Getting the Most Out of Your Slow Cooker

Ingredients for pulled pork slow cooker or crockpot meal ready for cooking.

Tips for Slow Cooking Bliss

  • Choosing a Slow Cooker

    • Size Matters

      If you’re in the market for a slow cooker, consider how many people you’ll be making food for.

      • A 5-quart size slow cooker is a good size for a family of about four.
      • If you’re preparing food for company, look for a 6-quart or larger slow cooker.
    • Portability and Locking Lids

      If you and your slow cooker will be traveling together to picnics, campgrounds, or parties, find a version with a locking lid.

    • Programmable Models

      If you often get home later than anticipated and the slow cooker is on, a programmable model may be for you. It switches over to Warm when the cooking time is complete, preventing food from overcooking and scorching.

  • Get to Know Your Slow Cooker

    When you first bring your slow cooker home, take time to get to know it.

    • Read the instructions. Stay nearby the first time it’s used.
    • Learn how quickly or slowly it cooks, and for future reference note these times in the recipes you make.
  • Cooking Tips

    • Ingredients

      • Toast Spices Before

        Toast spices in a dry sauté pan before adding them to the slow cooker. This adds another layer of flavor to the dish.

      • Cut Vegetables Uniformly

        Cut hearty vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and onions to a uniform size. They’re more likely to cook evenly and at the same time.

      • Cut Vegetables Large

        If too finely diced, they’ll overcook and taste overdone. When kept to a large size, the vegetables’ flavors release more slowly over the long cooking session.

    • Usage

      • Don't Use Too Much Water

        Liquids will not reduce in a slow cooker with its lid on. So be sure to add only the required amount of liquids and no more.

        (The exception to this is if the food begins to burn. In this case, more liquid can be added until the cooking time is complete.)

      • Use a Wooden Spoon

        To prevent scratching the crock pot’s insert, use a wooden spoon when stirring.

      • Be Safe
        • Keep the area around a plugged-in slow cooker clear. The appliance gets hot on the outside.
        • Make sure the electrical cord has no pinches or kinks in it.
Click to See Our Sources

The Chef and the Slow Cooker by Hugh Acheson ($29.99, Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2017)

Stock the Crock by Phyllis Good ($21.99, Oxmoor House, 2017)

Contributor

Lisa Fabian

Contributing Editor

Taste For Life features articles and recipes by some of the best writers in all-natural wellness and nutrition. For more information, contact us.