Tips for Cooking in a Crockpot

Crock pots/slow cookers are amazing. I was given my crock pot when I acquired my very first apartment, and have lugged the heavy thing around with me ever since, learning from my own mother the valuable and many usages of the thing. If you don’t own one–I definitely suggest buying one. They are definitely worth theris weight in gold (probably much more!)

vegetable stew in a crock pot

Confused about the differences between a slow cooker and a crock pot? Read here to find out the scoop.

Simple to Use But Requires Patience

They are very easy to use, and it’s very hard to screw up a meal when using one. They are great for pot lucks, family dinners, or even just for a couple, as you can make a lot of food, or just enough.

You can make anything in it, from desserts to breakfast foods–not just stews and soups. And of course, the best part is you can leave it on for hours at a time–go to work, go to sleep–and it makes dinner for you!

The flip side of this, of course, is that using a crock pot requires a lot of patience, and a bit of pre-planning. But if you use your time wisely, it  will make your meal-making easy!

Tips

Here are some tips I’ve acquired over the years. I hope they add to your cooking experience

Roast

Here’s a simple slow cooked meal meal: A 3lb roast, a package of onion soup mix, and 2 cans of Coke/Pepsi (any cola works–but not diet). Season the roast with the onion soup mix, place it in the crock pot, add the soda, and cook on low for about 7-8 hours (you can cut the time on this by cooking on high for about 5 1/2 hours). Great to leave while you sleep, or go to work, and only takes minutes to prepare!

tips for roasting meat in a crock pot

Basically, any meat/veggie combo can go into the slow cooker. If you are a recipe-only person, you can find tons of books on the subject by going to your local bookstore, the library (you won’t have to buy it!), and don’t forget Foodal’s Slow Foods Recipe Category. However, it’s really simple to make an easy meal in your crock pot.

Just make sure your veggies are chopped/cut about the same size, and place the ones that take longer to cook–such as potatoes–on the bottom.

It’s usually not a good idea to fill the vessel to the brim, and definitely isn’t a good idea to fill it less than half. But don’t overdo the liquid factor, unless you’re looking for soup, because a crock pot simmers, not boils.

Spaghetti

If you’re making spaghetti, make a jazzed up meat sauce in the crock pot by adding some pre-browned hamburger meat, some oregano, a couple of crushed garlic cloves, some stewed tomatoes, some salt/pepper, and a lot of mozzarella cheese to your jar of pasta sauce, and simmer it all in for an hour or so!

Sauce is something you can vary the recipe on as well; Italian sausage, onions, meatballs, bread crumbs, different spices, peppers, mushrooms, etc.–can all go into the pot with your sauce! As well as different cheeses.

The amount of these additives is better left to the creativity of the cook.

There are many recipes for making sauce from scratch in various crock pot recipe books at the library, but you can jazz up a simple jar of regular store-bought sauce if you don’t have the inclination to make your own.

Poultry

It’s easy to cook a chicken, or turkey, or game hen, etc., and can be as simple as seasoning the bird with some salt and pepper, and putting it in a greased crock pot with some broth or water—to something more elaborate, such as seasoning the whole thing with many spices, cutting and adding seasoned potatoes, onion, and other veggies, putting them in the bottom pot, and adding sauce, or broth, making sure to cover your vegetables. You can add cheese, or a bay leaf or two or a can of green beans; in fact, whatever variation you can think of you can probably do.

a whole cicken with herbs and spices slowly roasting in a crock pot

When cooking your bird and veggies, it’s best to “jump start” your cooking for about an hour and a half on high, then letting it cook for about 6-7 hours on low. It may not take as long if you’re not using veggies.

When using noodles in a meal, it’s best to pre-cook them beforehand, and not cook them with your sauce or soup in the crock pot; noodles will absorb liquid, and if you leave your pot on to simmer, can cause burning, and yet another mess!

Beverages

All sorts of ciders, hot chocolates, even drinks you would let cool down for later, can be made in your crock pot as well, in large quantities (of course), or even small. The advantage here is that you can use ingredients that simmer well, infusing flavor into your drink–such as actual cinnamon sticks, or pumpkin spice, or even a candy cane! Add some vanilla, or other flavoring, food coloring, etc.–the possibilities are endless!

It is easy to find recipes for drinks for your crock pot, and with the Holidays coming up, it would be an easy way to simmer a nice, hot beverage for your guests!

