REVIEW: Everyone Can Cook Slow Cooker Meals

By Eric Akis

Cookbook review written by
Stay At Home Chef

Everyone Can Cook Slow Cooker Meals is available for purchase through our online store or at local bookstores

The goal of this book is to provide the slow cooker with a much needed makeover, creating recipes that are contemporary and appealing for today’s cooks. Everyone Can Cook Slow Cooker Meals (Whitecap Books $24.95 CAD) is the brainchild of chef-writer Eric Akis, who initially resisted the idea of throwing ingredients into a machine and leaving it alone all day. As a professionally trained chef this concept just seemed so…wrong. But after making beef chili in a slow cooker that his wife brought home, Eric immediately became a fan.

The book includes recipes for meat, poultry and seafood dishes, along with main course soups and vegetarian fare, and a side dish section with suggested dishes to complement each recipe. If you are a slow cooker newbie like me I would highly suggest reading the Slow Cooking 101 section which will provide you with all of the information you need to get started. This even includes what to do with your slow cooker meal in the middle of a power outage! I love the inclusion of Eric’s Options, a sidebar included alongside each recipe that offers suggestions for substituting ingredients or taking the dish to the next level.

Okay. I’m going to be honest and say that I struggled with this book. While I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with Eric Akis (click here to read my interview), overall I was disappointed in the results of the recipe tests. A lack of flavour was a recurring issue for me with almost every dish I tried, and truthfully I expected more.

A lot of thought obviously went into this book, and the addition of a dedicated side dish section is an idea which I appreciate and applaud. I think the recipe selection was contemporary and fresh, steering away from the stodgy slow cooker meals that stereotype this type of cooking method. Visually I like the layout of the book, all of the sidebars and tips organized in a reader friendly way. It holds a very clean, fresh look with appealing photographs that showcases the food beautifully. Bummer about the recipes falling short.

Bottom line? This book has not made me a slow cooker convert. I’m sorry to say that the recipes I tested did not make me a believer. But I have given my copy of the book to a friend who recently received her first slow cooker and is excited to try some more recipes on her own. Hopefully she has more success (I promise to keep you updated).

I would love to hear from any slow cooker fanatics! What are some of your tried and true recipes and tips and tricks? Have you cooked from this particular cookbook and achieved different results? Please comment and turn me into a slow cooker fan…I’m waiting to be converted!

Savoy Cabbage Rolls with Turkey, Onion & Sage

RATING: 3 out of 5 (nice & easy but very bland)

THE TEST: My hubby and I both enjoy cabbage rolls but up until this recipe test neither one of us had ever made them ourselves. I was surprised at how quickly and easily this recipe came together, assuming that cabbage rolls would be much more of a pain to assemble. The blanched leaves were easy to work with and rolled up nicely, making the entire process the complete opposite of the mental nightmare I had in my mind of broken leaves and filling leaking all over the place.

THE RESULTS: Because of the gentle method of cooking in a slow cooker, I think cabbage rolls are well suited to this machine. The texture of the rolls was perfect; the cabbage nice and soft without falling apart or turning into overcooked mush.

That being said, both Mr. Spock and I found the filling to lack any sort of flavour. Because turkey is such a mild tasting meat everything just melded together into one lump of tastelessness. We were very disappointed, especially given the fragrant smells that wafted from the slow cooker during the cooking process.

I like the idea of making cabbage rolls in a slow cooker and will definitely try using ground turkey again in the filling, but without a doubt I will be researching other recipes for suggested flavouring.

Turkey Meatballs in Onion Gravy

RATING: 3 out of 5 (lacked flavour)

THE TEST: Meatballs flavoured with garlic and sage, simmered in a tasty sauce and served over egg noodles. How could I not make this recipe?! The girls shrieked with delight when I told them what was for dinner, and I swear Mr. Spock himself let out a happy little squeal.

Be warned that this recipe has quite a few steps involved, including pre-baking the meatballs in the oven until the meat is completely cooked through. The prep takes time and while I had the entire day set aside for recipe testing I couldn’t help but wonder: what was the point of using a slow cooker? In no way did it save me any time and I could just have easily simmered the meatballs in the sauce on the stovetop.

THE RESULTS: Yet another disappointment in the flavour department. The meatballs were bland and the sauce did nothing to ramp up the taste of this recipe. The onion flavour was overpowering, and because it was raw when added to the slow cooker it didn’t hold that nice ultra-rich caramelized taste that would have been achieved with sautéing the onion beforehand. This simple step would have gone far in opening up the flavour profile of the dish, and could easily have been done while the meatballs were roasting in the oven.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

RATING: 4 out of 5 (pretty gosh darn tasty!)

THE TEST: Eric Akis includes a disclaimer at the beginning of this recipe stating that there is nothing better than pork cooked over a wood-fired barbecue pit, but I couldn’t resist testing this recipe as I’ve got a soft spot for pulled pork sandwiches.

This meal was easy to throw together, despite the fact that the pork shoulder needs to be seared prior to placing it in the slow cooker. But honestly it didn’t take too long and sealing in all of those juices within a nice, seared crust was well worth the effort.

THE RESULTS: I am so glad I decided to test this recipe as it was by far my favourite. It turned out great! I thought the pork tasted wonderful and was very moist. It practically melted in your mouth. And the barbeque sauce achieved a lovely balance between sweet and sour, perfect for pulled pork sandwiches.

I also made the Tangy Six-Vegetable Coleslaw and Crispy Oven Fries, both of which turned out great and paired perfectly with the sandwiches. This meal was a hit in our house, and while there is no disputing the fact that slow cooked pork over a hardwood low and slow barbeque imparts the best overall flavour and texture this is an easy weekday solution that I will definitely be making again.