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I'm generally not too keen on the slow cooker. I know, I know. It keeps you from having to use the other appliances. It's great when you have a small kitchen. It can have a hot meal waiting for you by the time you get home. It keeps your food hot and ready to eat all night. These are all real solutions that a slow cooker provides. The one issue I have with it? It doesn't make the best food. Pretty much anything you can cook in a slow cooker will come out better when cooked with a Dutch oven in the oven.
But there are, of course, exceptions to every rule, and the slow cooker exception is bread pudding. According to Kate Williams, a former Serious Eats contributor and one of the recipe testers behind America's Test Kitchen's Slow Cooker Revolution, the best recipes in that book are the beans and the bread puddings.
Seeing as my Classic Sage and Sausage Stuffing is pretty much a savory bread pudding, I figured it was a prime candidate for the slow cooker.
I started by making my standard stuffing base, with sage sausage, onions, celery, garlic, butter, plenty of sage, cubed bread, stock, and eggs
Then, instead of piling it into a casserole to bake, like I normally would, I transferred it all to my slow cooker and set it to cook for a few hours on low heat.
If you try this method at home, when you come back to the slow cooker after those hours are up, the smell will be incredible, but the dish might not be so appealing visually. Because a slow cooker heats from the bottom and traps condensation on the top, the top of your stuffing (or that of any food cooked in a slow cooker, for that matter) will never get brown or crisp. Instead, it'll look like moist, steamed bread.
But appearances can be deceiving, because all around the edges, you'll find some incredible crisp, browned bits, kinda like the crispy socarrat of a good paella. When portioning out your stuffing, just make sure to scrape up around the edges for each serving to give everyone a bit of the good stuff.
So what if you want to use your favorite stuffing recipe in the slow cooker? How would you adapt it? Here are some tips for converting any stuffing recipe for the slow cooker:
- If it does not contain eggs, add one and a half large eggs per loaf of bread used.
- Cut back on liquid by 25%.
- Cook on low heat for four to six hours.
- Make sure to butter the inside of the slow cooker to prevent sticking.