Crockpot Cooking Tips & Tricks

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Stew

  • If you don’t like the taste or texture of the meat from simmering in its juices, set it on a layer of vegetables (like potatoes, onions or carrots) or set it on foil balls high enough to keep it out of the juices.
  • Line with a foil liner or a roasting bag before adding ingredients. Not very environmentally friendly since the liner is tossed after each use.
  • Apply a bit of non-stick spray around the inside before adding food items. Will help prevent food sticking.
  • Make sure to fill half way with ingredients to keep the dish from burning…don’t fill it too full though, you want it no more than 2/3 full or the dish will need to simmer longer to prevent it from being undercooked. If you can, have both a smaller and larger size crockpot on hand to accommodate various quantities and recipes.
  • Carefully remove the lid by lifting it straight up then over. This will help prevent much of the condensation running back into the dish which just dilutes the sauce consistency and flavor.
  • Unless the recipe instructs you to do so, do not lift the lid to stir or peek at the dish. This lowers the temperature inside and the meal won’t be ready within the alloted time.
  • Prevent hard/raw carrots and potatoes by layering them on the bottom first then adding the rest of the ingredients. Cut them in about 1″ chunks or so, this helps them cook faster.
  • Use fresh vegetables rather than canned or frozen since they’ll retain their flavor and texture better (as well as add flavor to the meat). If you do use canned or frozen vegetables, add them toward the end, just long enough to heat them through. This way they won’t be tasteless mush.
  • For more flavor, first brown any meat, onions, garlic and some of the flavorful veggies (like onions and green peppers).
  • Trim off as much of the fat on the meat as you can as well as remove the skin from chicken, this helps prevent much of the fat melting into the sauce.
  • Use thawed meat rather than frozen (unless recipe instructs otherwise). The dish will need longer heating time otherwise and will affect the rest of the ingredients.
  • Choose cuts of meat that will fit easily inside. If the cut is too big and you cram it in, it won’t heat through as well and will likely need longer time (affecting the rest of the ingredients as well). Trim off excess meat and freeze to use later in soups or stews.
  • Choose cheap cuts of meat where possible since the meat turns out quite tender when cooked slow, this is a great opportunity to economize.
  • If the sauce or gravy is too thin, remove lid the last 1/2 hour and turn up the heat to try to thicken it. You can also try adding potato flakes to thicken the sauce.
  • Dry herbs and spices can lose their flavor when simmering so long, if possible–try adding them the last two hours before the meal is ready to help keep the flavor. Use fresh herbs when possible, these can be added first thing since they’ll hold their flavor better when simmering for hours.
  • For better pasta and rice, prepare these separately about an hour before the meal is ready. Once they’re barely done, throw them in with the meal to simmer in the sauce.
  • You can cut time in half by using High instead of Low heat, but follow directions whenever possible since the results might differ otherwise (meat may not be as tender, etc.).
  • If your appliance doesn’t come with a timer, you can buy an appliance timer for just a few bucks (check Amazon for “Appliance Timer”, some are quite low in price). This is really nice to have since you can start things later in the morning, in the middle of the night or set it to turn off in case you’re late getting home from work.

Cleaning Helpers

*First published January 15, 2008 and moved to this page for better organization

General Care:

  • To prevent damage to the ceramic piece, allow to completely cool before adding water to clean. If you’re in a hurry and need it done right away, make sure to use warm/hot water instead of cool water to protect it from cracking.
  • Use a nylon scrubber to prevent being damaged with scratches.
  • When you’re done, make sure to rinse well with warm water to remove all traces of soap. Dry completely before storing away. This helps to prevent a soap film from developing as well as prevents water stains from building.

Heavy-Duty Grime Busters:

  • Fill with warm water and a squirt of liquid dish detergent. Allow to soak for about an hour before scrubbing it clean. You can soak overnight if it is especially crusty.
  • Fill with warm water then add 2 or 3 denture tablets. Let soak overnight.
  • Make a paste of 50/50 cream of tartar and vinegar to apply to stain.
  • Fill 1/4 full with vinegar, then add warm water to cover the stain line. Let soak overnight with temperature on low. In the morning scrub with a nylon scrubber and hot soapy water. This method is also helpful for removing sauce stains (tomato based sauces can discolor the crock, this helps remove them).
  • Soak in warm water and baking soda before scrubbing for easier cleanup.
  • Make a paste from baking soda and water, apply to stain and let set for a few hours. Spritz with water then scrub the paste to remove the spots. This also help remove sauce stains.

