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Mar 23, 2010 05:05 AM

I don't like my crockpot

This is the third time I tried cooking meat in it and I'm not really satisfied. This time it was a pot roast. I seared it and sauteed veggies and added liquid. After about 11 hours it softened and had decent flavor but it would have come out much better braised in the oven. Am I doing something wrong? It wasn't that tender and was slightly dry.

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  1. I think you may have overcooked the meat. Even 11 hours on low is too long. It could also be the cut of meat, what was the "pot roast" labeled for the actual cut? Round, shoulder, rump?? I prefer a chuck roast for pot roast. Sometimes markets label rump roast for pot roast but it will be a drier, tougher cut. Your technique to sear and add veggies/liquid is correct. What crockpot brand are you using?

    3 Replies
    1. re: mrsgreer

      I never thought about overcooking, but that's a possibility. It was a chuck roast. But I also had no luck with brisket a few months ago. I ended up finishing it in the oven and it was great. It's a West Bend versatility crockpot. The glass lid just sort of sits on top, maybe they make different ones that have better seals? I like the idea of a crockpot but not the finished product.

      1. re: Aimee

        I agree that it overcooked. I also wouldn't have sauteed the vegetables first.

        I like the crockpot for what it is, but it certainly doesn't replicate an oven-cooked meal. It's convenient.

        They all have lids that just sit, they don't seal.

        1. re: Aimee

          chuck roast for 11 hours, it was definitely overcooked.

      2. i would say too long as well - I don' use mine as much as I would like but these work great for me:
        new england boiled dinner
        15 bean soup (fantastic in a crock pot - I will usually add some smoky sausage or leftover ham, pork)
        pulled pork roast

        this is a really neat blog, she used a crockpot everyday of the year:

        I'm in the middle of a 3 rm renovation - I should really look closer at her blog now.

        Have fun.

        1 Reply
        1. re: lexpatti

          How do you do a New England boiled dinner in a crockpot?

        2. I agree about overcooking. Does your crockpot have a timer so it'll turn off automatically? Mine turns to warm but it's still warm enough to keep cooking so I have to adjust the time. Also, did you cut the liquid? I do it by half almost. That said, I like my crockpot because I can come home to a hot meal but it isn't as good a braising in the oven or on the stove. I don't find it dry, though. I just don't find the liquid as concentrated with flavor. Another thing I've done lately is added a towel under the lid. The towel absorbs some of the evaporating water so the liquid gets slightly thicker. It's closer to oven braising, though takes longer. Some crockpots run hot where even the warm temperature can overcook the dish in a short time.

          1. At 11 hours it was overcooked indeed but I have a slightly different take; the oven does create better meals. Crock pots are good for weeknight meals but I wouldn't ever use it for dinner with guests for instance.

            The crock pot is merely convenience, not culinary superiority.

            10 Replies
            1. re: Fuller

              I agree. You can't regulate temperature in a crockpot. Plus, I don't think it's any more convenient. I can brown meat in my stockpot or dutch oven and put that straight into the oven. If I used a crockpot, that would just be one more dish to wash.

              If I want a weeknight braise, I'm going to cook it a day or two before, strain, and cool it in the braising liquid. I'll then defat, reduce, and reheat the night I want it. It's arguably better that way anyway.

              1. re: jeremyn

                "You can't regulate temperature in a crockpot."

                You can regulate temperature, but it's NOT AT ALL convenient. I do low temperature baking in a crockpot and the temperature has remain fairly steady in some of my recipes. I put a small oven thermometer inside and manually regulate the heat when baking. An instant read thermometer can tell you if the food is done.

                1. re: icecone

                  I own a Hamilton Beach crock pot that comes with its own meat thermometer. You can program your crock pot to switch to low once it reaches a certain desired internal meat temperature. Of course, this isn't regulating heat in a crock pot, just enabling you to measure it.

                  Also to the OP, when it comes to overcooking, the size of your slow cooker matters. If the crock is not filled, it will overcook. To prevent overcooking, the crock should be filled half-full to no more than one inch from the rim.


