03/18/2015 08:27 am ET | Updated Mar 18, 2015

5 Things You Won't Believe You Can Make With A Slow Cooker

The appliance's low and slow heat may turn out great chili and pulled pork, but there's so much more it can do, from pizza to brownies.

By Lynn Andriani

  • The Richest, Gooiest Chocolate Squares Ever
    Most brownies, regardless of mix-ins, are either cakey (read moist crumb, a little fluffy inside) or fudgy (dense and very chocolatly). And if you're a fan of the latter, meet your new favorite way to bake the treat. It starts with an aluminum-foil insert, so the edges don't burn, and a parchment paper bottom, so you can easily lift the finished brownies. The batter is basic (it includes a stick-and-a-half of butter, which helps impart a lava-cake-like consistency); make sure you monitor for doneness, so the squares don't overbake (you want the eggs custard-y). Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Brownies
  • Pizza You Thought You Could Only Get in Chicago
    Making homemade pizza can be tricky: There's the challenge of stretching the dough into an evenly formed shape that's neither too thick nor too thin, and once you get it in the oven, the pizza can quickly go from undercooked to burnt-to-a-crisp in a minute. Using a slow cooker eliminates both problems and has the added bonus of keeping your kitchen way more comfortable than it might be if you crank the oven up to 500. This indulgent-tasting, deep-dish pizza is a light version of the deep-dish personal pan kind served in restaurants, but with much less oil (just a tablespoon) and no butter.
    Get the recipe: Puttanesca Pizza
  • A Classic Italian Casserole That Lets You Leave the House While It Cooks
    Chris Granger/Colin Lacy
    Freshly made lasagna on a weeknight is doable, thanks to this handy recipe. It starts with a quick, stovetop meat sauce; you layer it into the slow cooker with noodles (there's no need to precook them) and cheese. It's a terrific technique that lets you enjoy cheesy baked lasagna, even though you weren't home for the bulk of the cooking time.
    Get the recipe: Slow-Cooked Lasagna
  • Less Messy, Just-as-Tasty Meatballs
    Sean Farrell
    If you love meatballs but are put off by frying them entirely on the stove, try cooking them in the slow cooker; it keeps them moist and flavorful, but you won't have to stand over a frying pan of sputtering, hot oil for 20 minutes (you just brown them quickly, and then toss them into the Crock-Pot). You can make these, which come from Katie Farrell's cookbook, Dashing Dish: 100 Simple and Delicious Recipes for Clean Eating, with ground turkey or beef; they also contain a half-cup of old-fashioned oats, which is a trick gluten-free cooks use to avoid bread crumbs (both ingredients help bind all the other components together).

    Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Italian Meatballs
  • A Traditional, Homey Dessert Made Even Easier
    axelbueckert/iStock/Getty Images Plus
    Rice pudding is a simple and comforting dish that doesn't require any special ingredients or techniques. When you introduce a slow cooker into the equation, it becomes even more of a no-brainer, since the rice can cook right in the liquid—there's no need to boil it ahead of time. This recipe is fantastic on its own, but you can tweak it with the addition of different dried fruits and spices.
    Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Rice Pudding

  • The New Greek Supper
    Alan Richardson
    We love the classic Greek dinner of grilled or roasted meat wrapped up in a pita as much as anyone, but we've fallen hard for this vegetarian dish. Michele Scicolone, author of The Mediterranean Slow Cooker, simmers a big pot of white beans in a savory tomato sauce and then sprinkles it with tangy feta cheese. It takes about eight hours to cook, so you can start it in the morning and forget about it until dinnertime. Get the recipe: Giant Beans in Tomato Sauce
  • The Southern Classic, Lightened Up
    In this recipe from Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker, quinoa replaces rice and mixes with black-eyed peas to create a new spin on two Southern dishes, dirty rice and hoppin' John (which usually consists of peas, rice and bacon). For an even heartier meal, add some cooked crumbled or chopped vegan or vegetarian sausage just before serving, which adds flavor without tons of extra calories. Get the recipe: "Dirty John" Quinoa
  • Salmon à la You
    Alan Richardson
    While many slow-cooker recipes can take eight hours or more, this is one you can start in the late afternoon and still have ready by 7. It'll take just two hours for a broth made from vinegar, water and a handful of vegetables to become rich and savory, and less than 30 minutes for salmon steaks -- a staple for calorie counters -- to poach. Then, you can use the fish any number of ways, Scicolone says. Serve it plain with some of the cooking broth, chill for seafood salad, or eat hot or cold alongside tzatziki or pesto. Get the recipe: Poached Salmon in Court-Bouillon
  • Pizza -- Really!
    Homemade pizza may not initially seem like a classic slow-cooker dish, but Robin Robertson, author of Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker, says it totally makes sense, since you don't have to worry about burning it, and turning on a Crock-Pot won't make your kitchen hot (but cranking the oven up to 500 degrees sure will). This thick and chewy pizza is a light version of the deep-dish personal pan ones served in restaurants, with much less oil (just a tablespoon) and no butter. Get the recipe: Puttanesca Pizza
  • The Colorful Antidote To The Winter Blahs
    Alan Richardson
    In Moroccan cuisine, a tagine is a slow-cooked stew braised at a low temperature, traditionally in a cone-shaped tagine pot. You can re-create this steamy environment in a Crock-Pot. This recipe from The Mediterranean Slow Cooker -- which includes carrot, rutabaga, butternut squash and apricot -- looks beautiful on the plate and might just be the sweetest way to eat your vegetables. Regular or Israeli couscous (both come in whole wheat varieties) are the perfect accompaniment. Get the recipe: Golden Vegetable Tagine