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Published: February 12, 2008
Updated: July 31, 2012

What Readers Are Saying:
27 Comments to “Crockpot Cooking Tips & Tricks”
  1. J. Martin says:

    My 85-year-old aunt told me soak a dryer sheet in the pot for a few hours. It works!…
    and so does a spoonful of Calgon.

  2. TipNut says:

    Dryer sheets are multi-talented aren’t they! lol! Thanks for sharing those tips :).

  3. Colleen says:

    I Love My Slow-Cooker!!
    Good tip (#10) about dry herbs and spices. I have been putting in twice the amount of seasonings specified in the recipes(except salt) right at the onset, as I too have noticed that slow-cooking does indeed dissipate their flavors. Adding the seasonings in the last 2 hours of cooking is a great idea if you’re home to do so, and if you don’t mind slowing the cooking time by lifting the lid.

    I have also found that I don’t really like the look of the meat drippings all over my potatoes and carrots at the bottom of the crock but I haven’t yet figured out how to prevent that. Does anyone have any ideas? I wonder if wrapping them in foil before setting them in the bottom of the crock would work? Perhaps I’ll try that next time!

  4. phyllis Finster says:

    Take a turkey baster and remove the juices. Save if you want to make gravy. I found a wire rack at a thrift store that i lay the meat and vegetables on top of that. You can put foil down first if you like. The baster actually works the best. Good to moisten the meat too .

  5. phyllis Finster says:

    Basters are in the Wal mart section under kitchen supplies

  6. Mary Dee says:

    I make pot roast more often than anything else. Towards the end, I spoon out as much fat as practical, and then I put a small amount of the liquid remaining in a cup and add Bisquick until its thick. Then pour this into the rest of the pan juices and stir a bit.

    My husband loves the thicker texture of the juices which are more of a gravy, and I discovered that if I make it really thick and lumpy, the lumps cook into something approximating little tiny dumplings. I know this sounds weird, but you have to taste it to appreciate it.

    By the way, the old standby receipe for Pot Roast (catsup, vinegar, salt, pepper and thyme) is sooooo much better if you replace the regular vinegar with a nice strong basalmic vinegar. You won’t believe what the basalmic will do to the taste. (I also increase the amount of vinegar and catsup, because we like this sauce so much.)

  7. Linda Gardner says:

    Hmmmmm, I am curious! Some time ago, we were cautioned to NOT use raw chicken in the crock pot as it did not heat rapidly enough to prevent a mass increase of bacteria.
    NOW I see many crock pot recipes using chicken. When did it become safe to do so?
    Thanks!

  8. Summer says:

    I have five crock pots and use them for large gatherings for my volunteers. The flavors are the best! Raw chicken pieces, in my opinion, cook much better when added frozen. This is a tip I remember from a Better Homes & Gardens Crock pot cookbook I bought years ago. If used when thawed, sometimes the chicken gets way too tender while cooking.

  9. Debbie K says:

    Everytime I make a pot roast it comes out like rubber or it is dried out. Iuse a Chuck Roast. Last night I made a roast and cooked it for 2.5 hours on the low setting(10hrs) It was dry and rubbery. I put the meat in and seasoned it. I added 1/4cup of H20. What am I doing wrong??? I am afraid if I let it cook for the full 10hrs, I will have nothing left in the pot

    • Halaluani says:

      There are only two reasons for any type of meat cooked in the crock pot to be tough. Either you didn’t use liquid or you’re not cooking it long enough. Both of these apply to you. One could cook a 10 year old bull in a crock post and as long as one has enough liquid and cooks it long enough, it will be tender and juicy.

      There’s a lot of room for more cooking in between the 10 hours recommended and the 2.5 hours you cooked it. To cook in the crock pot takes only common sense not great skill. Cook it and taste it. If it’s still tough, cook it longer. If a recipe says 10 hours and you are concerned about that, cook at least half the recommended time and then taste it. If still tough, cook longer. If dry, boil up some liquid and add it to the crock pot.

      You’ll need to use more like 1/2 cup of liquid in order for your meat not to dry out. With the liquid being either a broth or wine, your dish will be much tastier. Browning first on the stove top with veg also adds flavor.

      • AprilLeroy says:

        I experienced tough meat when I used the microwave to defrost it before cooking. This could be the culprit that is stealing your tender meat.

        • AprilLeroy says:

          I just reread your problem and realized my prior post is not your answer. I agree with Halaluani. Definitely you need to cook longer.

