Life Hacks: How to make pizza, brownies and more in your Crock-Pot

Crock-Pots can make cooking easier, but do you really know how to get the best use out of the appliance?

News Channel 8’s Amanda Ciavarri spoke with local chefs about unique ways you can use the crockpot.

Chef Clyde Tanner is with The Art Institute of Tampa and says one of the biggest mistakes people make with the Crock-Pot is buying expensive meat.

“Expensive cuts of meats cook fast, so in a Crock-Pot they tend to turn out dry and overcooked,” he said. “You actually want to use the cheaper cuts with the tendons. This is slow, low cooking, just like BBQ.”

Chef Tanner showed us how to make pizza in the Crock-Pot! It’s actually pretty easy. Just take any store-bought pizza dough, add sauce, cheese and your favorite toppings. Put it in the Crock-Pot for 2-3 hours and you will have delicious deep dish pizza.

When using a Crock-Pot don’t be afraid to cook dessert. It is something the whole family can help with too.

“Children aren’t a allowed to use the oven a lot, but I can take a some brownie mix, a little bit of chocolate syrup and a little water, mix it, put it in the Crock-Pot and cook it for about 2 to 3 hours and you have fudgy-doughy brownies,” said Chef Tanner.

Chef Maika Gardner with Sur La Table joins Amanda Ciavarri in a exclusive web extra to show us how to make a quick, easy dinner and shares a few pro tips!

News Channel 8 Today Gang Shares Their Favorite Crock-Pot Recipes


2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts (About 4 pieces), cut into 1 inch pieces
3 Tablespoons Cornstarch
½ tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp canola oil
½ cup low sodium soy sauce
4 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
4 Tablespoons ketchup
2 Tablespoons sweet chili sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup cashews

Combine cornstarch and pepper in re-sealable food storage bag.
Add chicken.
Shake to coat with cornstarch mixture.
Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Brown chicken about 2 minutes on each side.
Place chicken in slow cooker.
Combine soy sauce, vinegar, ketchup, sweet chili sauce sugar, garlic, ginger, pepper flakes, and cashews in small bowl; pour over chicken. (I like my cashews to be softer so I add them during the cooking process, if you want more of a crunch, add them right before serving).
Cook on LOW for 3 to 4 hours.
Serve over rice. Makes 4-6 servings.
Taco Soup (Avery Cotton)
READY IN: 2 hrs 10 mins

SERVES: 8-10


1 (16 ounce) can pinto beans
1 (16 ounce) can white beans or 1 (16 ounce) can kidney beans
1 (11 ounce) canniblet corn
1 (11 ounce) can Rotel tomatoes & chilies
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chilies
1 (1 1/4 ounce) envelope taco seasoning mix
1 (1 ounce) envelope Hidden Valley® Original Ranch® Dressing and Seasoning Mix
1 lb shredded chicken, ground beef or 1 lb any meat

1. Cook meat and drain.
2. Shred if needed.
3. Add all ingredients to crock pot.
5. Stir.
6. Cook on high for 2 hours or low for 4 hours.
7. Keep on low until serving to keep hot.
8. Garnish with sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped green onions, or tortilla chips.

To Die For Crock-Pot Roast (Gayle Guyardo)
READY IN: 9 hrs 5 mins



1 (4 -5 lb) beef roast, any kind
1 (1 1/4 ounce) package brown gravy mix, dry
1 (1 1/4 ounce) package dried Italian salad dressing mix
1 (1 1/4 ounce) package ranch dressing mix, dry
1⁄2 cup water

Place beef roast in crock pot.
Mix the dried mixes together in a bowl and sprinkle over the roast.
Pour the water around the roast.
Cook on low for 7-9 hours.
Use onion soup mix instead of ranch.
Add one cup of red wine.
Add potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, celery and onion 2-3 hours before end.
Crockpot Breakfast Casserole (Leigh Spann)


1 dozen eggs
1 cup milk
2 lbs of hash brown potatoes. (you can use frozen hash browns, just cook for 8-9 hours, instead of the 7-8)
1 lb of bacon or veggie Morning Star bacon– cooked, drained and cut into pieces. (feel free to substitute with your favorite breakfast meat..sausage, ham, etc)
1/2 cup onions – diced
3 cups cheddar cheese – shredded
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp of pepper (I am recommending an additional pinch of salt and pepper for each layer of hash browns)

Beat 12 eggs until well blended.
Next, beat in milk and garlic powder, mustard, 1 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp pepper. Set aside.
Layer potatoes (I suggest to season each potato layer to taste…..a small pinch of salt and pepper) and sprinkle 1/3 of the onions.
Next sprinkle 1/3 of the bacon.
Last but not least, top with 1 cup of cheese.
Repeat this layering 2 more times to have a total of 3 layers….ending with cheese.
Take your egg mixture and pour over layers. For refrigerated hash browns, cook for 6-7 hours on low. For frozen hash browns, cook for 7-8 hours on low or until eggs are set.
5 Ingredient Easy Chili (Marco Villarreal)




1 lb. ground beef or turkey
1 small white onion, diced
3 (15 oz.) cans diced tomatoes with green chiles
2 (15 oz.) cans beans, drained (black beans, kidney beans, a combo, or whatever you like)
2 Tbsp. chili powder
(optional toppings: shredded cheese, chopped green onions, sour cream, cilantro, etc.)

In a large stockpot, cook ground beef or turkey over medium-high heat until browned, stirring frequently. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked beef or turkey to a separate plate and set aside. Reserve 1 tablespoon of grease in the stockpot, and discard the rest.
Add the onion to the stockpot and saute for 4-5 minutes, or until soft.
Add remaining ingredients and the cooked beef or turkey to the stockpot, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Serve immediately, garnished with optional toppings if desired. Or, store in a sealed container for up to 3 days.
If using ground turkey, you may need to heat a tablespoon of olive oil beforehand to help cook and brown the turkey, and then add an additional tablespoon of oil to cook the onion.
You can also make this in the slow cooker. You just need to brown your meat on the stove and drain it before adding the meat to your slow cooker. Then slow cook the chili on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
Crock Pot Chicken & Biscuits (Amanda Ciavarri)


5 frozen chicken breasts
12 baby carrots, split in two or chopped based on preference
1 Onion, chopped
3 large red potatoes, diced
2 cans cream of chicken soup
16 oz chicken broth
1/4 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp rosemary
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp Wondra flour
1/2 bag frozen sweet peas
1 can refrigerated biscuits