We absolutely love our slow cooker. It lives on the surface from around October all the way through to May and is used for breakfast, lunch and dinner. From Soups and Stews to our favourite make-ahead blueberry French toast breakfast casserole. So to help you with your weekly meal planning I thought it would be a fantastic idea to put together our favourite slow cooker family meals that even yes our fussiest eater enjoys so here you go.
Slow Cooker Family Recipes
If you've got a slow cooker you know how useful it is, but if you are like us then for years and years I only used it to make stews or casseroles in and that was it. But recently, I've been trying all sorts of things.
These are a family favourite meal ideas to cook in your slow cooker and believe me they taste delicious!
Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole
Slow Cooker Sausage Casserole
When asked what to put on the family meal plan this week about once a month the kids beg for our sausage and onion slow cooker casserole. With green peppers and delicious tomato sauce, it's perfect for cold winter days and warms us up from the inside.
Slow Cooker Beef Stew
Another favourite family dinner made in the slow cooker is our beef stew. With carrots a thick gravy sauce I just love the smell of coming home to this cooking away after a day out walking with our dog.
Slow Cooker Lamb Stew
Fancy lamb instead of beef then our Lamb Stew in the slow cooker is ideal. With carrots, potatoes and onions (we've been known to add in leeks and parsnips too if they are in season) this is ideal for Saturday's after spending a day digging in the garden.
Spicy Beef and Broccoli in the Slow Cooker
Looking for the alternative to a stew or casserole and love Thai flavours! Then our Spicy Beef and Broccoli cooked in the slow cooker is perfect. I love how I can make it a little more mild or more spicy depending on who I'm cooking for.
Chicken Enchilada Soup in the Slow Cooker
Another spicy dish this cheesy chicken enchilada soup is a favourite for Mexican night in our house throughout the winter. The kids love dipping in either tortilla chips or some flour tortillas.
Tips for Cooking for the Family Using the Slow Cooker
Whether you are just starting out with your slow cooker or you've been using it for years here's some of the top tips we've discovered for making the best family meals possible.
1. Use Cheapers Cuts of Meat
Like our lamb stew and spicy beef recipes above cheaper cuts of meat are perfect for the slow cooker. As you are cooking for a long time they will soften up and become deliciously tender. It's also great for switching the lamb and beef in the stews for leftover roast meat.
Great cuts are lamb shoulder, beef brisket, chicken thighs and pork shoulder.
2. Prep ahead
We love to prep ahead - in fact where we can we meal prep once a week. This includes cutting up veg and meat cuts for the slow cooker when we have meals on the menu.
I just put the ingredients into a freezable container and thaw it the night before then throw it in (often without browning the meat or cooking the onions) and it's ready to go.
It's really important that everything is thawed and that the meat especially is at room temperature as without it. It will bring down the temperature and your food will take even longer to cook.
3. Reduce the liquid
If you always end up with a thin soup rather than a delicious thick stew it's because you've likely added too much liquid.
One of the ways that you can avoid this is reduce the amount of liquid that you use. The other is for the last hour of cooking switch to high and leave the lid off. This will allow some of the liquid to evaporate.
A good rule of thumb is to halve the amount of liquid if you are using the slow cooker for a meal not designed for it. All of our recipes above have been created for the slow cooker so you have no worries.
4. Stop with the stirring
Unless the recipe calls for it then lifting the lid and stirring is a big no. Recipes designed to be cooked in the slow cooker are intended to be put in for the allotted amount of time and not touched again till something else needs adding or it's ready to be served.
Just leave the lid and food alone. Every time you lift the lid the temperature will decrease inside and your food will take longer to cook.
5. Thicken Sauce
Like tip 3 about reducing the liquid it doesn't always work! So sometimes you need to thicken the sauce. There are 2 ways you can go about it, 1 is to coat your meat with flour and seasoning before you start cooking.
This will thicken the sauce as the meat cooks.
The other method is about 30 minutes before the end of cooking remove a couple of tablespoons of the liquid and mix with corn flour (corn starch) to form a paste then add back in and stir. Finish off with cooking without the lid on so that the sauce thickens inside the dish.
6. Use the right size Slow Cooker
Your slow cooker should be between ½ and ¾s full! If you are a family of 4 there is no reason to have a huge slow cooker unless you love to batch cook and intend to freeze half of your finished meals and defrost warm and serve at a later point.
7. Trim the fat
As the meat cooks the fat will render down and form a thin layer of oil over the top of the stew or casserole. To avoid this and having to skim before serving cut off any large obvious fat pieces from your meat before adding to the slow cooker.
8. Add fresh herbs at the end
Just like it's best to add your fresh herbs to the end of a dish so that the flavours isn't lost the same goes for when using the slow cooker.
Dried herbs can be added early on but that fresh basil or thyme the recipe calls for wait till around 30 minutes before serving and add then.
9. Dairy towards the end
Cheese, milk, cream etc... all need to go in with the fresh herbs towards the end of the cooking. If you don't you're going to end up with curdled mess. So read your recipe carefully and if it's not one for the slow cooker then remember to switch those ingredients to the end so that you get the best tasting meals for your family.
10. Layer Up Right
Everything doesn't cook at the same time in the slow cooker. The things at the bottom as that is where your heating element is are going to get warmer quicker.
So your root vegetables, potatoes and tough meats need to go in first and left there. Then more tender vegetables and meat on top. Finish off by adding in your liquids remembering tip 3 above especially when converting a recipe for cooking in your slow cooker.