Slow cookers aren’t just about stew, chili, and keeping meatballs warm till halftime—they’re great for cooking lots of different dishes.

Make pulled pork by pouring a few tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce on a pork shoulder, coating it in a thin layer of brown sugar, and cooking on high for six hours; pull apart with two forks. Or make shredded pork, beef, or chicken for tacos or burritos by pouring a jar of good salsa over the meat (add cumin, oregano, chili powder, beer, or tequila if you want to get fancy) and cooking on low until the meat falls apart and the liquid cooks into a nice sauce.

heatherkay makes her own version of carnitas using a slow cooker: Cook a pork shoulder with a large onion, coriander, cumin seed, oregano, bay leaf, juniper berries, garlic, and a cup or two of water on low until the meat falls apart. To finish, pull it apart and bake uncovered in a roasting pan with its liquid at 450°F until sizzling and brown.

Slow cookers also make fabulously moist faux roast chicken. Rest the chicken, breast side down, on a metal steamer rack or crumpled balls of aluminum foil. Stick some onion quarters or garlic cloves in the cavity, if you like. Cook on low for 6 to 10 hours (depending on the age of your slow cooker) until the meat is fully cooked. Strip the meat off the bones and use or store (freezing in the accumulated juices helps keep the meat extra-moist).

Caramelize some onions to get a head start on soup or add deliciousness to almost any savory dish—pizza, frittata, buttered toast. Simply fill your slow cooker at least halfway with thinly sliced onions; add 4 ounces or more of butter, salt, and pepper; and cook on low, stirring occasionally, until they’ve cooked down a bunch and smell divine. Then remove the lid and turn to high to reduce the liquid. They freeze beautifully, too.

Make a deep-dish lasagne by coating the slow cooker very liberally with vegetable oil spray and layering ingredients in the usual manner. chowser uses no-boil lasagna noodles, soaked briefly in hot water before layering.

Overnight oatmeal is a cinch if you use steel-cut oats. Use a 4-to-1 water-to-oats ratio; add dried fruit if you like. It’ll all be creamy in the morning.

Board Link: Crock pots for something other than stew?

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