8 Tips for Using Your Slow Cooker Effectively

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I’m sharing these tips for using your slow cooker because on a busy night; your slow cooker is a life saver. Dinner time seems to be the busiest time in my house. People are coming home from school and work, and I’m trying to finish up my job to start dinner. Depending on how smoothly my work day has gone, that can be a challenge. This post contains affiliate links, and I will receive compensation if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

I'm sharing these tips for using your slow cooker because on a busy night, your slow cooker is a life saver.

8 Tips for Using Your Slow Cooker

There are many different types of slow cookers that range from tiny personal sized slow cookers for one person to huge 8 quart slow cookers that can fit an entire roast with sides. What you choose will depend on your family size and what you hope to do with it. Here are a few tips for using your slow cooker to get started.

What to Buy

A standard size slow cooker for a household of four is a 4-quart slow cooker. This will allow you to cook most meals without a problem. However, if you often cook for more than four people, or you like to prepare large roasts, turkey breasts, or chicken legs and thighs, you’ll want to buy a 6-quart cooker instead. For parties, a smaller 2-quart size works well for dips and snacks.

Choose Programmables

Slow cookers that let you program “On,” the length of the cooking time, and “Off,” are convenient. If yours doesn’t include that feature, you might want to get a digital appliance timer, which gives you that option.

Check the Cooking Temperature

Some newer slow cookers cook at a very high temperature. You can test the temperature of your slow cooker this way:

  • Put 2 quarts of water in your slow cooker.
  • Cover. Heat on Low 8 hours.
  • Lift the lid and immediately check the water temp with an accurate thermometer.

The temperature of the water should be 185°F. If the temperature is higher, foods might overcook, and you should lower the overall cooking time. If the temperature is lower, your foods will probably not reach a safe temperature quickly enough, and the cooker should be discarded.

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Fill it Up

Slow cookers tend to work best when they’re two-thirds full. You might need to increase the cooking time if you’ve exceeded that amount, or reduce it if you’ve put in less than that.

8 Tips for Using Your Slow Cooker

Vegetable Tips

Cut the hard veggies going into your cooker into chunks of about the same size. In other words, make your potato and carrot pieces similar sizes. Then they’ll be done cooking at nearly the same time. Softer veggies, like bell peppers and zucchini, cook faster, so they don’t need to be cut as small. But again, keep them similar in size to each other, so they finish together.

Because raw vegetables require longer cooking times in a slow cooker, layer them over the bottom and around the sides of the cooker, as much as possible. That puts them in more direct contact with the heat.

Keep it Closed

There are consequences to lifting the lid on your slow cooker while it’s cooking. If you do lift the lid, compensate for the lost heat by adding 15-20 minutes of cooking time for each time the lid was lifted off.

Watch the Liquid

Use only the amount of liquid called for in a recipe. Unlike an oven or a stovetop, a slow cooker tends to draw juices out of food and then harbor it. Of course, if you sense that the food in your cooker is drying out, or browning too much before it finishes cooking, you may want to add 1/2 cup of warm liquid.

Safety Tip

A working slow cooker gets hot on the outside. Make sure that children or adults don’t grab hold of it. Always use oven mitts when lifting any part of a hot slow cooker. Be sure that the slow cooker is pushed back from the front of your counter where someone may accidentally touch it.

Do you have any other tips for using your slow cooker?

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  1. I love using my slow cooker! Great tips!  I need to check the cooking temperature of mine! 
  2. Tammy Catterton says
    Thanks for the great tips I use my slow cooker often save time indeed
  3. I recently started using my slow cooker more. Thank you for all of the tips!
  4. Timothy Anderson says
    I try to remember to switch my slow cooker back to high for 15 minutes after removing the meal and preparing the juices for gravy. Then I add my cornstarch.

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