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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.


          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.

              2. Seems to me, that if you cover your beef (or whatever) with liquid you would only wind up with boiled meat ?? I think the meat itself exudes a lot of liquid during the cooking process.

                My Favorite Pot Roast:

                3 -to 3½-pound boneless beef bottom round roast or chuck pot roast
                3 or 4 garlic cloves, slivered for insertion into meat
                1 can (10¾ ounces) Campbell's Beef bouillon
                1 can (10¾ ounces) Campbell's Condensed Cream of Mushroom or/and Cream of Celery
                1 pouch (2 ouncers) Liption Dry Onion Soup Mix
                3 (about) stalks of fresh celery with leafy tops, cleaned and strings pulled off
                2 large yellow onions, sliced (or small pearl onions)
                6 small red potatoes, skin on, cut in half
                2 or 3 medium carrots, each cut in half
                1 container of fresh mushrooms, cleaned, sliced and sauteed in butter/olive oil

                Make slits, at random, in the roast and insert the slivers of garlic.
                Thoroughly rub roast, all over, with P & S
                Sear meat on stove top in a cast iron skillet on all sides in bacon drippings or vegetable oil.
                Place vegetables into slow cooker.
                Place browned meat on top of the vegetables.
                Pour Campbell's Creamed Soup and bouillon over meat.
                Spread Lipton Dry Onion Soup Mix over all.
                Cover and cook for about 4 to 5 hours on high heat setting.; or until beef is fork tender.
                During last hour of cooking, remove about ½ cup liquid from the slow cooker; cool to lukewarm.

                To Make Gravy: Take about 2 tablespoons of flour; stir into the cooled liquid; stir until smooth; then stir back into liquid remaining in the cooker. Add sauteed mushrooms last. Makes lots and lots of gravy for serving over mashed potatoes and reheating leftovers.
                Serve: With Italian bread or dinner rolls. Broccoli or any green vegetable of your choice.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Lisbet

                  This is quite similar to my go-to pot roast, but since my husband and I both have high blood pressure, I tried to control the sodium levels a bit. I use low sodium broth or stock, low sodium condensed soup (I know some Chows eschew it, but it's easy and tasty for some applications) and omit the soup mix entirely. I put the potatoes and carrots on the bottom, then the meat, then the onions, then the soup/liquid/spices. I also don't normally bother to sautee the mushrooms ahead of time (because if I do, they generally don't make it into the crockpot) but put them in for about 30 minutes at the end.

                  As for the gravy, the last time I made pot roast, I didn't have a chance to do my normal routine of reducing and thickening on the stovetop before my husband dumped about a half cup of grated parmesan in the crock. It thickened it quite nicely and tasted good to boot with a LOT less work (though it doesn't really jibe with my control-the-sodium ideas).

                  1. re: Mestralle

                    That recipe looks like a salt overload, first with the P&S rub, then 3 commercial soup mixes, and no additional liquid.

                2. Not in mine. I braise quite nicely, and roast.

                  1. I have cooked frozen turkey breast in slow cooker with no liquid it all. I would unwrap it and put it in the cooker frozen before I went to bed at around 11 PM. Next morning I would ignore it and go on to work. By the time I got home around 5 PM the turkey breast would be done and even slightly brown. If you have any doubts about whether the meat is safe to eat eg really done you can always check its temp with a thermometer.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Querencia

                      Q, do you have a new-fashioned slow cooker or old-school? Thanks! This is VERY interesting to me and I have an OLD OLD Rival from <snerk> 1978 when I got married...LOL!

                    2. I recently saw a Cook's Country or an America's Test Kitchen episode for pork butt in a slow cooker, and they put the vegetables on top of the meat to create more moisture which would work its way down. The liquid level definitely didn't come up to the top of the meat.

                      1. Two comments: First, I had never really thought much about getting one of these until I had some pulled pork prepared by a friend in one of them that was just delicious. She said that she took the pork shoulder and NOTHING else, put it in the slow cooker, and cooked it on low for 24 hours. Then she shredded it and offered it with homemade sauce and fresh rolls. I was impressed. After that I bought a pretty simple Crock Pot at Macy's. On sale it was about $20 and it came with a 5 qt and a mini, but with manual controls. Simple but works for me. I do not believe that any recipe that I have used called for covering the meat with liquid, rather bringing the liquid 2/3 - 3/4 of the way up the sides.

