This is a page from the current Coles Magazine, that has no fewer than three sections on slow cooker food. The Woolworths Fresh Magazine also had a considerable chunk of its contents dedicated to this piece of kitchen equipment.
I don't have one and have no intention of getting one I have to say. If I want to cook slow then I have an oven and some perfectly good casseroles, which are actually somewhat more versatile, because I can brown the meat in them first. I don't think you can do that in the slow cooker - well maybe a few. Yes I know they will cook away all day whilst you are out doing whatever you do, but who wants to get up early in the morning to cut up all the stuff to put in there. Mornings are hectic for the working woman - breakfasts for the whole family, getting the kids out of bed, washed and dressed, packing lunchboxes, getting yourself organised for work if you work. There are deadlines to meet - school starting times, train timetables, meetings ... I would think the last thing you would want to do is cut up meat and vegetables for the evening's dinner.
Of course, if you are home all day then it's easy - you do it after the morning rush. And apparently one of those trendy bloggers over there in the UK, who has just written a book on the subject of slow cooking suggests marinading it all the night before. But again - really? The working woman here has come home from work, has prepared an evening meal, got all her kids to do their homework and then to bed, given comfort and cheer to the man of the house and probably just wants to collapse in front of some romantic comedy on the television. To then start all over again and prepare stuff for tomorrow's dinner is not on.
Yes it's winter and I know that this is one of the reasons it's in the supermarket magazines, and foodie magazines. Cosy, comfort, warm and relaxing - that's the message for winter isn't it? Besides the winter vegetables - all those roots take kindly to slow cooking.
It seems to me that there are disadvantages in cooking in a slow cooker too. You have to be careful with things like how much liquid, how much spice, no cream or milk that will split and so on. Also to get over the thing about some things cooking quicker than others you have to add things along the way anyway. So why bother? Plus it seems to me there are some inherent dangers in cooking so slowly. I mean they barely simmer I think.
Mind you today's machines are considerably more versatile than the old ones. The first one was invented in America around 1940 I believe, but they really hit the shops in the 70s. I think they were generally called crockpots here. I never got one then, although I did have a friend who swore by hers. As I looked at the picture in the Coles Magazine and read all the stuff they had about it I thought how similar to a rice cooker it was, and really they should combine them. And, of course, they have. You can actually get a multi-cooker - a pressure cooker (didn't have them either), a rice cooker and a slow cooker all in one. Sort of a poor man's thermoxix really. Not that I have one of them either. But yes, you can cook all manner of things in them these days apart from soups and stews - cakes, slices, porridge, pizza!, jam, mulled wine and hot chocolate were just some of the things they suggested. I am sure that the stews and soups taste good, but I'm not convinced by some of those other things.
As to recipes - there are a lot out there, and you can convert others, but do you want to work all that out as well? And I have noticed that not a lot of the celebrity chefs of this world use them. They might go on about slow cooking but it's in a Le Creuset pot - or their own brand.
No - better to lash out and buy a decent casserole - sorry you've just missed Aldi's range of Le Creuset like cast iron pots - and cook your stew slowly in the oven. They have all gone - in a day - they are so good. That won't need looking at much either and it's rather more versatile. You can increase or decrease the heat, you can fry the meat and veg first to brown them and you don't have to worry so much about how much liquid you have. The food will also cook a little quicker so you don't have to do all that preparation first thing in the morning. Or you can just simmer slowly on the cooktop, although, yes you might have to watch that a bit more in case of burning and sticking.