I use my crock pot sometimes several times a week; it is a valuable asset to my cookware. Don’t be afraid to try your own variations and creations.

I hope that these tips help you in your cooking, but even more so–inspire creativity!

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About Lynne Jaques

Lynne is a stay-at-home mother of two boys. As a former US military officer and the spouse of an active duty US military member, Lynne enjoys traveling the world (although not the moving part!) and finding new cuisine and methods of preparing food. She also has the habit of using parenthesis way too much!

27 thoughts on “Tips for Cooking in a Crockpot

  1. I’ve never thought about making hot cider in my slow cooker. I will have to do that this season! I love how easy making meals in my slow cooker is. It’s lovely to set it and come home to a ready meal. I’m going to have to try cooking a whole chicken in mine this week. I’m sure the chicken will come out moist and delicious.

  2. I should come up with tips on ‘how to stop your mouth from watering whilst reading the blog foodal’…the temptation within is like a mighty storm raging, for starters just check out that bird in the casserole dish, i confess, at times i lose focus on what i was going to write about, like about this minute…anyway let me try to focus, ah yes, tips on cooking using a crockpot…unfortunately i don’t have one, would not mind santa dropping one on my kitchen table this christmas and onto this site i ‘ll visit 🙂

  3. That roast looks delicious. I am going to make that very soon. Never in a million years would I have thought about making hot chocolate in the crockpot. Once winter hits, we become hot chocolate fiends around here. I am definitely going to be making hot chocolate in the crockpot this holiday season. It’s going to be great for family gatherings.

    • Wait a minute, mind sharing the recipe {wink! wink!}…a chocoholic calling :)…how do you go about it, i bet it tastes heavenly…feelings of jealousy want to crop up right about this minute, ah my fault, its actually addressed within the article, i blame the {bird in the casserole dish} for making me miss on other juicy details, thanks Nids for calling that to my attention. 🙂

  4. I love my crockpot too! I bought a large model, possibly a bit larger than I really need, especially because I wanted to make sure I could fit a roast in it, and it’s definitely been worth it for that reason alone. When I’m making more stew-based meals I take advantage of the extra capacity and make extra portions for leftover lunches or the freezer. I know some people who use them so much they have two or three, of different sizes and shapes so they have the perfect one for every possibility!

  5. I am all about crockpots now that fall is with us! I love the idea of making beverages in the crock pot. Simmering some cinnamon or candy cane in some homemade hot chocolate sounds delightful! I’ll have to find a recipe for apple cider as well.

  6. Great tips! Something to add, especially for roasts, is that slow cookers develop browned meat flavors very well, so it’s usually a good idea to brown the meat before putting it in the slow cooker. The extra step really makes a huge difference for pot roasts. 🙂

  7. I’ve never thought about making hot chocolate in a crockpot. That would have never occurred to me. I’m always learning something new from this site. Thanks for the great tips!

    My crockpot is my favorite item in the kitchen. It makes life a lot easier. Just line it, fill it, and cook. I don’t have to worry about something burning or wait around the oven. I can just let it slowly cook and my food is ready when I need it.

  8. I love my crockpot, and couldn’t imagine being without one! I’ve never given a thought to doing a chicken in the crockpot, but now that I’ve read your post, it makes absolute sense. The picture of your chicken looks so delicious!

    I’ve often made chicken stock in my crock, with the remains of a roast chicken; now I’ll be able to do the entire process from start to finish. 🙂

    Thank you.

  9. You know, with all the cooking I’ve done, I’ve never owned a crock pot or slow cooker. The closet thing I’ve owned to this is a pressure cooker. And that contraception not only is big, but it also scares the dickers out of me. Anyway, after reading this article, I’m going to have to give it a try. 🙂

  10. Beverages in a crock pot!? Mind blown. When it is cold outside, and the kids spend a lot of time playing outdoors, they want something hot to drink. But who has time to just whip up hot cocoa? It is too hard to reheat on the stove all day. Having a crock pot with a hot beverage where everyone can serve themselves any time is just genius. I have more than one crock pot, so I could still do the pot roast and have hot cider going at the same time!

  11. I am pretty sure my family would be really hungry some days if we did not have a crockpot. I love being able to make dinner in it the night before, and then just pulling it out of the fridge and turning it on the next day. We make a lot of dried beans and casseroles in ours.

