Dried herbs in the crock are the secret to the rich flavor and perfect texture of these slow cooker meatballs. And it’s also the easiest, most convenient meal you’ll make all week!
Falling in love again
Something like 80% of Americans own a slow cooker. Until a few years ago, I was not among them (for shame!). But since upwards of 250 million people can’t be dead wrong, I finally went for it.
I cooked and cooked from it when I first got it, to give it a fair shake. Soups, chilis, stews, oatmeal and unforgiving cuts of meat. My kids thought that I had fallen in love with my slow cooker, and looking back that was probably a reasonable assumption at the time.
But I think that was the problem—I was trying to fall in love with it. And as anyone who has ever been in love with anything or anyone before knows, forcing the issue is not necessarily a good plan.
Love needs an easy touch. So I decided to relax a bit. And then … I finally hit the slow cooker jackpot: gluten free slow cooker meatballs. Ridiculously easy in both preparation and cleanup, and quite possibly the best meatballs I’ve ever had. Love really does happen when you least expect it!
What’s the deal with the crock?
Slow cooker cooking really is different than conventional cooking, isn’t it? You probably knew that already (you well-schooled 80%), but I didn’t!
You really do need recipes that are at least reformulated, if not originally created, specifically for a slow cooker. You want to use dried herbs, not fresh ones for sure for sure. And go a bit easy on the salt, as the crock tends to intensify the flavor of salt.
So what makes these slow cooker meatballs better than conventional meatballs? Well it’s the flavor, but (believe it or not) it’s also the texture!
The meat slowly absorbs all of the flavor not only of the ingredients you add to the meatballs themselves, but of the simple tomato sauce they are nestled into for all those hours. And since they do sit in the sauce for all that time while it very gently bubbles away, they don’t need a lot of moisture themselves so they stay together beautifully—but are still moist and tender when you serve them.
If you’re a slow cooker lover but you’ve taken the plunge and decided to experiment with an Instant Pot electronic pressure cooker, try cooking GF spaghetti and meatballs in the Instant Pot. That post has tons of tips on getting started with that appliance. I learned the hard way, so you don’t have to! ☺️
Notes on Cooking Times
I’ve made these meatballs on both the high setting (for 4 hours), and the low setting (for 8). I’ve served them right after they’re done cooking, and after they’ve sat on “warm” for an hour and a half. After sitting on warm, they definitely absorb more of the sauce and
After sitting on warm, they definitely absorb more of the sauce and look like they might taste dry, but they’re still moist and tender.
And although you might think of slow cookers are only for wintertime, consider this: They do not heat up your kitchen at all. So stay cool in the summertime with these perfect slow cooker meatballs. And buy another crock and make some slow cooker mac and cheese. Let them make dinner for you tonight!
So what’s your favorite way to use your slow cooker? Are you in love with yours, or just sort of “meh”? Click play ▶️ to see one of mine in action: