Preparing meatballs in the slow cooker lets you make delicious meatballs – and get on with your day.
The person who invented the electric slow cooker deserves some sort of genius award for allowing cooks to throw food into a vessel, turn it on and walk away knowing that when they come back in six to eight hours, dinner is served.
How does it work? It’s pretty simple. A heating element heats the food at a low, steady temperature, between 200 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Basically, for every hour a dish would normally take in the oven, a slow cooker draws that time out times four to eight—meaning that a slow cooker operates at about eight hours for every oven hour on the low setting and about four hours on high. These are just averages so it’s best to check your user’s manual for more approximate cooking times.
Regardless, the slow cooker is great for meatballs because all of that time on a nice, low temperature in a sauce of your choice just makes them more tender and better tasting.
Getting your ingredients together and rolling your meatballs doesn’t require anything additional just because you’re putting them in the slow cooker. Mix up some lean ground meat with a few handfuls of breadcrumbs and seasonings. Ball up the meat to the size you like and get ready to set them in the cooker.
If you want to make this really easy, you can always head to the freezer section of the supermarket and buy a bag of precooked, frozen meatballs. Those do just as well in the slow cooker and won’t require any prep time at all! And, you can’t overcook these, so you don’t have to worry about that. As long as you have plenty of sauce, the meat should stay moist and tender.
Along with deciding what your meatballs are going to be mixed with seasoning-wise, you also have to make sure you have plenty of sauce for them to stew in. This can be a simple tomato-based pasta sauce or a creamy white sauce for a Swedish meatball dish. You can also use an Asian-based teriyaki style sauce or whip up your secret barbecue sauce recipe to coat the meatballs. Whatever type of sauce you’re using, just make sure the seasonings in your meatballs match it and that you have plenty of it. You’ll need enough to submerge the meatballs into the sauce while it slow cooks.
Once you have all of your ingredients together, the rest is easy. Put the meatballs in the pot, slather them in sauce and put the lid on the slow cooker. Slow cookers always seem to do best on the lowest setting so go ahead and set it on “low,” and cook for four to six hours. At the end of the cooking time, lift the meatballs out with a spoon and serve them with the sauce over pasta, rice or on their own as appetizers.
If you’ve never used a slow cooker before, starting with meatballs is an excellent way to become acquainted with this essential cooking tool.
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