Top Tips for Using a Slow Cooker

Nutrition // Briohny Cuskelly // 21 July 2015

12WBT Member Briohny Cuskelly is one clever cookie – she makes a lot of our 12WBT recipes in her slow cooker. Here are her tips and tricks to making yummy meals, converting recipes to be slow-cooker friendly, and keeping the calorie count low.

Slow cooking has nothing to do with the time it takes for you to cook a meal and everything to do with the time it takes for a meal to be gently and silently doing the work for you. There should be more kitchen tools like this!

Slow cooked meals are the perfect all-round meal. They are flavoursome, time efficient and generally budget friendly. They are easy to double, triple or quadruple, therefore being suitable for large families, active bodies and leftovers.

There are very few things that can go wrong with a slow cooked meal, and if something does then it’s either easy to rectify or change for next time. Too much liquid? Halve it. Not enough flavour? Add some tomato paste and mixed herbs. Need the meal to go further? Cook some turnips or sweet potato and add it in. Just be sure to take this into your calorie count.

Adapting a recipe for a slow cooker is also simple to do. Anything that is casserole, bake or soup based can go in the slow cooker. You can go all fancy-schmancy and brown the meat first, sauté the onion and activate the spices, but I’m not that fussy, nor do I have that much time to play with in the mornings. I just throw whatever is needed into the slow cooker, press a few buttons or turn a dial and walk away.

Two Michelle Bridges 12WBT recipes that are perfect for adapting to the slow cooker are the Chicken and Broccolini Laksa and the Chicken Tikka Curry with Cauliflower Mash.

Chicken and Broccolini Laksa Adapted for the Slow Cooker

  • If you can’t find Broccolini or it’s too expensive, substitute for normal Broccoli. Make sure you use the stems too. They are perfect for a slow cooked meal. Chop the woody end off and remove and leaves. Slice and dice as per normal, these parts taste exactly the same as the rest of the broccoli.
  • Omit the olive oil, it’s not needed in slow cooker meals
  • I quadrupled this recipe (meaning it serves 8 on a 2 serve recipe) with everything except the chicken stock and evaporated milk. Halve the chicken stock that is needed (if it’s too runny for you, then cut the liquid again next time). Add the evaporated milk at the end, just before serving. This will stop the Laksa from curdling or separating
  • Halve the evaporated milk or substitute the evaporated milk for light coconut milk. Add as needed. Any leftover coconut milk can be added to a pancake mix for the kids or your morning coffee instead of regular milk
  • Chicken thighs are best in the slow cooker as they don’t dry out like the breast meat can. Remove any large pieces of visible fat
  • Add the chicken first, followed by the Laksa paste and chicken stock. I also add a diced onion. Combine until the Laksa paste is distributed through the stock and chicken. Laksa pastes vary greatly in taste and heat. Be aware that even ‘mild’ has a bit of a kick
  • Serve with zucchini ribbons that have been blanched in hot water (use a vegetable peeler to make strips of zucchini) or Singapore, Hokkein or Vermicelli noodles for the rest of the household. The lime at the end really does give the Laksa a nice flavour.

Chicken Tikka Curry with Cauliflower Mash Adapted for the Slow Cooker

  • Cauliflower seems to be the latest ‘superfood’ to hit the list thereby making it more costly than it used to be. You can usually pick up cauliflower cheaply at the markets or if it’s on special then buy a few. Cauliflower pieces can be put in the food processor and made into ‘cauli-rice’, separated into serves and frozen to use later. Alternatively, frozen cauliflower is also an option.
  • I made 10 serves of this recipe which means I multiplied all the ingredients by 5 (based on a 2 serve recipe). It freezes well so whatever was left over became, well, leftovers.
  • The yoghurt can be combined with the curry paste without the curry curdling during the cooking process. The step of combining the yoghurt and paste is important as it ensures curdling doesn’t happen and the curry paste is mixed thoroughly with the yoghurt for maximum taste.
  • You can marinate the chicken first but I never bother. Add the chicken then the paste mix, making sure the chicken is coated well.
  • The cauliflower mash can be made ahead of time and frozen for re-thawing anytime you want a potato mash substitute. For extra flavour, add a teaspoon of garlic. A few tablespoons of low fat cream cheese also works well, just be sure to add it to your calorie count.
  • Serve with a side of green beans or zucchini noodles or ribbons to make the dinner go further.

