Keep the crock: A ridiculously simple discovery about cooking with a pot

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Guest post by Bonnie of A Knotted Life:

Keep the Crock.jpg

I married a man who owned a crockpot.

Because he already owned one we did not include a crockpot on our wedding registry. Two people noticed that glaring oversight and gifted us slow-cookers. On the first day of our marriage we were the proud owners of three crockpots.

That’s a lotta crockpots.

For the first six years of our marriage we used our crockpots a great deal. Pot roasts, Italian beef, pulled pork, chicken tortilla soup, beef stew, chili, and other chicken and soup recipes have all been cooked time and time again in our trusty old crockpot. The meals were easy to make (throw it all in, turn it on, and walk away!) and they tasted good. We were happy and our stomachs were full.

Now, a woman at my moms’ pray and play group at church makes the best soups.

Week after week she makes a huge pot of soup and all of us – the grownups and our kids – will scarf it down, sopping up the last bits of the broth with bread. We rave about how good it is and so she told us what she does:

She uses up whatever meat, lentils, and veggies are laying around, never draining the cans or using a store bought broth, and she always begins by carmelizing chopped onions and minced garlic in some olive oil at the bottom of her stock pot.

The key, she said, is to start with the onions and garlic and to add everything to that.

I wondered about her recipe and my crockpot and how I could make them work together.

I didn’t want to dirty another pan by starting with the olive oil, garlic, and onions on the stove and then transferring them. One of the points of a crockpot is there’s not a lot of dishes. And then I had an epiphany: I could just use a regular pot! On my stove! Like women did for millennia! How about that, Ma Ingalls?!

So I tried it. I got out a great big pot, put some olive oil in the bottom, heated it up, added some minced garlic and chopped onions and cooked them. Then I dumped in half-empty bags frozen vegetables, some water, a couple of un-drained cans of beans and diced tomatoes, and some fresh veggies that were on the border of being not-so-fresh. I added salt, some pepper, and a few other spices to my liking, turned down the heat, and let it cook. It was way easier than I ever thought it would or could be. And it was delicious!

The next week I started the same way but then I added a pot roast, searing it on all sides. Once the outside was browned I added a bit of water, covered it, turned down the flame, and left to pick my daughter up from school. When we got home I added some carrots and a little later some potatoes. When it was all cooked through I took the meat and veggies out and made a gravy with the drippings. That night we ate the best pot roast I’ve ever had.

Ladies! (and gentlemen?) I challenge you to put aside your crockpot and get out your stock pot. Make your soups and stews on your stove, always starting with some olive oil, garlic, and onions. It really is delicious and so much easier than crockpot proponents had led me to believe.


Bonnie Engstrom: Catholic wife and mom of 6; I bake, cook, blog, and ignore the laundry. I’m really good at ignoring the laundry. 

(Be sure to check out Bonnie’s blog, A Knotted Life, and her video series about celebrating the liturgical year!)


A note from Haley: There are some wonderful cookbooks (including mine!) that will be available Wednesday, April 23, along with other resourcing on homemaking–faith, health, self-care, marriage, homeschooling, holidays, finances, work/life balance, etc–in the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle. 78 ebooks in all and tons of printables and free products (worth over $200) and a total value of almost $900 for less than $30 (or 95% off!). It’s ONLY HERE FOR SIX DAYS and then it’s gone forever. So don’t forget to check back at Carrots on Wednesday morning to get your bundle!

I’ll be sharing all the titles Wednesday when the sale goes live and I am so excited to spill all the details! And there’s even a super secret gift I’m offering to all the Carrots readers who purchase through my author link and an amazing giveaway, so stay tuned!

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  1. says

    It just turned cold here in Melbourne & we turned on the central heating for the first time. After a weekend of eating – 18 year old stayed home from the family Easter trip & encountered his first Greek Easter with his best mates family- the rest of the family spent Easter with my Uncle & Aunt in their new holiday cottage on the coast (Port Fairy) and seemed to graze all weekend.
    So I decided we didn’t need a big Easter Monday dinner. What to cook? Soup in the cast iron stock pot fit the bill.
    2 litres of Veggie stock, left over pizza sauce(homemade) a tin of tomatoes, an onion, garlic, 2 carrots, a zucchini, handful of mushroom, paprika, turmeric, mixed herbs, barley & simmered on the stove for 90mins. I also attempted my first corn bread in two decades(since I lived in Toronto), now I have finally found a health food store that has real cornmeal, not polenta. Not perfect, but a good first go.
    I love cooking on the stove top.