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    TDQ, I've been wondering about those crockpots with temperature probes. Can you use it for baking? For example, if bread is done when it has an internal temperature of, say, 200 degrees F, can you set the probe for that and have it turn off when the bread is ready?

                    One problem is that the probe could interfere with the rising of the bread and could deflate bread before it sets under heat.

                    Sadly, even if that did work, it wouldn't save me any time or much effort. I am experimenting with baking at temperatures under 250 degrees F to reduce the number of toxic compounds that form at high temperatures. The HB temperature probe would not keep the crock temperature under 250.

                    1. re: icecone

                      Interesting. I've never tried it for baking, and there's nothing in the product guide that says what the temperature of the crock is at low and at high. There is a recipe on their site for a chocolate cake, but it doesn't use the probe...

                      I personally haven't had great luck baking cakes in a crock pot. My results have been very uneven. Have you had much success?


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        Yes, I bake all the time in my crocks (large and small), but it's work.. I put an oven thermometer in my 5.5-quart and use an instant thermometer with my 1.5-quart. The crock temps must not go too high, so I watch them every 15 minutes or so.

                        I'm not sure if an oven would be better. 250 degrees is below the range that most ovens are expected to operate with accuracy. Plus, home ovens are considered "accurate" if they are off by 50 degrees either way,which is too much leeway for my purposes.

                        If that temp probe on the HB worked for baking, it would make life easier for me. I've seen a picture of one and it's large enough to interfere with the baking.

                        1. re: icecone

                          Do you have a favorite baking recipe to recommend? I'm curious enough I'd be willing to try it out for you and report back. Probably not until June, though, if you can wait that long. I'm crazy busy until then.


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            It's too soon to have a favorite. I experiment across 3 cooking paradigms: slow baking, steaming and dehydration - all are forms of low temperature baking. I toss many recipes because they don't work. The ones that do work go up on my blog.

                            If you just want to bake, your slow cooker probably goes higher than 250 degrees (for baking only). Try a regular recipe that has a low oven temperature - around 325 degrees - and bake smaller quantities.

                            1. re: icecone

                              Oh, I'm not interested enough to pick random recipes and experiment, though I was willing to test a fav recipes of yours "for the sake of science." :) in order to let you know how it works out with the Hamilton Beach probe.

                              I've tried, several times, a couple of crock pot baking recipes that were supposedly well-tested that were really a waste of time and good, organic eggs.

                              I'm sure it's just me, or just my crock pots, but, meh, I don't have the patience or a strong-enough desire, I guess.


                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                I know all about how much patience you need to bake in a crockpot, believe me. One day, I might be able to afford an oven with a super-accurate thermostat. I wouldn't be doing it except to gain an understanding of low temp baking.

            2. I also think you over cooked the meat; I cook my roast between 6-8 hours. I disagree that the crock pot is inferior to the oven. If you know what you're doing, the crock pot is as good as an oven (with the exception of the ability to brown) IMO

              14 Replies
              1. re: Cherylptw

                #1 there are crock pots that allow you to brown on the stove and transfer to the heating element on the crock pot.

                #2 the crock pot (AKA slow cooker) has traditionally been used to cook things slowly over a period of hours (set it in the morning and have it for dinner). That is convenience and does not require training and/or special knowledge to operate it. You shouldn't have to "know what you're doing" to operate a crock pot.

                1. re: Fuller

                  oh, I'm with cheryl - everything has it's advantages (even when taste is your objective). I'm one who really doesn't know the crockpot as I wish I did - but I know many that do know how to really do it right. It's not just about walking in a having dinner ready while you've been gone all day.

                  the same could be said for a microwave, I only use it to defrost and reheat but there are some who really "know how to use a microwave".

                  1. re: lexpatti

                    Tell me one thing a crock pot can do better than an oven or a stove aside from the obvious like storing it in a cabinet or portability - I'm talking culinary advantages. Likewise a microwave.

                    A crock pot is simply a cheap, self-contained little stove/oven. It stays at a low temperature to keep things a little safer, cooks things slowly over the period of hours, and thus is a tool for convenience.