                        Because I was curious as to differences in the cooking between the rwo levels I emailed Customer Service. They said that whether set at High or Low, the temperature maxes out at the same max temp, it just takes longer to achieve it on low (I'm not sure if it cycles less often or it it uses less burner). I certainly know that it is over boiling temp since it will be bubbling along during the process. Consumer reports in their REGULAR REVIEWS of slow cookers have never questioned their safety. HOWEVER: In September 2010, CR reported that the Consumer Products Safety Commission and Sensio had recalled 25,000 slow cookers sold under the Sensio brand name at Kohl's Dept. Store as a result of 60 units sparking, smoking and melting and 3 catching fire.

                        I would copy and paste that notice here but I don't know if we're allowed to do that. Anyway, stick with the regular brands, make your braises as you normally would, and I think you'll be fine.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: junescook

                          I don't know about modern cookers, but the ones I had 20 years ago just had a few turns of resistance wire wrapped around the outside of the stoneware pot. The one with 2 power settings, had 2 sets of wrappings. No fancy electronics or temperature sensing circuits. They just took a long time to heat up due to the low power. The maximum temperature was controlled by heat loss the contents of the pot. As long as there was liquid in the pot, the temperature could not rise above boiling. And due to the low power it couldn't bubble very hard.

                          1. re: junescook

                            Thanks for the info, junescook! That clears up a few things in my head. My 1986 crockpot cooks much differently than my 2006 Cuisinart. I don't like the new one---it brings things to a boil very quickly, and turning it to low after it is already boiling doesn't have any effect. One morning I had a fully cooked pot roast by 11:00 am---not the idea behind a slow cooker.

                            Liquids, in my experience, should come halfway up whatever you're cooking. Often I'll flip the meat halfway through if it's a solid piece. If you want to preserve the liquid for broth or in soup, put a layer of foil tightly around the crock and then seat the lid. One of the best uses for the crock is to cook pinto beans, split pea or lentil soup. That's where it really shines.

                          2. I only use A QUARTER CUP OF LIQUID when using my slow cooker. I have beef cheeks going right now. I rubbed with seasoning, browned really well and put in the SC with a rough chopped onion, a jalapeno, a couple cloves of garlic and about half a poblano. And a quarter cup of tequila. After about three hours, there's probably two cups liquid in there. About an hour ago I turned the meat so the top gets part of the time submerged. This is the technique I use with every type of meat. A quarter cup of liquid. But I only use fatty cuts of meat (beef or pork or lamb) because I don't believe lean meats are appropriate for the technique. I get success 100% of the time.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: c oliver

                              For the sake of accuracy, I'm reporting back. The meat is done (approx. 5 hours, 1 on HI, the rest on LOW). I removed from the pot and strained the solids. The liquid is now 1-1/2 cups, not the 2 I estimated earlier. So 6x more than I started with. The cooker wasn't half full of anything. There was only 1-3/4# meat, then the vegetables and the 1/4 cup of liquid. I think too much liquid is a culprit and I think letting it cook all day is a problem also. Almost anything I cook in it, and I use it a good bit, is usually done in 5-6 hours. BTW, the beef cheeks are wicked good :)

                              1. re: c oliver

                                So where do you get beef cheeks? This is making my mouth water.

                                1. re: junescook

                                  I just saw that I hadn't answered you. Walmart has them but they can be alot of fat. Lately I've been buying them at a Latino market. They butcher whole cows and pigs so I can get any part I want. Beef cheeks are fantastic.

