There's a reason why slow cooker recipes are wildly popular. We want convenience, and we want—and need—it now. The slow cooker delivers just that, working hard for us while we're hard at work, welcoming us home to a fragrant dinner that's just waiting to be enjoyed. This simple appliance works miracles with tough, inexpensive cuts of meat, coaxing out incredible flavor and turning out meltingly tender results. Through its low, slow cooking, it melds and marries flavors; it brings ingredients together in delicious harmony. And it offers up a few surprises: appetizers, sides, and drinks that simmer to perfection—hands-free.
This classic soup gets a double hit of cheese—it's stirred into the soup and sprinkled over the top. We use bacon drippings to sauté the onion, lending smoky, meaty flavor to the soup as it simmers. You can use an immersion blender in the slow cooker instead of a potato masher to puree the soup if you find it easier. We use baking potatoes here, also known as russets, because they hold up well to long cooking times and don't become overly gluey or starchy. Yukon Gold potatoes would also work, but not waxy potatoes like red potatoes, because they may become gummy. We add the reduced-fat milk and cheese toward the end of cooking because reduced-fat dairy tends to break and curdle when heated for long periods.