NYT Cooking Embraces the Slow Cooker
It’s official. Slow cookers are having their day in the sun. How do we know? NYT Cooking is unapologetically publishing recipes titled “Slow Cooker something” at a fairly rapid clip.
If you’ve read our story, then you know we had zero interest in and no need for a slow cooker — until the moment we desperately needed one. Back when we purchased a slow cooker, there were two groups online: mom-bloggers extolling the virtues of crockpots versus serious food sites that were hardly kind to the device.
When researching the appliance, a NYT article confirmed our suspicions:
“Slow cookers … sell like crazy, and a lot of people hate them. They promise joy. They too often deliver mush. … using a slow cooker is, at its best, an exercise in vague worry … Its value as a kitchen tool degrades quickly after six to seven hours.”
At the time, NYT Cooking only offered a handful of slow cooker recipes — and one was a cake. Sure, everyday recipes can be converted to crockpots, but for those who have never used the device it is reassuring to start with recipes that seem tailor-made for the cooking method. The lack of easy-to-find quality online resources is what prompted our blog.
But now, as if swayed by some sort of slow cooker revolution, the NYT is publishing recipes specifically for the slow cooker en masse. Just last week they published another round in one fell swoop, bringing their slow cooker recipe count to around 25 (as of September 2019).
Slow cookers gained traction in the 1970’s, but it wasn’t until recently that NYT Cooking fully embraced their popularity. Why the step change? In mid-2017, NYT Cooking added a paywall to their recipe database requiring users to subscribe. They need paying customers. Adding crockpot recipes is probably a simple move to expand their potential customer base.
NYT Cooking’s older slow cooker recipes are straightforward about expected results with titles like Short Ribs with Chinese Flavors (Mark Bittman) or Vaguely Vietnamese Slow Cooker Pork Tacos (Sam Sifton) — acknowledging that slow cookers produce an approximation of flavor profiles versus exact results. This restrained and honest approach was a pleasant contrast to the exuberance and overwhelm of food blogs focused on crockpots.
That said, the NYT’s newer recipes seem geared towards common internet searches for basics such as slow cooker ribs (we suggest smoked ribs instead) or chili. Chili is chili, but a recipe labeled “Texas Chili” versus “Slow Cooker Chili” will attract different attention from Google and a different audience. And some of the newer posts are likely included to capitalize on Pinterest trends: Mississippi Roast and 3-Ingredient BBQ Pulled Pork.
The new catch-all strategy seems to be a shift for NYT Cooking, but whether the proliferation of slow cooker recipes is due to a sincere appreciation of crockpots or simply a marketing tactic, we’ll take it because overall they are one of our favorite sources of quality recipes and food journalism.
A Brief Timeline of Slow Cooker mentions in the New york Times:
1998: Giving Dinner a Long, Lazy Day in the Oven — An homage to braising that mentions the option of using an “electric slow cooker”. Interesting to see Larousse Gastronomique and crock-pots referenced in the same article.
2006: THE MINIMALIST; Cheap, Simple And Glorious — Bittman suggests a slow cooker as an option for a stew.
2008: The Steamy Way to Dinner — Rice cookers gain in popularity in the United States.
2009: What the Last Meal Taught Him — Apparently even Thomas Keller uses a slow cooker.
2013: Too Hot to Grill? Try the Slow Cooker — Bittman calls slow cookers “foolproof”.
2014: When Cooking, Invest Time. Or Work. Not Both. — Bittman again briefly mentions the virtues of a slow cooker.
2015: The Slow Cooker, Redeemed — Sam Sifton seems skeptical.
2016: Quick Recipes for Slow Food — Sifton tells it like it is: “Leave a slow cooker going for more than 8 or 9 hours, and your results will vary — most often from insipid to awful.” Truth.