                            2. I think that the poster that said the trick is to fill it full of meat (or beans or veggies) as opposed to filling it full of liquid, is spot on. I have used mine for roasts, veal, beef and pork, and it works best when the seasonings are on the meat and the liquid is just a top-up. As a small household, the smaller slowcookers make more sense.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: LJS

                                Yep, most meats/poultry will "give up" some liquids also...and I have learned to really go easy on added liquids...maybe 1/4 - 1/3 way up for most slow cooked meals. I really don't remember *EVER* entirely submerging stuff in crockpot all the way, just my 2 cents and that's all it's worth, too! ♥

                                1. re: Val

                                  So not believing my quarter cup, eh? :)

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    I believe it! I've made chicken legs with no added liquid (just raw onions, garlic and a small handful of cherry tomatoes) and it still comes out a tad soupy.

                                    1. re: Jen76

                                      Not to flog a dead chicken, but I think that slowcookers are less effective for poultry than for other meats. That soupy quality (and I totally agree about that with chicken 'juices') is more pronounced with poultry than other meats...there is also something flaccid and unattractive about slow-cooker chicken versus the sorts of success I have had with beef pot roasts, lemon veal chops, Irish stew with lamb or Adoba pork. And slow cooked BBQ pork is the best yet!

                                      1. re: LJS

                                        Except for chicken in red wine, oh my goodness...it's soo good. So very ridiculously good. Agreed, slow cooked pulled pork is fabulous. I use Woody's Cook-in sauce and it's always polished off. Oh, and taco soup in the cooker is wonderful too. Made that last night. Will be making it again tomorrow for the Advent Soup Supper at church. Really want to make Coq au Vin but, taco soup is cheaper and feeds lots more folks.

                              2. haven't read comments but no you don't have to.
                                from my experience which is kinda massive with crock pots, I've put a frozen chicken, a frozen roast, also frozen chicken pieces and frozen boneless pork chops in all to really good results. when you use frozen meats, they're full of water already cause of being frozen right?

                                for the chicken, I rub it down with either Itatlian salad dressing or butter mixed with garlic, onion, salt pepper and poultry seasoning then straight in, don't touch or take off lid.

                                for the chicken pieces, I've put in a cup of uncooked rice the bird a jar of your favorite salsa, leave alone and it's wonderful.

                                for the chops, in go the chops, a can of golden mushroom soup over them, this meal over buttered noodles is wonderful.

                                for the roast, 12 pickled peppers {that's funny but true} a package of dry Italian dressing mix and 1 cup of the pickled peppers juice from the jar, this sliced meat over mashed potatoes, yummy.

                                funny you mentioned pot roast and I just watched Sandra Lee on her show do a pot roast in the crock as it was crock pot day on her show so everything came out of the crock pot. she was so over the moon bragging about how crazy tender this turns out and they didn't/wouldn't even show her slicing it cause it was soooooo untender it was a total joke. but you can do them in the crock, there are tons of good recipes on there, like Mike Ditka's.

                                hope that helped.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: iL Divo

                                  Great cookbook for slow cooking is Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook....http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_...

                                  it changed my life.

                                  1. re: momskitchen

                                    I like "The Slow Cooker Ready and Waiting Cookbook" by Rick Rodgers.

                                    That being said. One of his major points shouldn't be a big surprise. Don't just throw stuff in the slow cooker and forget it.

                                    He is a big proponent of browning meat and sweating vegetables before putting in the pot.

                                2. Updating with the results of my latest experiment - pork shoulder (4.5lbs) with a mustard rub, about 3/4 cup of liquid total - and another basic question. This one tasted great as well, and wasn't swimming in liquid at the end of 7 hours. But I guess I'm not used to dealing with fattier cuts of meat. Do I need a fat skimmer / separator / whatever to be able to use the juices from the slow cooker as a gravy or sauce without it being overly (to my taste) greasy? I know such gadgets exist, but not whether they work. Thanks again.

                                  14 Replies
                                  1. re: cookie monster

                                    If you have the patience for this, cook it the day before you want to eat it, skim (or sometimes, peel, heh) the fat off when it's cold and reheat. The bonus is that it will be even better than it would have been the first day.

                                    Otherwise, I'm curious to see what everyone else says, because any fat in my liquid is far too hot for me to skim out.

                                    I have also cooked a pork shoulder with no liquid in my slow cooker and it was great. It was just a rubbed shoulder. If you put some kind of thick sauce on it, it would, I imagine, burn to all hell without some liquid.

