The slow cooker has come a long way from its days as a ceramic vessel for grape jelly meatballs or gelatinous stew recipes involving multiple canned goods. While yes, some home cooks have opted to kick their Crock-Pots to the curb in favor of higher-tech gadgets like the Instant Pot, many of us still have a permanent place for them on our kitchen counters. (Only these days, you're more likely to come upon recipes for slow cooker pork vindaloo or boeuf bourguignon than anything involving dry soup mix or a bottle of ranch dressing.)
But it's not just busy, working home cooks firing up their slow cookers to get dinner on the table for their families. From James Beard Award-winning chefs to famous food bloggers to musicians, celebrities are dusting off their slow cookers and offering fans their takes on crocking classics.
The Celebrity Slow Cooker Cookbook Boom
In 2017, both homemaking mogul Martha Stewart and James Beard Award-winning chef Hugh Acheson published slow cooker cookbooks, while Ree Drummond (aka Pioneer Woman) released her own line of slow cookers for Walmart. Giada de Laurentiis, country musician Trisha Yearwood, and the Barefoot Contessa are all outspoken slow cooker fans, too. Stars: they're just like us!
Acheson's cookbook,The Chef and the Slow Cooker, seeks to breathe new life into "convenience cooking" with 100 fancy, but not inaccessible, upgrades. "I love that [slow-cooking] is a way to cook from scratch, while not intruding on your day-to-day routine too much," says Acheson. "I also love how cooking with a slow cooker is really a gateway into cooking from scratch, if that's your first foray into cooking at home … and there's something nice about using an appliance that's been around for a while, but has often been relegated to live in the garage or attic."
Acheson, whose book includes recipes for dishes like osso buco and duck confit, adds that he appreciates the wide spectrum of recipes one can make in these versatile appliances, but especially likes to use them for long, slow braises and stocks that benefit from patiently, deliberately building in flavor. (He also says that, on the less traditional end of the spectrum, slow cookers are excellent for poaching fish.) "Now more than ever, Americans want to cook at home in different ways, and nourish themselves and their friends," says Acheson, "and with the slow cooker being utilized again like we are seeing, recipes are getting a bit of an update to reflect how American palates and tastes have changed."
It's worth noting that, while these modernized takes on slow cooker recipes are certainly intriguing, there's something to be said for the classics that defined home-cooking for a generation of American families, too. Ree Drummond has professed her love for recipes that include old staples like cream of celery soup and even — gasp! — Velveeta. Her reasoning? Well, there's no sense in turning one's nose up at an ingredient that really, honestly does make a dish creamier and richer with little-to-no effort. These classics are called "comfort food" for a reason, you know.
"With the slow cooker making a comeback of sorts, I think we'll see more people dusting off the old Crock-Pot and taking a stab at a new recipe, beyond the usual pot roast," says Acheson. And that's the beauty of slow cooker cuisine: Whether you want to replicate the exact Betty Crocker beef stroganoff recipe your mother served every Sunday night or you're hoping to try your hand at something more along the lines of Acheson's halibut poached in sherry broth, both approaches offer the same benefits that made the slow cooker so beloved and reliable in the first place: easy, home-cooked meals that are actually accessible and doable for real life.