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Slow Cooker Revolution: One Test Kitchen. 30 Slow Cookers. 200 Amazing Recipes. Paperback – February 15, 2011
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About the Author
America’s Test Kitchen is well-known for its top-rated television shows with more than 4 million weekly public television viewers, bestselling cookbooks, magazines, websites, and cooking school. The highly reputable and recognizable brands of America’s Test Kitchen, Cook’s Illustrated, and Cook’s Country are the work of over 60 passionate chefs based in Boston, Massachusetts, who put ingredients, cookware, equipment, and recipes through objective, rigorous testing to identify the very best. Discover, learn, and expand your cooking repertoire with Julia Collin Davison, Bridget Lancaster, Jack Bishop, Dan Souza, Lisa McManus, Tucker Shaw, Bryan Roof, and our fabulous team of test cooks!
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1. Moroccan Beef Chili with Chickpeas - I make this at least once a month
2. Weeknight Meat Sauce - worth the price of the book
3. Easy Barbecued Ribs - very easy and good for weeknights
4. Sticky Wings - so good and I don't typically enjoy wings
5. Tuscan White Bean Soup - soaked beans overnight in fridge
6. Beef Goulash - easy and very good
7. Braised Brisket and Onions - quick prep and a good end result
8. Chicken in a Pot - my husband said this was the best thing I've ever made. Delicious and very juicy
9. Sloppy Joes - a big favorite of my husband
10. Mashed potatoes - very good and has been helpful at the holidays. Opens up a burner and keeps them warm as the meal comes together.
11. Irish Oatmeal - so the cooking time is ridiculous. We actually eat the oatmeal as part of "breakfast for dinner" on weekend nights. It's inconvenient but very, very good. And it seems like less bother to me because it isn't boiling over every 5 minutes.
Recipes that didn't work:
1. 15-Bean Soup - it never quite came together although I tried it a few times
2. Chicken Curry in a Hurry - just ok, nothing special
3. Beef Stroganoff was good but the listed cooking time is off and I burned it
4. Big-Batch Bolognese Sauce - bland and makes about 4 pounds of food. This was the biggest disappointment simply because of the sheer amount of meat that I felt like I wasted.
For some background, I prefer to cook with fresh ingredients. I have a well-stocked pantry and enjoy cuisine from all over the world. The "unusual" ingredients in many of the recipes are something I enjoy and consider a positive. I also have figured out what I can simplify in the recipes I cook frequently. I will microwave ingredients rather than cooking on the stove to save time. I skip the panade (bread mixed into meat) to save the bother or need for bread and I haven't noticed a difference. I also have a cooker with a timer which switches over to warm. This has helped me use the book while I'm at work or away longer than the specified cooking time. I also appreciate other aspects of slow cooking in addition to convenience such as keeping the kitchen cool in the summer or freeing up space while making a large meal. I also appreciate the added moisture and stable cooking temperature as I live at high altitude.
I find most recipes to make a huge amount of food so I often cut recipes in half. Every cooker is different but mine runs hot. I cook at the minimum of the time range listed.
Unfortunately, after making three of the recipes from "Slow Cooker Revolution," I'm not sold on this particular effort. All were OK, none spectacular, and, as far as I can tell, just about every one previously published. (A cheat often used by Cook's, but still annoying for its most loyal readers.)
My major complaint--and it seems to be in most of the recipes, not just the three I've attempted so far--is that Cook's takes what is best about the slow cooker, it's convenience (set it and forget it one-pot meals), and throws it out the window by requiring countless pre-cooking steps--far more than just browning meat or sautéing vegetables--that often dirty multiple pots, pans and bowls before you ever even get the ingredients into the slow cooker itself. There's also a good bit of post-cooking in many of these recipes, along with mid-cooking steps/additions that means you're constantly babysitting the slow cooker, even after getting the ingredients going. Not terribly practical for a device specifically designed to cook while you're not here.
If I'm going to use a dishwasher full of dishes, what's the point of dragging out the crockpot just to do the heating? Often the recipes I've read and tried seem like they'd be better served being made in a Dutch oven and then cooked in a low oven, thus saving multiple steps and plenty of dishwashing. Kind of defies basic cooking logic.
Sorry Cook's, I just can't recommend this one.
EDITED TO ADD: After seeing a trend with these reviews to dismiss negative reviewers as submitted by lazy cooks who just don't get it, I wanted to point out that I'm someone who sincerely enjoys the process of cooking, and a Slow Food devotee. I put a great deal of effort into using organically, locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients in my day-to-day life. I rarely, if ever, use ANY processed food. I bake bread from scratch several times a week. I would never even consider using a cake mix or a condensed soup base. Basically, I'm not really looking for shortcuts.
My problem with "Slow Cooker Revolution" isn't so much the prep, but the fact that the recipes, despite all the extra steps, aren't very good. If the end results were outstanding, I wouldn't really question what went into the creation, as many meals I happily prepare take hours and hours to complete. Unfortunately, that just isn't the case from what I've seen here, which seems to be Cook's effort to shoe-horn better, oven or stove-top recipes into a slow cooker with lackluster, at best, results. Does the multi-step beef stew recipe in this cookbook taste better than some meat and potato cubes tossed into the cooker along with canned broth and onion soup mix and left to sit for 12 hours? Most definitely! Does it taste as good as my favorite stove-top to oven recipe that requires approximately the same amount of effort? Nope. Not even close. The same with the turkey chili and short rib recipes I've tried. Other recipes, including Cook's traditionally cooked and previously published versions, are vastly superior to the results you get using the "Slow Cooker Revolution" way. And THAT is my problem with this cookbook.
I've long been of the theory that there is very little a slow cooker does better than a low oven and good cast iron pot. Nothing I've tried, or read, in "Slow Cooker Revolution," has made me think I'm going to be pulling my crockpot out of the pantry more than once or twice a year, at best.