15 Slow Cooker Tips to Help Achieve Perfection

If you’re starting out or looking to improve, then these slow cooker tips should help with getting to know some of the best things about slow cooking.

Slow Cooker Tips

These aren’t all the tips around, so if you have your own that you would love to share or think I got one of these wrong, then please be sure to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

1. Cook it slow

Try to use the low heat setting as much as possible. You will find that most dishes will benefit greatly from the gentle heat that helps brings out those amazing flavors and texture.

You should only use the high setting if you’re running low on time, or the recipe suggests that you use it.

2. Fewer Liquids

Since a slow cooker is a sealed unit, the liquid will not evaporate, so try not to get the urge to add more liquid if it’s looking a bit dry at the start. You will find that typically there will be plenty of liquid within a few hours of cooking.

slow cooker before and after liquid

3. Trim The Fat

Trimming the fat off of the meat or using leaner cuts of meat will help reduce the amount of liquid fat produced throughout cooking.

Browning the meat before adding it to the pot is also a great way to prevent extra fat from sitting on the top of your food. Make sure you don’t pour in the fat and juices from the frying pan.

Alternatively, you can skim the pools of fat off the top of your food at the end of cooking.

4. Thickening

As the liquid doesn’t reduce in a slow cooker, it’s unlikely to thicken by itself. Rolling meat in flour at the start or using cornstarch at the end is a great way to thicken the liquid.

If you’re using cornstarch, mix two tablespoons with a little bit of water before adding it to the slow cooker. You may find that you need to add more if it doesn’t thicken up enough.

Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Pork Thickened

5. Save Money

Out of all the slow cooker tips, this one is certainly great for people on limited budgets.

You should try to stick to cheaper cuts of meat such as shoulder, thigh, brisket, silverside, chuck, and blade. Since you’ll be cooking these for a long time, they will cook to be incredibly tender and full of flavor.

You can also bulk out a lot of recipes using cheaper ingredients such as carrots, onions, and beans. Of course, this depends on the type of dish you’re cooking. Still, typically you can save money without sacrificing on flavor and texture.

6. Prep ahead

If you’re often running low on time in the morning, then most slow cooker recipes can be prepped ahead of time and stored in the fridge. Simply remove from the fridge in the morning, throw everything into the slow cooker and turn it on to cook.

Since everything is cooking from the fridge temperature, you may want to add thirty minutes onto the cooking time. I also recommend preheating the slow cooker pot.

slow cooker meatballs prep ahead

7. Add Greens Last

When it comes to adding peas, spinach, green beans, and most other greens, they should be added towards the end of cooking. If you add them at the start, you will find that they discolor and will not look very nice once you’re done cooking.

It’s also important to note that ingredients such as rice or pasta should also be added at the end of cooking. Otherwise, they may go a weird unappetizing texture.

8. Leave the lid on

Whenever you’re cooking something in the slow cooker, it’s important that you leave the lid on.

Every time you remove the lid, it allows for the heat to escape and will possibly add cooking time onto your dish.

If you’re worried about your dish not cooking right after removing the lid, then you should find that fifteen more minutes is enough time to compensate for the heat loss.

slow cooker leave the lid on

9. Temperature

This is a very important tip when it comes to food hygiene. It’s essential not to leave your slow cooker switched off with food in it for extended periods of time. The food danger zone is 4 to 60 °C (39 to 140 °F) and is when harmful bacteria will start to grow.

You may find some keep warm settings will not keep the food hot enough to keep it out of the danger zone for long. It’s best to check the temperature of the food to make sure it’s at safe levels.

10. Don’t Overfill the Slow Cooker

An important slow cooker tip is to remember not to overfill the slow cooker as your food may not cook correctly.

A good rule of thumb is not to fill it past the two-thirds mark of the insert. You will find some slow cookers will mark this on the insert. However, there are plenty of slow cookers that do not indicate where the full mark is, so you will have to guess.

Slow Cooker Breakfast

11. Speed Up Cleaning

Using a slow cooker liner can help speed up cleaning. They’re incredibly easy to use and will prevent the annoyance of having to wash out the insert.

You will find them extremely useful when it comes to cooking cakes, loaves, and puddings. With that said, we prefer to spend a little extra time cleaning up rather than producing more plastic waste.