                                    1. re: Raids

                                      Ha - yes, I've definitely done the peeling thing with the refrigerated leftovers (which makes me realize how much fat was in what we ate the first day). Maybe I should try your dry rub method and not attempt to use the cooking liquid.

                                      1. re: cookie monster

                                        I use the Bitman recipe for dry rub, and put it in early evening so we wake up with it. Take it out, pull it, crisp it up in batches, reduce the liquids to a sauce, and enjoy a little slice of heaven. i do skim the liquid to remove most of the fat. No added liquids needed.

                                        1. re: mtngirlnv

                                          You know, now that you mention it, I've taken a solid spoon, like a soup spoon, and skimmed the clear layer of fat off the top of a sauced pork shoulder in the slow cooker also, but it's a pretty slow pain-staking process. Oh, I guess if I'm being for real, I spent about 5 minuntes doing it, but it felt like a long time. ;-) And the next day there wasn't that much fat left to peel off when we reheated the leftovers. So if you have a heavier sauce - like that used for the Hawaiian pork sandwhiches on this web site or a char siu - this can work since the fat goes right to the top.

                                          But I have no luck with this kind of thing if I'm braising - what is the technique here, because I'm no expert.

                                      2. re: Raids

                                        I've cooked "barbecued" (using that term loosely) meat, both chicken and pork, by just throwing the meat into the slow cooker and topping it with sliced onions and a bottle of barbecue sauce. The edges do get a bit black, but nothing that won't soak out (my slow-cooker has a removable crock), and if you use the slow-cooker liners, which I love, you don't even get that.

                                        Not claiming it's gourmet, just that it's dinner. Leftovers make a fabulous pizza with some shredded mozzarella, sliced green onions and chopped dill pickles (add those last two post-baking).

                                      3. re: cookie monster

                                        To Cookie Monster:

                                        I have a separator and it's a good idea. Tonight I'm making chicken and dumps in the crockpot and if it finishes in time, I'm like you, I want to take out the broth and skim off any excess fat that floats. Pouring the liquid into a larger container and then putting smaller amounts into the separator works well. It's easy enough, it just takes a bit of time for it to separate in the plastic thing that looks like a measuring cup with an off/ill fitting stem.
                                        If you do it with chicken, wonder if you can make your own schmaltz? Just a thought...

                                        Oh BTW: is you have a long handled anything that you can afix papertoweling onto the end of, you can swish it over the top of the liquid and get out fat/grease that way too. Not too technical but it works in a pinch or simply skim with a large spoon or ladle.

                                        1. re: cookie monster

                                          Yeah, using a fat separator cup for the pork juice is a tricky bit of work with hot pork. If waiting until it cools is not an option you need the separator cup, and another bowl big enough to contain the juices you strain out and someplace to put the fat drippings. You also have to decide if you are keeping the "bits" or straining them out as well. In my book, bits=tasty so they stay.

                                          Pour/ladel the juice into the separator. Wait about 5 minutes so that fat has time to float to the top. you will also have a fay layer in the spout, pour this off into your fat collection container, then gently pour the juice into your bowl watching carfully so you stop beofre you run out of juice and pour fat. Dump the remaining fat into the fat collection container. Repeat until the fat is drained off. Remove the pork and as you shred it, pick out as much fat as possible.

                                          I also try to trim as much visible fat off the port butt before I cook it but, well. Don't worry about over skimming, that butt is got so much fat in there that you won't get out... it's still going to taste plenty rich in the end. Serve and enjoy. BBQ it may not be but tasty it most certainly is.

                                          Now, what to do with the fat is another question. Keep and render? Mix in a Tbsp. with the dog's kibble? Any ideas?

                                          1. re: aggiecat

                                            Aggiecat: that is SO funny! my Cairn terrier went off her expensive and extremely-good-for-her kibble a couple of months ago. I keep a small jar of pork/beef fat skimmed from my recipes in the fridge to "gravy' up her meal and she is in love with meals all over again. A tsp of that and a brisk run in the yard keep things even for me and the pup.

                                            Now, rendered chicken fat and bacon fat? that's family food and also lives in a special jar in the fridge..way better for browning meat and sweating veg than oil or shortening, more flavorful than butter and less prone to smoking than olive oil!