  12. Crockpot cooking is a family standard in our household during the winter months. It falls out of favor during the summer but during the cold months of the year we are always turning to the crockpot for soups, stews, chili, pork and beef roast. I think it’s one of the more underrated cooking tools in the kitchen.

  13. I never thought a crockpot could be this useful as to also make desserts and hot chocolate! We bought one, used, one time, and it never worked proper, so we had just given up on the idea of slow cooking. Reading your article, we might have to revise our opinions!

  14. I just recently bought a slow cooker. Have used it for chilli, shredded chicken and refried beans and looking to try some beef casseroles as well. It is great to just stick in before bed or in the morning before work. Interested idea with infusing flavours into teas, will have to try that one. The slow cooker is really a great versatile appliance for those short of time or on a budget.

  15. I didn’t know you can make desserts. I think I’m going to look up some recipes and give it a try. I wonder if I could make a peach cobbler. Also that roast recipe looks amazing. I make mines similar but never thought of adding Coca-Cola to it. I’m definitely gonna give this recipe a try and see if I can find similar ones.

  16. I can’t believe it never occurred to me to cook a chicken in the crock pot. That makes sense, and would be less messy and time-consuming than doing it in a pot and having to keep watch. I think I’m going to try that next time I get a bird, and then use the meat to make a chicken soup. Good to know about cooking the noodles ahead of time, because I wouldn’t have known.

  17. Thanks for these tips. I love my slow cooker, but would really like to know how to do more things in it besides stews etc. Cooking foods separately and even browning chicken if it were possible. I think I am going to do a lot more experimentation in my crock-pot, by inserting smaller containers etc.

  18. I regularly use my crock-pot for when I want to go somewhere and I need a hot meal ready for me when I come back. I like the safety of the machine vs. my oven, and I fully trust that my house will not be on fire when I return. However, I’ve never heard of making beverages before in a slow cooker; I’d love to try that in the fall with apple cider. Thank you for the article!

  19. This is a really great way to cook things. It is just so easy and makes everything taste so good. The hot beverages that sounds really good for winter time. Vegetable soup cooked this way is may favorite. It just makes it so tender.

  20. I have a slow cooker but don’t use it as often as I probably should, for energy conservation purposes, mine and my energy bill’s. Generally when I use it, it’s for slow cooking meats, heart or tongue typically, to use in tacos, burritos, or sandwiches. I have used it to make oatmeal, so that it can cook over night and be ready in the morning when we have to get up early and leave quickly. I prefer baked oatmeal for it’s texture though. Thank you for the link to slow cooker meals. I’ll have to look at those to see if I can find some interesting ones to get me using my mine more.

  21. You really can’t mess a meal up when using a slow cooker. My favorite time to use one is during the holidays. I actually ask my family to bring theirs over and I use them to either warm courses up and then serve or prepare a whole dish. They make serving a large meal with lots of moving parts so much easier.

  22. I’m italian and slow cookers aren’t really common over here but I’m always looking for new ways to improve my cooking skills and after reading glowing reviews, last year I finally purchased my first slow cooker, a small one to start. My husband was very skeptical and he thought it was another one of my bought-and-let-to-take-dust appliances. He was in for a nice surprise and after trying out my slow cooked pork ribs he had to take back his statement. We’ve been using it at least four times at week and recently we’ve decided to purchase a bigger one.
    I’m rather new to this world so I had no idea you could use it to make drinks and desserts, this is very good to know because since I have two of them, I can cook the meal in the bigger one and make a dessert in the other one. Thank you!

  23. Definitely pinning this post! I love mine, and try to use it at least once a week. I have heard of the cola method, but haven’t actually tried it. It looks delicious!

    I have made a small chicken in a slow cooker once, and was surprised how well it turned out. I will try the high, then low method. I never thought about that. I put balls of aluminum foil on the bottom to keep it from getting soggy at the bottom. These appliances are so versatile. Thanks for the tips!

  24. Lentils are also really good cooked in a crockpot. It gives them a chance to simmer and soften, something I find doesn’t always happen when you cook them on a stovetop. I had an Indian friend tell me that a crockpot was the only good way to make dal (a spicy lentil stew) because it gave them a good, mushy texture.
    When I was a kid, we used to warm up apple cider in a crockpot. It was also a good way to take hot drinks to a potluck or family supper. The same can be done for warm, spiced wine or mead, for those who want a more “adult” beverage.

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