Organisation And Time Efficiency

It’s been established that when you don’t worry about the pre-cooking, slow cooked meals help save loads of time and ensure a hearty meal is ready to be served.

To help in the organisation of meals, including lunches, I lay out the number of bowls people will be eating from and then the containers that additional serves go into.

This means that the temptation for seconds is removed and future meals are sorted. On the lid I write MB followed by the recipe title, for example, ‘MB Chicken Tikka Curry’, this keeps the Michelle Bridges meals separate from other leftovers.

There is very little that can go wrong with slow cooked meals. Have a look at your weekly Meal Plan for the week and see what ones can be easily adapted to the slow cooker or switched in to be a slow cooked meal. If you’re unsure of where to start, then look no further than the two listed here.

Being a teacher, food blogger for Plan Eat Play, a mum, wife and friend leaves little time to get other priorities in life done. That’s one reason why Briohny joined 12WBT. She needed someone else to organise meals for her, whilst hoping to lose weight and increase her fitness along the way. When she’s not teaching or blogging, Briohny loves trips to the beach, art journalling and catching up with friends. 

Join 12WBT and get access to over 900 recipes, including lots of slow cooker options!



  1. Renata Stipanovic Reply

    I would love to see a 12wbt slow cooker cook book. I work a 65-70hr week and have really been struggling to get my meals prepped on top of meals for 4 teenagers. I’ve heard the slow cooker is the way to go. I’m giving these a go. Thank you x

  2. Lisa Reply

    Made the Chicken and Broccolini Laska today. Amazing! I love using the slow cooker but desperately needed a few new recipes. Thanks Briohny. Now I should be able to adapt other favourite recipes as well.

  3. Sim Reply

    Great, thank you. How long do you place in the slow cooker for and at what temp?

  4. Sandra Reply

    Answer to my prayers !
    I am a huge fan of my slow cooker, but not being a great cook, was not sure how to adapt recipes to suit.
    I cant wait to give these ones a try.
    Like Renata above, I would love to see slow cooker recipe options supplied for appropriate recipes.
    Thanks Briohny !!!

  5. Annie Reply

    This is fantastic! I love my slow cooker and I am working long hours at the moment so this is perfect.
    Thank you 🙂
    I hope you can post more of Briohny’s adaptations.

  6. Jenny Reply

    Hmm …I bought a slow cooker for my fit beautiful young daughter last winter …maybe I need to buy one of my own. I am inspired by the blogs so far and am becoming more aware of my self sabotaging thoughts .. …off for a walk Glenelg to Brighton and back on a lovely winters day in Adelaide (I’m driving to Melbourne next week and will be picking up my dog and she loves to walk even though she’s 15!)… Then …off to the shops for a slow cooker …any particular tips everyone …is one without bells and whistles ok??
    Thanks a lot

  7. Bronwyn Reply

    I find getting meals done ahead of time very difficult also, with 2 teenagers, a 10 yo , a husband that travels for work, & plenty of before /after school activities.
    We all eat the same, but a LARGE choice of slow cooker recipes would be invaluable, not just 2.
    So can we put on our thinking caps? Thanks!

  8. Tess Healy Reply

    these recipes sound wonderful but I’m vegetarian…any chance of vego slow cooker recipes? Thanks

  9. Briohny Cuskelly Reply

    Hi everyone, the size of the slow cooker depends on what you’re cooking in it. A roast will need a larger cooker compared to a chicken dish. I have three cookers (tragic I know!). Any brand is fine. It’s the extra features that you need to consider. One of mine has a timer on it and then it switches to ‘keep warm’ rather than cooking through.

    Cooking times are generally 8-ish hours on low. That’s the beauty of a slow cooker. I wouldn’t go any less than 6 hours.

    As for vegetarians, my teen daughter is a vegetarian. Often I will use the slow cooker for her and use chickpeas or tin lentils in place of the meat.

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