Slow cookers are a boon to the busy, but to get delicious food you need to know their strengths and weaknesses. You can safely leave a slow cooker on, unsupervised, while you’re away or asleep, tcamp notes on Chowhound. And a slow cooker generates less heat in the kitchen than an oven or stove. It’s “always a pleasure” to walk in the door and have dinner ready, honu2 says, or to wake up to steel-cut oats that have simmered overnight.

Moist dishes (soups, stews, braises) are what slow cookers do best. You’ll need to schedule time for prep, such as browning meat and vegetables—most “dump-and-go” recipes don’t yield great food, DuchessNukem says. An efficient way to manage this is to prep everything the night before, then refrigerate the loaded crock overnight so it’s ready for cooking in the morning.

For inspiration, check out CHOW’s gallery of slow cooker recipes.

Discuss: Slow Cooker questions

Photo of CHOW’s Slow Cooker Root Vegetable Stew by Chris Rochelle /

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