos, or layered between wraps for a savoury tortilla stack.
Get the recipe for slow cooked burrito mince.
Settle into a warm bowl of creamy mushroom and beef stroganoff and kick up your feet on Friday night. Stir in a bit of sour cream just before serving to add richness and creaminess to the stroganoff sauce.
Add beef stroganoff to your slow cooker recipe book.
|2 tsp||Fresh Ginger||3|
|Meat & Seafood|
|6||Lamb Shoulder Chops||1|
|Canned and Packaged|
|1 packet||Slow Cooker Lamb Shanks Mix||1|
|1 can||Whole kernel corn||3|
|1 small can||Pineapple pieces||2|
|1 tin||Baby corn||2|
|1/4 cup||Rice Vinegar||3|
|1 packet||Burrito spice mix||4|
|1||Beef stock cube||5|
|3 Tbsp,2 tsp||Brown sugar||2,3|
|3 Tbsp, 1/4 cup||Soy Sauce||2,3|
Slow cooker meal plan: Week 3
1. Monday: Meatballs
Who’d have thought you could even make meatballs in the slow cooker? After rolling your meatballs, place them in a snaplock bag with the sauce ingredients and freeze until you’re ready to cook.
2. Tuesday: Honey garlic chicken
Using bone-in thighs for this sticky, sweet and savoury chicken recipe means you get succulent pieces of chicken even after four or five hours of cooking. The meat should fall off the bone and pick up all of that delicious sauce on the way to your mouth.
Learn how to make honey garlic chicken thighs in a slow cooker.
3. Wednesday: Italian sausages
Use your favourite type of sausages to make this delicious Italian-inspired sausage casserole. If you prefer, skip the frozen vegetables and instead steam some fresh veggies to plate up just before dinner.
Read more about these slow cooked Italian sausages.
4. Thursday: Sweet chilli chicken
With just a little bit of heat and loads of sweet, gooey flavour, these sweet chilli chicken drumsticks will have everyone coming back for seconds. With capsicum, carrots and baby corn, there’s plenty of veggies to help you hit your 5+ A Day.
Get the recipe for crock pot sweet chilli chicken drumsticks.
5. Friday: Black bean beef
There’s no mistaking the salty, sweet and funky flavour of Chinese black bean sauce. Celebrate the start of the weekend with this unbeatable slow cooker recipe for black bean beef - it’s almost too easy.
Add black bean beef to your slow cooker recipe book.
|2 cups||Green beans||2|
|Meat & Seafood|
|4||Chicken thighs, bone in||2||8|
|2 cups||Frozen mixed veges||3|
|Canned and Packaged|
|1 packet||Onion soup mix||1|
|1 jar||Pasta sauce||1|
|1 packet||Sweet Chilli Stirfry sauce||4|
|1 tin||Baby corn||4|
|1/2 cup||Black bean sauce||5|
|2 tsp||Mixed Herbs||1,2|
|1/2 cp, 2 1/2 Tbsp||Soy sauce||1,2,3,5|
|1 1/2 Tbsp||Worcestershire sauce||1,3|
|1/4 cup, 1/2 Tbsp||Tomato Sauce||1,2|
|1/2 Tbsp||Sweet Chilli Sauce||1|
|3 Tbsp||Brown Sugar||2,3,5|
Slow cooker meal plan: Week 4
1. Monday: Green chicken curry
Thai green curry is spicy, bright and fresh, and so easy to make in the slow cooker. This flavourful curry will help to wake you up and get the blood pumping for the rest of the week.
Find out how to make Thai green chicken curry in a crock pot.
2. Tuesday: Red beef curry
Red curry is a staple in Thai cuisine and often made with chicken - but there’s no reason you can’t use beef. Any cut of stewing beef to lend lots of extra flavour to your curry sauce.
Learn how to make Thai red beef curry in a slow cooker.
3. Wednesday: Vegetarian curry
A vegetarian meal every now and then ensures you’re eating plenty of healthy veggies. Serving this vegetarian red curry up alongside some freshly steamed green beans will have you feeling fit as a fiddle for the rest of the week.
Read more about slow cooking a vegetarian Thai red curry.
4. Thursday: Apricot chicken
Apricot chicken is sticky and sweet, and goes down a treat with the whole family. We’ve managed to get this recipe down to just three ingredients, so if you’re struggling to get past Thursday this will be sure to take some stress off your shoulders.
Get the recipe for crock pot apricot chicken.
5. Friday: Chicken hot pot
At the end of a long week, it’s so comforting to be able to sit down and dig into a warm bowl of chicken, veggies and super tasty broth. This hot pot recipe is easy to make and hard to put down.
Add this chicken hot pot to your slow cooker recipe book.
|6 cups||Green Beans||1,2,3|
|Meat & Seafood|
|4||Chicken thighs, bone in||4|
|Canned and Packaged|
|2 Tbsp||Green curry paste||1|
|3 tins||Coconut cream||1,2,3|
|4 Tbsp||Red curry paste||2,3|
|1 packet||Onion soup mix||4|
|1 can||Apricot halves||4|
|1 can||Creamy chicken soup||5|
|1 packet||Chicken noodle soup mix||5|
|2 1/2 Tbsp||Sugar||1,3|
|1 Tbsp||Brown sugar||2|
|3 Tbsp||Soy sauce||1,2,3|
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.