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I got this book two days ago and have already tried two recipes,the Garlicky Poached Shrimp and the Fudgie Brownie Wedges. Both recipes were amazing and highlight the fact that this cookbook has much more than the typical set-and-forget braises you find in most slow cooker recipes (though there are still plenty to satisfy). I was pleased by the number of soups which look bright and fresh.
I also appreciate that America's Test Kitchen listened to the complaints from volume 1. Volume 1 recipes required a good deal of prep and took much of the convenience out of using a slow cooker. As the "easy prep" volume, all recipes require 15 minutes or less of preparation. This is very convenient and means I will be cooking from this cookbook in years to come.
Given the choice between volume 1 and 2 I would pick volume 2. It is the unequivocal winner. You will learn to use your slow cooker in creative ways and get the convenience of a slow cooker mixed with ATK's near perfect recipes.
Update (11/16/2013): Since purchasing this book, I have made 17 of the recipes contained in the book. Of those recipes only one was a recipe I will not be making again (Tortellini with Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce). The rest of the recipes are fantastic. These recipes came from various sections including desserts, recipes for two, casseroles, and appetizers.
In response to some comments which have criticized the use of convenience products and the nutrition of some recipes, please understand that this book focuses first on flavor and second on convenience. This book is balanced in its use of convenience products (only when necessary to prevent problems that plague slow cooking) and contains a fair balance of healthy and unhealthy recipes.Read more ›
In Volume 2 of America's Test Kitchens "Slow Cooker Revolution", the recipes have been chosen for easier prep as well as being the usual hearty, American-style foods most of of want to see on the table, especially in the colder months. But some of the recipes are not what you'd expect in a slow cooker, such as fish or shrimp or chicken breast dishes that take about one to two hours. The prep is fast and then there aren't too many steps--even a stir fry goes into the pot. So when would you make these? Instead of 20 minute dishes after work, you'd have to wait a couple of hours. So these would be more suited to weekends for working people, or during the day for a busy at-home person, who didn't have time to stand over a stove. In a way, I find a 2 hour slow cooker dish not something I want to make, but there are some advantages.
For example, desserts. There is a carrot cake and chocolate cheesecake. If you want a cake in summer, you have to heat up the oven and no one I know likes to turn on the oven when the air conditioning is going. But a slow cooker on the countertop can act as an oven and keep the house clean and it's energy efficient. As to ovens, there's even a roast beef, again, you could make a Sunday dinner if you like roast beef (saving some for sandwiches, perhaps, the next day) but not heat up the house.
This is not "your mother's slow cooker" book. It expands what you can do with this appliance, even poach salmon and make cheeseburgers. Don't expect an entire book of six to eight hour recipes. This is more innovative, with ideas you may never thought possible in a crockpot. If you want more recipes to use the slow cooker, this is a great book. If you are looking for cook-ahead recipes that can run all day while you are at work, I'd probably look for a different book.
Pros: Even though there aren't many recipes I'm excited about, I find the Test Kitchen tips invaluable. Things like "rather than cook aromatics and spices on the stovetop to bloom their flavors, we simply microwaved them for a few minutes"--brilliant. And that will improve all my slow cooker dishes. I also love learning what supermarket brands won the taste tests (e.g. Chaokoh coconut milk for savory dishes and Kame for sweet ones).
The authors mention the convenience of using a slow cooker for vegetable sides or desserts in order to leave your oven open for cooking something else, and if you typically run into trouble trying to bake many things at once (I do not), then maybe this will be helpful for you.
Cons: I get that these recipes are supposed to be quick (15 minutes of prep time), but I was disappointed to see that many of the recipes use processed ingredients like condensed soups and grocery store pre-cooked rice. This is old school crockpot and very unlike the other Test Kitchen books I love.
These recipes are also not very healthy or kid friendly. I know the book wasn't marketed that way, but I expect many of you looking for a quick prep slow cooker book are working parents like me who care about healthy as well as quick. (In this book, you can even see oil floating on top of most of the soups and stews, yuck.) Very heavy on heavily-spiced Mexican and Italian dishes; very light on vegetable dishes and vegetables in other dishes.
A lot of these aren't typical slow cooker recipes--but maybe that's because the cooking times are inconvenient.Read more ›