                    Some people may use them as a gift from heaven but if I went over to someone's house for a weekend dinner and I saw the main dish in a crock pot, I would immediately realize that they aren't great cooks. That's fine, everyone has their strenghts, but I can't say that is has any advantages culinarily speaking.

                    1. re: Fuller


                      Make your chilli at night and put it in the fridge in the crock pot. In the morning plug in the pot and let it cook all day. Makes chilli much better and it's so nice to come home to dinner smells in the house. Mmmmm

                      1. re: julesincoq

                        There's no culinary advantage of cooking chili in a crock pot versus the oven or the stove top. The same results can be achieved and in many cases better results when not using the crock pot.

                        One could argue that the fact that the chili sits in the fridge overnight for the flavors to mingle is the reason it tastes better... not the cooking vessel.

                        1. re: Fuller

                          Fuller -- I've had similar discussions on this site before. None have led anywhere.

                      2. re: Fuller

                        Well, it's a gift from heaven for anyone who has a family on the go, gets home late and wants a hot dinner--I think in that sense, that meal is far superior to anything else I can make that quickly. But, in the sense of making the best food possible w/out constraints, I agree. I couldn't live w/out my crockpot in the winter but for the purpose it serves. So, like a stand mixer, rice cooker, immersion blender, food processor, you can cook just as well w/out any of that but they are helpful for situations.

                        Most people incorrectly use crockpots by throwing all ingredients in and turning it. That never makes a good meal, no matter what cooking method. So, I think you do need to know what you're doing to get a decent meal out of a crockpot--and I don't think the 365 day blogger does. Overall, I prefer to use the stove/oven and think braising, even making chicken stock, is better that way. But, I still love it for what it is.

                        1. re: chowser

                          I agree completely. It's entirely convenient and when used for that purpose, it's a fine tool. I have one at home and I use it myself when convenience is desired... I don't use it often but then again I don't have kids (I think) so the aspect of time isn't as important to me as it might be to others. I guess the point I have to make is that it isn't knowing how to use a crockpot, it's knowing how to cook in general. It's not a miracle machine and some people treat it as such.

                          1. re: Fuller

                            My kids are home from school by 4. I'm home from work by 6:30. If there is something hot, ready and nutritious they can eat it before I get home (gasp!! you don't eat all together every night??? Uh no. they are hungry and want to eat not wait). I love my crock pot for that reason alone.

                            You are right about the chilli. Day old chilli is always better so that is why I always make it a day ahead. Everything I could do in the crock could be done on the stove...but I'd have to be there and I'm not.

                            Sigh... I wish I could be at home to make non crock pot meals!! That's what I love about weekends!

                            1. re: julesincoq

                              I'm with ya! I have no argument against the convenience factor.

                              I just think that when someone who is accustomed to braising in the oven switches to a crock pot and gets inferior results (let's ignore the fact it was in there 11 hours) they should not be too surprised. Like I mentioned before convenience, not culinary superiority.

                              1. re: Fuller

                                Fuller, I think you've gotten off on your own lil tangent - I'm not sure anyone mentioned that crockpots had any "culinary superiority" but just that knowing how to use one could yield better results!!!! tooo funny!

                        2. re: Fuller

                          The thing a crockpot can do better than anything but a maid is have dinner ready when you walk in the door. Try your crockpot again with beef stew, beef curry, lamb curry, chicken curry, African chicken, beef burgundy, chili, or pulled barbecue. And, Fuller, that crockpot cook you are judging rather harshly may have spent the day at the office, in court, in surgery, or at the pediatrician's with a sick baby. How nice that the family gets a hot meal nonetheless.

                          1. re: Fuller

                            Growing up we always used our crock pot for chinese bean soups - red bean soup, green bean soup, peanut soup, congee. I think it's probably perfect for those items and does do an arguably better job than cooking on the stove. Those are all dishes that involve tossing a couple ingredients in a pot, adding water, and cooking for a long time without burning.

                            It's also really good for making french onion soup because it frees up a burner and you don't need to watch it closely. I've served that to friends and we're fairly sophisticated in our cooking at dinner parties.