I used to have a slow cooker, years ago, but realise now that I never fully understood its potential. I have recently bought another one, and use it such a lot. I use it to prepare vegetable and fish stocks, and to cook dried beans that have been previously soaked overnight. It is great for preparing lentils, and chick peas are so tender and delicious that I will never go back to the canned variety.
Red kidney beans contain a toxin called phytohaemagglutinin, that must be destroyed by being soaked overnight, drained, and then boiled in fresh water before being drained again and then added to the slow cooker. Therefore it is very important to prepare the beans before cooking them on low in the slow cooker for about 5 - 6 hours. They are then ready to add to another vegetable dish, or salad.
I have also found that fish tastes absolutely wonderful when cooked in the slow cooker. Just place thick pieces of fish in the crock pot, cover with fish stock (and vegetables) and cook on high for 3 - 4 hours or low for 6 - 7 hours. The fish remains firm, without disintegrating into small shreds, and absorbs the delicious flavour of the stock.
Lentils are a prime candidate for slow cooking, and my recipe for Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup can easily be adapted for the slow cooker. Lentil and Carrot Salad also works really well, as you can prepare the lentils in the slow cooker, cooking them on low for about 3 hours, and when cool, add the other salad ingredients. In this way, the lentils remain firm and provide a delicious contrast to the julienned carrots.
Prepare chickpeas for making Hummus, or my Chickpea, Tuna and Tomato Salad by soaking them overnight, draining them, and then cooking in the slow cooker on low for about 6 hours or high for about 3 hours. Once you have tried this you will never go back to canned chickpeas - they taste so tender and delicious.
When cooking in a slow cooker, very little evaporation occurs, but you need to make sure that the food is covered in liquid. It is almost impossible to burn food, but leaving it to cook too long could result in it becoming tasteless and pulpy.
The basic slow cooker has two temperatures, low and high, and has to be manually switched off. The more advanced models have computerized settings and timing devices, so you can really optimize your cooking requirements and it will all happen when you are not even at home.
The great advantage of the slow cooker is that you can put your food into the cooking container, and forget about it. Timings are not crucial at these low temperatures, and it is a relief to never worry about something burning or boiling dry. You can cook overnight, or prepare food in the morning that is ready for your evening meal. And you never need to watch it.
Go to my recommendations page
for details of a really great slow cooker, the Hamilton Beach with all bels and whistles. I have other kitchen equipment listed there too, which might interest you.