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Slow cooker 101 question

I've done a search and found conflicting answers - does the food in a slow cooker really need to be completely covered in liquid? I used my new one for the first time yesterday, and that's what the instruction booklet says. I used the proportions in the recipe that i was sort of following, and my chuck roast was less than half covered. So I added more broth and 8 hours later I had basically a pot roast floating in vegetable soup. It tasted great, but wasn't quite what I was going for. Thanks in advance for your advice.

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  1. That is the reason I don't like slow cookers. I arrive home to find everything immersed in a large amount of liquid/broth.

    1. I often cook with my slow cooker having much less liquid than "fully covering" the contents. There is a point at which the risk of the cooker running dry before the food is cooked but, with a bit of experience, I think it's possible to learn where the limits are. For high heat cooking I use more liquid than for low heat cooking. May I suggest you work with your appliance (they're not all the same) and reduce the liquid gradually with each use (it's a factor of time, temperature and ingredients) until you have a good idea about what to expect. NEVER leave a slow cooker on when you leave the house. I know, I know, lots of people do. But I've visited a lot of house fires where those people who do, did.

      9 Replies
      1. re: todao

        Really?! How do the fires start, exactly, do you know? Is it an issue of the wiring melting or the heat not transferring properly when it when it goes dry, or what?

        I cook chicken with no added moisture-- with balls of tinfoil in the bottom to keep it from sitting in its liquid.

        1. re: jvanderh

          I heard that you should put your slow cooker on a baking stone so it doesn't heat up your counters and cause a fire.

          ~TDQ

          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Hmm. I don't have one of those, but I have been considering getting one.

            1. re: jvanderh

              Would you get the same effect by putting your slow cooker on your stove top if you don't have a baking stone?

              1. re: annabanana2000

                annabanana? from the old yahoo chess social lounge?

                Anyway.. the stovetop works fine but even the crockpot brand slow cookers, which are notorious for running hot to the touch, have rubber feet to elevate the cooker. It should be fine without anything.

          2. re: jvanderh

            I'm a kitchen designer, and have had a few of these fire jobs over the years. Every one of the countertops (and cabinets) I've replaced because of crock pot fires has been because of a crockpot sitting on a laminate counter. The heat at the bottom of some crockpots starts to char the laminate and finally it bursts into flame. Some, I've replaced just a bubbled up top. Others have been the upper cabinets as well, if the flames got going.

            The baking stone is a good idea, or you can set the slow cooker on a tempered glass counter protector that has feet to give some air flow under it. They are usually sold with the cutting boards at home centers or BB&B.

            I don't know what brands these clients had been using, or if there are some crock pots that are worse than others, so I'd err on the side of caution if I were using one.

            Putting it on your stove top would work, annabanana, but if you have a ceramic glass smooth top, I'd check my owner's manual first to see if the manufacturer says anything about it.

            1. re: jmcarthur8

              that's crazy!! Mine does have feet, but it's scary anyway. I have laminate countertops.

              1. re: jvanderh

                Even with the feet on the crockpot, I'd still use a heat-proof surface to keep it off the laminate.
                I agree, it is scary!

                1. re: jmcarthur8

                  Mine caught on fire while I was home once. It was an older model that I got about 20 years ago. It had a plastic bottom covering the heating element. Thank goodness I had a keen nose that day and smelled it before the whole thing went up in flames. Now I make sure any crock pot I own has an all metal exterior and I put it on the glass cook top of my stove.

        2. It really doesn't need to be fully immersed butnit depends on the meat. A pork butt completely immersed will braise beautifully. I've also done whole chickens with no liquid at all.
          I have to use the crock pot a lot because I work odd hours but still gotta feed the fam. A lot of trial and error and it will be your most useful multitasker!

          1. I cook chuck roasts with no additional water at all. Sometimes I sear/brown, sometimes not. It has no affect on the amount of liquid produced by releasing enough of it's "own" (injected) liquids to provide more that enough liquid to cook the meat. Sometimes I remove some of it as I don't want the roast "boiled". The only problem with not enough liquid is getting accompanying root vegetables to cook through as they do require liquid to cook.

            A meat fully immersed in water is not braising. That is stewing or boiling. Braising involves maintaining a small amount of liquid, no more that half way up the sides of the meat.

            1. The meat doesn't have to be completely covered but the slow cooker has to be at least half full. If I am going to make a pot roast in a slow cooker, I try to get a roast almost as big as the slow cooker. The modern slow cookers are 6 or 6.5 quarts which is too large if you are cooking for 2 or 3. That's when you end up with vegetable soup. When this happens, I remove the meat and the veggies. Put the liquid in a pan and simmer it down to a manageable amount.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Hank Hanover

                Thanks, Hank. I think that's part of my dilemma - I don't want to cook a 7 pound hunk of meat.