12. Dairy at the end

With most recipes, it’s essential to add the dairy at the end of cooking, as this will help prevent it from splitting. There are, of course, some exceptions to this rule, but for something like tasty beef stroganoff, you’re best leaving it till the end.

slow cooker beef stroganoff dairy at the end

13. Brown the Meat

Browning the meat is not essential but can help improve the flavor and texture of the meat. Simply brown the meat before placing it in the slow cooker for enhanced flavors and better texture. It’s also great for reducing the amount of liquid fat in your slow cooker.

You will find some slow cookers have a built-in sear program so you can do it completely in one pot.

14. Not just Dinners & Stews

This might be pretty obvious, but the slow cooker can be used for more than just dinners and stews. You can cook some pretty amazing desserts and even breakfasts in the slow cooker.

There are also some condiments and sauces that you’re able to do.

15. Slow Cooker Conversion Times

If you need to convert a recipe from cooking on low to high or high to low, then the conversions are pretty straight forward. The picture below has all the standard conversions that you may come across.

Slow Cooker Conversion Chart

If you require the oven to slow cooker conversions, then the picture below should also come in handy.

Slow Cooker oven Conversions v2

I hope these slow cooker tips help with your future slow cooking endeavors. If you have any feedback or extra tips that you would love to share, then please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.

19 Comments

  1. Ann on

    Love to slow cook

  2. lidia on

    I bought a 6 litre slow cooker. I am used to cooking in a 4 litre one and am finding that my meat is now npt fallinh apart all soft. I think my slow cooker is too big. What do u think?

    1. LaQuita on

      I have a 7.5 and A 4 qt slow cooker. Use less liquid and prebrown meat on stove. Roll your meat in flour then brown before putting in s.c. slice veg like potatos or carrots thin and at the beginning they take longer to cook.

    2. Ruth on

      I learned after several years that your pot must be at least 3/4 full to cook properly. Most recipes call for too much time. I usually cook on low about 2 hours less than advised.

  3. Tom Quinn on

    My slow cooker was bought in 1985 and I do think that the heat temp then were lower than the new ones of today. I did a beef joint, the cooking time was 7 hours on low, I did 7 hrs on high and there was a nice pink to the meat. 7 hrs on low and the meat would have been raw. It also has an Auto setting.
    Tom Quinn

  4. Yvonne on

    Have slow cooked for a long time now learning the correct way …..recipes so good

  5. Sue on

    Can you get racks to use in slow cookers to raise meat from the bottom, and prevent meat sitting in the fat?

    1. janet scorinis on

      i have racks with my slow cooker its a 5-in1 cooker cook all my roasts meat, silverside, ans stir fries in slow cooker

    2. Dawn on

      Made pepper steak in my slow cooker. I used top round steak cut into thin strips. The meat, after 3 hrs was tough and after 5 hours was tender but tasted very dry. Is it the meat I used or the cooking time?
      Thanks.

    3. Gus on

      Round steak tends to be good for slow cooking. Cutting into thicker slices should result in meat that is still juicy and tender, even after hours of cooking.

  6. Harmon & Light on

    Is there a conversion chart for doing things in the cooker rather than the oven? I usually just guess.

  7. Ivy Johnston on

    Fantastic recipes, love slow cooking.

  8. Elma on

    Your site has made cooking meals for the family tasty & easy with your great recipes. Thanks to you – my family truly enjoys all the meals cooked in the slow cooker. For people like me who use their slow cooker often – you are the best resource available!

  9. Lorie on

    What slow cooker do you recommend my slow cookers low seems to run hotter than low. Ty

    1. Gus on

      Hi Lorie,

      I also have a slow cooker that also runs quite hot on low.

      The easiest thing to do is to reduce the cooking time by a quarter. So eight hours becomes six hours.

      Alternatively, you can try bulking the recipes out more so that it will take longer to cook.

  10. Light and Harmony on

    I had one that always ran hot and got a different one. Most important is to have the right size. It should be about 3/4 full at least.

  11. Judy Bair on

    You used to be able put food in slow cooker for over eight hours on low and food was perfect. Now the slow cookers boil on low! Don’t like new coolers at all!!!

    1. Gus on

      I find slow cookers that use a thin non-stick aluminum insert to be the worse offenders of boiling on low. Ceramic tends to be a way better at cooking on low.

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