The slow cooker is a busy person’s secret weapon, especially when it comes to healthy slow cooker recipes. But what’s the best way to ensure that everything you are putting into this veritable kitchen appliance is the best for your body and health?

Kaskowitz is a fan of the slow cooker for the way it brings everything together flavor-wise. “The delicious fats, herbs, and aromatics combine over time to provide you with an even and nutritious dish,” he says. “Of course, that’s all dependent on the selection of ingredients, which ideally will be a sustainable, happy animal, next to colorful veggies to treat your body to deep cellular nourishment.”

He says, “Areas where the muscle has a lot of collagen and connective tissue are the best for slow cooking. All that collagen gelatinizes over time with low and slow cooking to give you that silky mouthfeel and shred-y meat. For beef, I like shank, chuck, and short ribs. For pork or lamb, shank and shoulder are best,” he adds.

When it comes to choosing meat for your meals, Standing explains that there are two important reasons for choosing locally-sourced meat. “For one, it helps keep money in our local economy rather than going to some corporate headquarters or to another state.

And two, it reduces our carbon footprint.” Standing says that by keeping animals on a single, local farm their entire lives (and letting them eat the grass grown on the farm), we’ll help reduce the environmental impact.

The trick to enjoying this slow cooker recipe in a healthy way? Watch your portions. Kaskowitz recommends picking a small bowl or plate. “This ensures that you can start with a little bit and have a second helping only if needed. Taking your time will help slow down and gauge whether you’re already satisfied. If it’s already in your [big] bowl you’re going to eat it,” he says.

Another benefit of the slow cooker, aside from the food basically cooking itself? It’s a one pot meal that makes preparing lunch and dinner a snap. Kaskowitz says, “The benefit of a single pot is convenient because you can rely on the low and slow method to bring out the flavors while you’ve already done all the work in one step, at the beginning. Cooking on lower heat also decreases the risk of scorching your veggies and losing nutrients.”

As consumers become more mindful of their meat choices, Standing recommends choosing “ethically raised” meats. “We know that meat is always going to be a part of our food system. And we don’t think there’s inherently anything wrong with that, but it’s been done in horribly unethical ways for a long time. At Standings Butchery, we’re trying to put pressure on the industry to change by offering a product from food-animals that lived happy, healthy lives. The cool bonus is those healthy animals taste better, too!”

Kaskowitz agrees that sourcing animals that are ethically raised are not only good for the environment but for our bodies as well. “Avoid cages, antibiotics, processed feeds, and factory farms in general,” he says.

To source ethically sourced meat, according to Standing, ask for “pasture-raised” meats. And if you can’t find a local butcher that can help with your request, Standing suggests buying directly from a farm that does a CSA or animal shares-type program. “And if that still isn’t possible, there are several online delivery options available now,” he says, although he doesn’t love the last option because of the negative environmental impact from the added packaging and shipping.

Turning family favorites into must-make slow cooker meals is easy thanks to recipes like jambalaya that already rely on one pot. But what makes this recipe so special in the slow cooker is the long cooking time that allows the flavors to really shine and pop. It’s one of those dishes that just gets better the longer it cooks.

Whichever meat you choose for this Milanese-inspired Osso Bucco (more traditional versions are made with veal shank), it’s one of the easiest slow cooker recipes to make. Simply add all of the ingredients into the slow cooker and turn it on low for eight hours. At the end of the day, you’ll have a tender, flavorful dish along with a healthy serving of potatoes, tomatoes, and onions.

It’s a countertop appliance that once preheated (this part takes about 15 minutes), can deliver fully cooked meals, including sides. And for some slow cooker recipes that call for 6-8 hours cooking time on low, the Instant Pot can make that same recipe in under 30 minutes. But the best way to describe it is to think of it as part slow cooker, part rice cooker, pressure cooker, and steamer all in one, according to Digital

  1. Make sure there is at least one cup of liquid in your recipe.
  2. Add starch and dairy products at the end of the recipes (they’ll curdle and burn otherwise in the Instant Pot).
  3. Delay adding herbs and delicate vegetables until the end.
  4. Halve any alcohol-based ingredients like red and white wine so it doesn’t overpower the dish.
  5. Look at the recommended cook times and make sure to adjust the time for the appropriate appliance.

This content was originally published here.