Slow-Cooker Tips Every Home Cook Should Know

These expert tips will help you make fantastic meals in your slow cooker every time.

Don’t Drown The Meat

According to Stephanie O'Dea, covering your meat with liquid is "old school," and results in bland, watery flavors. Instead, focus on seasoning meat really well, and then add just a half cup of broth or water for a large beef roast. "Pork butts and whole chickens release so much liquid on their own that you don't need to add any additional liquid; instead just season the meat and place into the pot," says O'Dea.

Add Dairy Last

If your recipe calls for dairy, hold off on adding it until the last half hour of cooking. According to Jane Nachbor, director of party strategy for, cooking dairy too long at low temperatures may cause it to curdle, and no one wants to have a nice dinner spoiled by the taste of sour milk.

You Can Peek If You Want

O'Dea says that you should keep your slow-cooker lid on tight for the first few hours of cooking, but after that, take a look! "Feel free to poke, prod, and taste your slow cooker fare near the end of cooking time and adjust the seasoning as necessary," says O'Dea. 

Trim the Fat

Lean meat is a key component to tasty stews, according to chef Franco Robazetti, executive chef of Jersey City's famous Zeppelin Hall Biergarten. "Trim as much fat from meats as possible since they will not be drained away or be easily removed," Robazetti says. "Otherwise, they will just sit on top and make the stew greasy."

Don’t Throw in Frozen Food

It can be tempting to toss a bag of frozen chicken thighs in your slow cooker and run out the door, but Jane Nachbor says that slow cookers don't actually get hot enough to keep frozen meat at safe temperatures, which can lead to a nasty bout of food poisoning. Always thaw your meat before using a slow cooker. 

Bundle Vegetables

Traditionally, the crock-pot has been a culinary free-for-all, with ingredients just heaped in a pile, but Stephanie O'Dea says that there's a better way. "Make bundles of veggies seasoned with some butter or olive oil and fresh herbs in aluminum foil or parchment paper. Place the packets on top of your meat while it's cooking for beautifully steamed vegetables." 

Easy on the Alcohol

Crock-pot coq au vin sounds fantastic in theory, but you may want to take it easy on the wine. "Since the lid of the slow cooker will always be on, the alcohol won't be able to evaporate and escape," says Robazetti. "Just a few tablespoons of any alcohol will be plenty."