Do you ever struggle with trying to get meals ready during the week?
That’s why quick crockpot meals are an absolutely essential tool to have in your arsenal. I use mine every week, sometimes more than once. When I don’t know what to cook, I know my slow cooker friend will help!
So pull out that crockpot that has been sitting in the back of your cupboard since your wedding, dust it off and let’s go!
(This post contains some affiliate links, which means I receive a small compensation when you buy them, but all opinions are mine.)
(Also, I now use my Instant Pot instead of a slow cooker. All of these recipes can be adapted for either tool.)
Tips for quick crockpot meals
- Any large chunk of meat will be cooked to perfection in the crockpot (see #4 for the exception). If you don’t know what to do with it, put it in the crockpot. I have tried literally every large cut of meat (after buying a whole hog and half a beef) and it all works. I will say that really tough cuts like chuck roast and pork shoulder are best with an extra long time like 18 hours or more on low (yes 18). Or you can use an Instant Pot for a quicker cook time.
- The ingredients don’t need to be defrosted first. I have thrown in a whole frozen chicken, sprinkled it with salt and pepper and called it good- and it was good and made me look like a genius. The same goes for the veggies. Layer frozen veggies on the bottom with the meat on top.
- Size really does matter and larger is better. Sure you can find three and four quart crockpots, but why not use a bigger six to seven quart one? It doesn’t take any more time, and if you can’t eat all of the leftovers, you can freeze them for later. I always have some leftover pork or pot roast in the freezer for a future quick meal.
- Don’t use the crockpot for tender cuts like pork tenderloin, filet or steaks. They would just turn into shoe leather, and that’s just sad. Those are best saved for the grill or broiler.
- Don’t limit the slow cooker to just dinner. It’s great for breakfast too! I’ve made overnight oatmeal like this and it smells wonderful in the morning. Plus you just scoop it out when you wake up.
- You don’t need much if any liquid for meat. I don’t add any liquid for roasts or a whole chicken, unless it’s a tiny (no more than a tablespoon) amount for flavor (wine, vinegar, etc.). The meat and veggies you use will release its own liquid and the liquid won’t evaporate since the crockpot is sealed. Of course, soups and stews can have more liquid added since they’re supposed to be soupy. If using an Instant Pot, you’ll usually need 1/2-1 cup of liquid to prevent burning.
- Season, season, season your meat with at least salt (preferably coarse kosher salt) and pepper. This is the only way to coax the best flavor out of your food. If you’re layering ingredients, season each layer with salt and pepper. Please don’t be afraid of salt, as it truly enhances the natural flavor of food. And yes, I’m a bit particular about my salt, as I have three different kinds sitting on my counter next to my stovetop.
Examples of quick crockpot meals
- Whole chicken– As mentioned above.
- Pork shoulder– My favorite cut to work with, as it is foolproof and completely delicious. Here is my favorite recipe that is heaven in a pot, kalua pig, I kid you not (I’m a poet and I didn’t even know it, ha).
- Chile– One of my favorite quick crockpot meals. I don’t even cook the meat first if I’m in a hurry (gasp!). You won’t get browned meat, but it still turns out tasty, although I wouldn’t use ground beef with more than 10% fat for that. I usually just go without a recipe, but here is a pretty classic one if you need help. I always add extra veggies, because my mission in life is to get my family to eat more veggies.
- Chuck roast– I have tried this one many different ways, from being whole to cut into chunks. It makes a delicious pot roast, as shown here.
- Chicken tacos– Super simple. Take some boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs (a juicier choice and my pick) and plop them into the slow cooker and cover with salsa. Eat with taco shells and whatever toppings you like. Voila, done.
- Short ribs– All I can say is yum, because they become fall off the bone tender and super rich. Here is a simple recipe.
- Here are some quick vegetarian crockpot recipes for those of you who aren’t carnivores (clearly that’s not me).
- Here is a fun variety of slow cooker recipes just to give you an idea of the diversity of this fabulous pot.
If you don’t already have one, here is the crockpot I used to use for my quick crockpot meals, before falling in love with my Instant Pot. Yes, it’s pricey, but it’s a workhorse, which is important since I use it every week. Plus, I don’t have any problems with it burning anything. Here is a more economical version.
You might also want a travel bag to make it easier to transport your slow cooker for potlucks. No one wants to get burnt from food sloshing out of the sides. Also, this crockpot recipe book is a handy reference for just about any recipe you could think of, and it includes useful tips. I still use mine for ideas when I’m not sure what to make.
*A note on the Instant Pot. If you’ve been on the fence about buying one for a while, DO IT! The hype is real. I don’t usually push people into buying items, but this is a no brainer that won’t disappoint. You can actually saute right in the pot, as well as make rice and yogurt. Plus, it’s a safe pressure cooker, so you don’t have to worry about it blowing up. And those big chunks of meat I was talking about earlier cook in a fraction of the time, compared with a slow cooker.*
If I haven’t convinced you by now to try out that slow cooker (or Instant Pot) for quick crockpot meals, then nothing will. However, if you’re ready, I promise you it will become your favorite tool in the kitchen, especially when the kids are asking “What’s for dinner mom”!