How to Use a Slow Cooker


A beginner’s guide to the easiest dump-and-go meal maker

Is the idea of cooking dinner making you groan? Well, how about preparing a meal by chucking things into a pot hours before? Slow cookers or crock pots are an easy, low-effort way to make hundreds of delicious meals, and all they require are some chopped ingredients and a bit of knowledge. In this article, we’ll share the best tips and tricks to using a slow cooker, how to clean one, and even fill you in on our favorite recipes. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get cooking!

[Edit]Things You Should Know

  • Layer ingredients in your slow cooker from the slowest cooking food to the fastest cooking food.
  • Fill your crock pot ¾ of the way full to avoid overcooking or undercooking your food.
  • Always use fresh or thawed meat in slow cooker meals; otherwise, you may end up eating harmful bacteria.


[Edit]Slow Cooker Tips & Tricks

  1. Prepare your ingredients the night before. This is a perfect way to save time. Simply chop up all your needed ingredients, throw them into a storage bag or sealable container, and pop them into the fridge. Then, chuck everything into the crock pot the following day, fill it with the required amount of liquid, and you’re good to go.
    Use a Slow Cooker Step 2 Version 2.jpg
    • To save even more time, toss any needed seasonings into your bag or container as well.
    • If you don’t want to toss all of your ingredients into a bag or container, line them up in your fridge or on the counter so that you won’t forget anything in the morning.
  2. Start with fresh or thawed meat. The USDA warns that you should never place frozen meat in a slow cooker. Raw frozen meats take longer to thaw and cook, and placing them in the pot before they’re thawed increases the amount of harmful bacteria (like salmonella). So, always thaw frozen meat before placing it in the crock pot or stick with fresh cuts.[1]
    Use a Slow Cooker Step 2 Version 3.jpg
    • Thick and tougher cuts of meat, like chuck roasts, short ribs, and pork shoulders, are great for slow cookers because they turn tender and soft.[2]
  3. Brown your meat before putting it in the slow cooker. Crock pots are a great way to put together a meal without the fuss; however, they can leave meat tasting bland. Searing and sautéing meat (and even vegetables) until the outside is nice and toasty is a great way to add flavor.[3]
    Use a Slow Cooker Step 3 Version 2.jpg
    • The meat doesn’t have to cook all the way through on the stovetop. It’ll finish cooking in the slow cooker.
  4. Trim fat from meats. The fattier your cut of meat, the more oily your dish will be. Removing the fat from your cuts of meat may take some extra time, but your sauce and gravies will be silkier because of it.[4]
    Use a Slow Cooker Step 5 Version 2.jpg
  5. Put all of your ingredients (except dairy) in at the same time. Unless otherwise specified in a slow cooker recipe, toss every ingredient into the crock pot at once. This is what makes it a dump-and-go meal, after all! Leave all the dairy products until you're ready to serve, as cheeses and milks could curdle if left in the slow cooker for too long.
    Use a Slow Cooker Step 5 Version 3.jpg
  6. Layer your ingredients. If you're making a crock pot roast, it’s important to place the slowest cooking ingredients at the bottom and the meat on the top. This ensures that everything will cook evenly. So, line the bottom of the pot with root vegetables, like carrots and potatoes, and place the meat on top.[5]
    Use a Slow Cooker Step 6 Version 3.jpg
  7. Avoid overfilling or underfilling a slow cooker. As a general rule, make sure your crock pot is ¾ of the way full at all times. Underfilling a crock pot could cause your food to overcook, and overfilling could make it overflow.[6]
    Use a Slow Cooker Step 7 Version 3.jpg
  8. Choose the right heat setting. Most slow cookers have at least 3 heat settings: warm, low, and hot. Generally, the low heat setting is used the most often for toss-and-go meals. Although it takes twice as long to cook dishes on low rather than high, it leaves food (meat especially) tender and more flavorful.[7]
    Use a Slow Cooker Step 8 Version 3.jpg
    • The warm setting of a slow cooker is reserved for keeping the food warm after its cooked.
    • The low setting is usually around , while the high setting is around .
    • Stick to the cooking time and temperature listed in a recipe, as this will give you the best tasting meal (even if it takes a bit longer).
  9. Resist the urge to lift the lid. We know it’s tempting to see what’s happening inside the pot, but avoid taking off the crock pot’s lid. Opening it before it’s done releases the heat and could increase the cooking time.[8]
    Use a Slow Cooker Step 10.jpg
    • Bacteria could also escape from cooking meat and leak into your kitchen.[9]
  10. Thicken sauces with flour. Because the liquid in a slow cooker doesn’t reduce as it would on the stove, crock pot sauces and gravies can be soupy. You can fix this by removing the larger ingredients (meats, vegetables, etc.), adding of flour to of cooking liquid, and then whisking the slurry back into the pot.[10]
    Use a Slow Cooker Step 10 Version 2.jpg
    • For a gluten-free alternative, make a slurry with cornstarch instead of flour.