                                            1. re: LJS

                                              Try a little pork fat spread on rustic bread with a little bit of kosher salt. I mean for the two-legged members of the pack.

                                            2. re: aggiecat

                                              if the canines and bipeds are watching their waistlines, I have a friend who sets out any leftover fat in a dish near a bird feeder. They gobble it up.

                                              1. re: aggiecat

                                                I'm a fan of the Amco Swing-a-Way seperator. http://www.amazon.com/Amco-Swing-Rele...
                                                No spout , so no extra fat in the gravy. Works like a champ with no drips or leaks.

                                                1. re: al b. darned

                                                  I've never owned a fat separator or even a baster, I just skim or chill the fat overnight and remove, but as you may know, skimming is labor intensive and chilling overnight is not always timely. Your Amco product looks great, and lots of reviewers liked it too. Now on my wish list, thanks.

                                                  1. re: al b. darned

                                                    Me, too. Love this separator! Works so well that I've purchased it for family members as gifts.

                                              2. I used my slow cooker yesterday and would like to share what I did as kinda of a 101/primer and also a recipe.

                                                I was going for a Mexican flavor and had about a 4# pork shoulder, boneless and quite a compact little roast. I mixed together 3 or 4 chile powders, ground cumin and cumin seeds, fennel seeds, Mexican oregano. I cut some shallow slices on all sides of the meat and rubbed this mixture in. I browned on all sides in a CI skillet and put it in the slowcooker. I added a roughly chopped onion and jalapeno, three peeled whole garlic cloves, one star anise and half a cinnamon stick. Poured a quarter cup of tequila over the meat. I started the slow cooker on high for the first hour which is something I usually do to get it going. After that I lowered to low. Every two hours I turned the meat so both top and bottom got time in the liquid. This little guy took about 8 hours to get to 190+. I removed the meat and then strained the liquid into a measuring cup. I had almost two cups of liquid. Discarded the solids. Overnight in the fridge and I had about 3/4 cup of fat to lift off.

                                                Outcome and suggestions:
                                                - I feel strongly that only a very small amount of liquid is needed. I measured just so I would know for sure. If I'd used more the flavor would have been sadly diluted IMO. This is the best flavored 'jus' I've EVER had. It has very little heat but you definitely taste the chile flavors. And the star anise and cinnamon (first time using those for this) have taken the flavor to a whole new place.

                                                - I continue to state that a meat thermometer is the one of the most important tools in my kitchen. Without it I could easily have taken this roast out too soon. You just can't make arbitrary decisions like so many minutes or hours per pound. That roast really surprised me that it took so long.

                                                - BTW, for any who are thinking pulled pork, I never make that. It would actually have needed to go longer. I will slice and serve as part of a meal with the jus over it (if I don't drink it all up first.)

                                                I use my slow cooker a lot and have formed some pretty strong opinions. Hope this helps someone.

                                                7 Replies
                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  Thanks! Sounds delicious.

                                                  My slow-cooker (Hamilton Beach brand, I believe) actually comes with a meat probe. You can program it to switch to "warm" once it's hit temperature (whatever temp you program in.) Might not make a difference to a recipe where you're going to flip the meat every two hours as you do in yours, but if you just put your meat in and let it go, it could be pretty helpful.


                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    I agree with you totally about everything (well, except that pulled pork remark-- I do make that very successfully, in the slow-cooker if the oven is going to be busy with other things).

                                                    In appreciation, let me trade you a similar and simple riff on that pork roast.

                                                    I get excellent stewing pork from a local farmer/retailer. I rub (generously) about 2 pounds of it with a good Adobo spice mix.

                                                    Add a couple of cups of mixed bell pepper and roughly chopped onion.

                                                    As there is an allergy in the family to the vinegar you would add at this point and most recipes call for far too much, like a half a cup, I have made a tactical substitute. I squeeze the juice of one whole lemon over all. Mix it up and slow-cook at medium for about 8 hours.

                                                    Excellent on rice.

                                                    1. re: LJS

                                                      I love lemon juice on really rich things. Just adds that bright note, doesn't it? Thanks.