  2. says

    Bonnie, I really enjoyed this post! Have a quick question – do you cook on a gas or electric stove? Although I do love simmering soups for a long time on the stove top, I’m really leery about “walking away” from the pot for extended lengths of time, because our electric burners are just not reliable for good, steady heat. So I always stay (relatively) close to the stove for soup. For that reason, crock pots do serve a useful purpose – the slow even heating does relieve you of any type of vigilance for the whole day.

    • Deanne says

      I often bring beans, soups, pot roast, etc., to a simmer on the stove top, then stash in a 300 degree F oven to finish cooking. Less worry about scorching or running out of liquid. I love my big ole dutch oven! The only thing I use our crock pot for is to keep mashed potatoes or gravy warm during a big ole family feast!

  3. says

    Do you ever worry about the open flame when you leave the house? I love cooking on the stove, but have wen concerned about walking away (outside, or to pick up a child from school) when the stove is turned on. Am I just being paranoid?

  4. Elizabeth says

    I always wondered about the obsession with crock pots. They are wonderful if you are going to be gone all day, but I have always preferred the stock pot on the stove if you are going to be home most of the day. That’s how I do my weekly soups too. It’s such a great way to use leftovers. I don’t think I’ve ever made the exact soup/dish twice, but they always taste great.

    I do use our crock pot when we really will be gone most of the day. It’s great for that. But I use only recipes that are crock pot friendly. I don’t typically do a lot of crock pot meals out there, because they frankly taste better and have better texture on the stove or in the oven, and it’s not any harder to do it those ways either. Glad I’m not the only one to make this “discovery” :).

    If you are really worried about a flame, you can turn it off for an hour, while keeping it covered, if you have to run out of the house. It’s actually hard to ruin a lot of these stock pot meals.

  5. Lanae says

    What an appropriately timed post! Just this past week I decided to cook a roast on the stove and in the oven instead of using my crockpot. When I texted a chef friend of mine to ask him a question about the cut of meat he begged me not to use a crockpot. The roast was the best I’ve ever made. So happy to come across this as I have just a bit leftover and was wondering what to make with it. Soup it is!!!

  6. Tori says

    I haven’t reached for my slow cooker in ages. I’ve pretty much used the stove top because I’ve found I like the result sooooo much better. Someone above asked about gas/electric – I cook on an electric stove and it works just fine for me.

    A couple Christmases ago my husband got me a cast iron enameled dutch oven, which can go from the stove top into the oven. It is my favorite pot to cook in now. It does everything. It’s only limitation is it is not as big as a stock pot.

  7. says

    We got five crock pots (or their off brand sisters) for our wedding. So we got to choose what color scheme we wanted! Crockpots are still my best friends, though. I’m the queen of cooking disasters. I save the savory for the husband’s cooking adventures. He’s much better at it.
    I tried making zuccini lasagna once. Um, ew.

  8. Kate says

    I use a haybox (not sure what you would call it in the States but its a cloth “bag” with insulated sides). A friend made it for me. A lot of people in South Africa use them because our electricity often goes off near the surge hour (which coincides with hunger hour) in the evening. I bring the food to the boil on the stove then tie it up in the haybox and away it cooks.

  9. says

    I love this post. I convinced my husband to allow me to get rid of the hand-me-down crock pot we had because quite frankly I was never in love with any of the crockpot recipes I had tried. They all just tasted … meh … and I found that any crockpot recipe I tried always tasted better on the stove. Almost every crockpot recipe I’ve tried works fine on low ‘n’ slow on the stove … and even in the oven!

  10. says

    I start most of my vegetable dishes by heating with a little olive oil:) Normally I don`t eat onion or garlic but this way even these taste good. Still, often I don`t use either and start with heating sliced carrots instead. When carrots have taken on a golden glow, I add other ingredients in the order of time they take to cook. If vegetables are sliced into small chunks it`s done soon and there`s no need to leave it for any length of time, unless using grains that take time. This also works great for risottos.

    When I was living in a house with a wood burning fireplace I would sometimes put everything in a cast iron pot and put it In the fireplace on the ashes after the fire is finished and leave it for hours. These were the best dishes:) I also made bread and pies in the fireplace. This gives a special nuance to taste that spells ultimate comfort.

  11. Diane says

    Question – How long do you carmelize onions and garlic before adding in other items? I googled carmelizing onions and it said from 30-one hour.

    I have such a hard time with this cooking so I love quick, easy, and most importantly, delicious recipes. Thank you!


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