  10. Stacey says:

    Debbie…OMG…this is me too, and I’m using a top sirloin roast.,..approximately a 3 pounder…I’m so frustrated!!! My mother used to make the best crock pot roasts and she used really cheap pieces of meat…I can’t call her for her advice because she is such a “B”…So I’m in the same boat as you…What are we doing wrong??? I am so frustrated with these same pieces of meat that cost from 14 to 23 dollars each!!! and I was so looking forward to a nice dinner!!!

    Stacey

  11. Jay Lefkowitz says:

    There are Bags sized for crock pots that might be cheaper than roasting bags, Check the Kosher section in the supermarket!

  12. Merryl says:

    Anyone know how to clean the non-stick bowl of a rice cooker safely?

  13. Tristan says:

    I put a dryer sheet in my crockpot in hot water (or any other crusty pot) overnight. The next morning, it usually cleans up nicely.

  14. ilovetobake says:

    Stacey and Debbie , I have been making chuck roast (my favorite) in my slow cooker for years. I place it in Raw , sprinkle it with garlic powder , salt and pepper. I mix onion soup mix in about 3-4 cups of water and pour it over the roast ; it comes up about 1/2 way up the roast. Add peeled whole potatoes , baby carrots , peeled whole onions all around the roast. Cook on low setting for 8 hrs. I have never had a tuff roast using chuck roast .

    I use the juice and left overs for a stew.

  15. Kelli says:

    Hi ~ I am making a beef stew/pot roast in my slow cooker for a friend to freeze to eat later. Is it better to cut up the meat and veggies before I freeze it – or not? Thank you so much : )

  16. Mary says:

    Having put my beef on to cook at 7am for dinner guests I now discover they are not arriving until tomorrow evening. I have removed the meat and juices (8.10am) and frozen them to cool them down….Will this be okay do you think when I put it back on to cook tomorrow morning.
    I know I did this once before but did not cool it all down and the meat was tough….has anyone else had this experience please

    thank you and help

  17. Alice Ray says:

    My barbecue chicken cooked in a crock pot always comes out mealy. Any suggestions on how to prevent this happening?

  18. Martha says:

    I used to have trouble with pot roasts in my crock pot- I had lots of juice but the meat wasn’t as tender as oven slow cooked. Then I read a article in Test kitchen magazine about this problem. For me the problem was too big a crock pot. I had the large 5-6 QT one. So I bought a 2-3 QT one which works good. As it says in the tips your crock pot needs to be 1/2 o 2/3 full. I find about 1 cup of water with the onion soup gives me a tender roast with good gravy, not “soup” which is how we like it. It has been handy to have the 2 sizes also, I use the big one at holidays with family and the smaller one for DH and I..

  19. Elli says:

    For the most tender beef cook up in a crock pot use CHEAP ones, not tender or lean cuts!

  20. Michell says:

    Cheaper cuts have more marbling (fat) spread throughout the meat…it will cook up more tender. I was taught by three of the best cooks this world has ever seen (Grandma, Mom, and my mother-in-law)…for the best beef thaw in the ‘frig for a few days, I’ve read up to a week though I normally only do this for a day or two. This actually allows the meat to break down a tiny bit, helping with the tenderness. Then in a very hot pan I sear all sides….the less “red” the less places for the juices to seep out…I always use butter, but any oil should work. I grew up on a dairy farm, and also farmed, and the butter helps if you don’t have enough fat in the meat…a problem with old dairy cows that nobody else wants, but you need the meat because the freezer is empty. At this point I put it in the crock, on low or medium for the rest of the day. In the same pan that I browned the beef, I dump in a few onion and fry them up, and put them over the meat, I heat some water in the pan and scrape out all the brown bits, and this goes in as well. Anywhere from two to four hours to supper I see how it’s looking, test it with a fork, and if it’s done enough check flavor…and then I turn it on high if I need to.

  21. Carol says:

    I love my crockpot, and use it regularly. The only thing I dislike is the ‘guck’ that comes off meat and ends up in the juices/gravy. Is there any way to prevent this? I tried browning my pork chops this week prior to cooking, but it still happened. By the way the Crockpot Liners are sold at Bed Bath and Beyond, and help alot with cleanup!

  22. Sue says:

    For a really good pot roast: replace part of the water with leftover coffee. I usually replace about 1 to 1 1/2 cups. Add the other seasonings and veggies as usual. This makes fantastic gravy.

  23. Sharon says:

    The best way to clean a crock pot that I have found is with glass stove-top
    cleaner,


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