                                                    2. re: c oliver

                                                      I was enjoying reading through this discussion and I have a question about meat thermometers. I did a search by meat thermometers and didn't find exactly what I was looking for. I am definitely a novice cook but I'm learning and have had some success. I can't figure out meat thermometers. I've purchased several and I'm convinced I'm either using them wrong or they are defective. When I use it on bread, no problems. When I use it with meat, I get very inconsistent results. If I wait for the meat to come up to the temp its supposed to be, it will be overcooked and dry. I did this with a beef tenderloin and the result, while not terrible, was definitely more well done than I wanted. With chicken I usually wait until the juices run clear. Am I putting my family at risk for salmonella? Do you have any advice?

                                                      1. re: ursalita

                                                        Can you find a picture of the thermometer you're using? I don't think you're putting your family at risk of anything other than possibly overdone chicken :)

                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          Ursalita: though I have been cooking for many a year, I only converted to consistent use of a meat thermometer about 5 years ago.

                                                          I had a scarey turkey event...if I had a meat thermo when I cooked that turkey (not realizing that the oven had gone whacko) I would have prevented a lot of frustration and potential danger.

                                                          The turkey had had its full time, juices were running clear from the base of the leg and I did not realize that it was still virtually raw beyond the legs, wings.

                                                          Luckily it was a 'good' turkey (local, free-range and thus not as prone to salmonella) and we realized at the point of carving that there was somethng truly wrong and ordered an emergency pizza while we bundled all uncooked meat into a stock pot and made a very expensive soup.

                                                          It is a technique that requires some experience, so hang in there! Well worth it...BTW, I also bought a permanently installed oven gauge thermometer!

                                                        2. re: ursalita

                                                          I've had about 20 thermometers over the years and I worked in a hospital where we were required to check the temp of EVERYTHING. All the time. There's several types, so make sure you are buying the kind you want.
                                                          --A meat thermometer should be sturdy and the better ones give you the temperature for beef/pork/chicken printed on the label. You sink it into the meat and leave it in while it roasts in the oven (but they will blow up if you use too high a heat, esp in a bbq or convection oven. You can check if your thermometer is accurate by measuring it with another thermometer that you trust. Slowly boil a pan of water and watch to see if both read the same temp at the same time. If your meat thermometer is vastly different, chuck it and buy a new one. Good ones cost more, in my experience.
                                                          -- An instant read thermometer usually has a plastic face and you would only poke it in to check the temp then remove it. You check them by putting them in boiling water, then adjusting the nut behind the face until it says 212 when it's immersed in boiling water. This ensures it's accurate. Also, they have a little dimple on the probe and you have to have the dimple covered in the food for it to read correctly (i.e. can't just poke the tip in.)

                                                          I use both of these thermometers all the time. Note you should also get a thermometer for your oven itself, to see if it is holding a proper temperature. Your helpful kitchen gadget store should be able to help you--I like the Taylor brand best.

                                                      2. cooking light actually recommends to reduce liquids since steam and juices are created during the cooking process.

                                                        video tips here:


                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: MSK

                                                          Yep. Started with 1/4 cup, wound up with 2 cups. After defatting still had 4X+ what I started with. That's pretty typical in my experience.

                                                        2. I just bought my first slow cooker and I'm home for the day. The instructions say nothing about adding water to cook a whole chicken. I've seen some posts here that say 1/4 Cup water added. Is that really enough? Wish me luck. And thanks for the idea to cook onions before adding for better flavor.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: justjaneruth

                                                            You've probably already started, but do be aware that slow cookers don't 'roast' chickens the way an oven does, so the skin will likely be somewhat pale, flabby, rubbery. Many recipes online have you brown the chicken in the oven after slow cooking.

                                                            1. re: justjaneruth

                                                              I do whole chicken in the slow cooker all the time. The skin won't brown, but my family is weird, and none of us want skin, even if it is brown and crispy. I do leave the skin on while cooking though. I don't put any water in the slow cooker at all - just plop in the seasoned chicken and cook. There will be a good amount of liquid in there by the end of the cooking time.