Hands off! Let the slow cooker do the cooking.

Cowboy Pot Roast
Slow, gentle cooking makes the Cowboy Pot Roast fork-tender and draws out its meaty flavor. Serve with
| Credit: Photo: Ralph Anderson; Styling: Cari South; Food Styling: Alyssa Porubcan

There's nothing better than coming home from a long day at work or play to find a warm supper waiting for you. With a minimum of prep time, a pot roast made in the slow cooker couldn't be easier. Here are two perfect-for-the-season recipes and a quick rundown of what's new with slow cookers.

Two Slow-Cooked Meals

Menu 1:

Menu 2:

  • Italian Pot Roast
  • green salad or Caesar salad (use a bagged salad kit)
  • buttery garlic bread
  • For dessert: drizzle fresh Red Delicious apple and Bartlett pear slices with a little lemon juice, and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.

What's New in Slow Cookers
Programmability and versatility are the buzzwords when talking about the next generation of slow cookers in stores now. To check out a few, we looked to Rival, the manufacturer who debuted this appliance more than 30 years ago.

Catching everyone's eye here at the office was the VersaWare slow cooker ($49.99-$59.99) featuring an extreme temperature stoneware insert. You can brown food--meat for spaghetti, roast, etc. --right in the insert on your cooktop; the insert will go in the oven too. After any prep work is done, place the stoneware insert into the slow cooker base for traditional slow cooking. You can also prep a recipe and hold it in the insert in the fridge; just pop it into the slow cooker before you leave for the day.

The first-ever programmable slow cooker, Rival's Smart-Pot ($39.99-$49.99) was introduced just a few years ago. Just push the touch pad to scroll through the timed cooking options. Select the 4- or 6-hour cook times, and the unit automatically cooks on HIGH temperature. To cook on LOW temperature, program the time for 8 or 10 hours. A warm setting comes on at the end of the cook time. Foods may be kept warm for up to 4 hours. This is available in both a 5- and 6-quart size. A 5-quart slow cooker is ideal to feed a family of four, while a 6-quart slow cooker is enough for a family of six.

For the top-of-the-line Rival programmable slow cooker, look to the Recipe Smart-Pot ($39.99-$69.99). You can set the cook time in hour and half-hour increments, and it automatically switches to warm once time's up. It also contains a 200-recipe, categorized database. A simple push of an arrow on the touch pad allows you to scroll through the ingredients and procedure for each dish. If you aren't in the market for recipes, then take a look at their countdown programmable unit--the screen displays the hours and minutes remaining in the cook time. It also will go into a warm mode when cooking finishes. All stoneware inserts in the programmable models are now dishwasher safe too.

There are many more brands and models from a variety of manufacturers hitting the stores. As with any purchase decision, you'll want to do some comparison shopping and a thorough reading of the manufacturer's features and directions before making your selection.

Wine Suggestion:
Cowboy Pot Roast

  • McWilliam's, Shiraz, Australia
  • Columbia Crest, Shiraz, Washington
  • Ravenswood, Vintners Reserve Zinfandel, California
  • Little Penguin, Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia

This article is from the February 2005 issue of Southern Living.