[Edit]Cleaning a Slow Cooker

  1. Wash the slow cooker pot with warm water and soap. Once you’ve eaten your delicious slow cooker meal and packed away all the leftovers, remove the pot from the slow cooker and bring it to the sink. Use a sponge and soap to scrub away the leftover food debris. Then, rinse the subs away with warm water.[11]
    Use a Slow Cooker Step 13.jpg
    • Make sure the pot is cool to the touch before you do this.
    • Avoid using scouring pads to clean the pot, as this could damage it.
    • Some slow cooker pots can be cleaned in the dishwasher, but double-check your appliance’s manual before doing so.
    • Clean your slow cooker after every meal to avoid bacteria buildup.
  2. Wipe the inside of the slow cooker with a damp cloth. With the pot removed, you can now access your slow cooker's barrel and heating compartment. Take a wet cloth and wipe the sides and bottom of the appliance. Doing this regularly can help keep your slow cooker in tip-top shape.
    Use a Slow Cooker Step 14.jpg
  3. Use vinegar and baking soda to remove stubborn stains. Soaking the ceramic pot can help dissolve films and grimes that can’t be removed with soap and water. Now, this doesn’t have to be done after every use—just when you notice a white stain inside the pot. Here’s what you can do:[12]
    Use a Slow Cooker Step 13 Version 2.jpg
    • Add of distilled vinegar to a slow cooker full of water.
    • Slowly pour in of baking soda.
    • Cover once the bubbles have died down, and cook on low heat for an hour.
    • Let cool and wash with warm water and soap.

[Edit]Slow Cooker Recipes

  1. Chili{endbold}
    You’ve probably had or made slow cooker chili at least once in your life, and that’s because it’s one of the more popular things to make. All it requires are a few cans of beans, some spices, and your favorite chili additives. It’s cheap, easy to make, versatile, and only takes 8 hours to cook. Here’s what you’ll need:
    Use a Slow Cooker Step 14 Version 2.jpg
    • Ground beef
    • Onions, peppers, and garlic
    • Can of tomatoes
    • Chili powder, black pepper, and cumin
    • Pinto, kidney, and northern beans
  2. Beef stew{endbold}
    To make this dish, simply brown a roast beef on the stovetop, and then transfer it into a crock pot full of chopped carrots, potatoes, celery, and onions. Cook for 8 hours on low, and enjoy![13]
    Use a Slow Cooker Step 15 Version 2.jpg
    • For an even faster alternative, chop a piece of roast into chunks, cover the meat in flour, and place it on the bottom of the pot.[14]
  3. Chicken pasta{endbold}
    Add 2 chicken breasts to your slow cooker, a packet of Italian dressing seasoning, a can of cream of chicken soup, and of cream cheese. Cook on low for 6 hours, add of cooked pasta, and serve.[15]
    Use a Slow Cooker Step 16 Version 2.jpg
    • Top your plated meal with shredded cheddar cheese and parsley for an added flare.
  4. Rice{endbold}
    Don’t have a rice cooker? No problem! Slow cookers are also a great tool for making side dishes like rice. All you have to do is rinse your rice, grease your crock pot, pour in the rice, and add boiling water.
    Use a Slow Cooker Step 17 Version 2.jpg
    • Slow cooker rice takes between 2 and 3 hours to cook on high.
  5. Breakfast potatoes{endbold}
    Need something to pair with your scrambled eggs and pancakes? These slow cooker potatoes make homestyle hashbrowns that only take 4 to 5 hours to cook on low. Simply toss these ingredients together in your crock pot, and you’ll have tender and seasoned potatoes in no time:[16]
    Use a Slow Cooker Step 18 Version 2.jpg
    • Chopped potatoes (enough to fill your slow cooker)
    • Diced onion
    • Minced garlic
    • of cubed butter
    • of olive oil
    • Seasonings to taste


  • Always follow the instructions that come with your slow cooker, and stick to the cooking times and temperatures given in a recipe.


[Edit]Related wikiHows


[Edit]Quick Summary

  11. [v161119_b01]. 28 August 2019.

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