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Oct 16, 2012 05:31 PM

Slow Cooker woes

We just got a slow cooker

and have had nothing but problems with the first 2 things we tried. The first dish was chicken thighs, and the 2nd dish was a pork roast. Both times the edges of the meat that are on top come out totally dried out, brown, and crusted over. Both times, I've left the slow cooker on low for about 9 hours, then on warm for another hour.

I've heard that you need to fill the slow cooker 1/2 to 3/4 of the way full, which I'll never get a 6.5qt crock pot that full.

Am I doing something wrong, do I have the wrong size, help please! I've been following these recipes exactly as I am totally new to a slow cooker.

Also, if any of you have recipes that I can leave on for 10+ hours (as I leave for work at 7:30 and don't want to eat dinner till at least 6:30) that would be great.

Thanks in advance for the help

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  1. 9 hours sounds way too long for chicken thighs. 6 would be more like it, and according to rick bayless (he's got 6-8 wonderful slow cooker recipes in his book "Mexican Everyday") you can safely leave it on warm for another 4 hours after that.) But, yeah, I think the tips are going to get a little dried unless you completely submerse it in liquid...

    9 s about right for a pork roast, I think. I do my pork roast so the fat layer is on top and can kind of baste the meat during cooking time.


    1. There are really not very many recipes that you can leave in the crockpot for that long and have it taste like anything. Pork shoulder roast is one - add barbecue sauce for pulled pork, or a can of green enchilada sauce, about 2 Tablespoons of chili powder, and a half teaspoon of cumin for burritos. The majority of my other recipes are for 5-6 hours.
      I have the same crock-pot you got and love it, but I also have a smaller one for times when I cannot fill the big crockpot to at least half full. The cookbook that comes with the crockpot has a very nice roast beef recipe that is my family's favorite, so long as I make sure to use a chuck roast and not some other cut.

      1. I believe the point has been made, if not specifically then conceptually, that slow cookers don't necessarily mean that they cook everything for long periods of time at low temperatures. When the contents of the slow cooker are done, they're done. A pork shoulder for pulled pork cooks in my slow cooker in 6 hours; any more and it'd begin to dry out.
        It might help you to learn your slow cooker's nuances by placing a thermometer into the food while it's cooking and monitor the internal temperature over time.

        1. Dang that cooker does look lovely. How many peeps are you cooking for? Two folks in our house, and our most used cookers are a 4-qt, 1.5 qt, and 2-c.

          Cooking times depend on size of cooker, volume of fill, coldness of fill, amount of liquid, density of food, amount of stirring, raising of lid, etc.

          Despite the rep of slow cookers as "set it and forget it" or "set it and walk away", better results come from good ingredient prep, and interaction with the cooker. I work 12-hr shifts and it's very seldom that tonight's dinner is in one of my cookers -- there might be a tomato sauce, stock, or stew in there while I'm away but generally dishes in the cooker requires a bit of stirring, later addition of ingredients and some processing beforehand. I generally prep dinner entire on a day off and then reheat as needed on worknights.

          Chicken doesn't need much more than 6 hours in a crockpot (as others have stated). Fatty pork is generally forgiving with a bit of liquid onboard but needs to be congruent with size of cooker.

          1. Echo what has been said about limited choices for optimal cooking much over 6hours. You would probably have the best luck with a variety of bean dishes. I have made different kinds of chili with longer cooking times and they were great. Another idea would be to make a nice long cooking soup stock, then finish with prepped fresh veggies, pasta, or diced meats, once you get home.

            6 Replies
            1. re: sedimental

              Most beans turn into mush if left on for 9 hours! Unless of course what you are after is bean mush.

              1. re: lilham

                That is not my experience at all ...or of other people. Almost all slow cooker bean recipes will tell you to cook dried beans for at least 8 hours (on low)...most suggest 8 to 9 hours, or 4 to 6 on high. It's standard practice. I am not suggesting using canned beans.

                1. re: sedimental

                  That's my experience with soaked dried beans. Chickpeas and red kidney beans keep their shapes. But others like borlotti and pinto invariably go mushy. It's ok for mushy dishes like refried beans. But sometimes I want them firmer, for example in salads.

                  I also leave them in the slow cooker for about as long as the OP, from 7 to 6/7.

                  1. re: lilham

                    Probably depends upon the slow cooker, but I often cook beans for up to 10 hours (pinto, black, navy, etc) and they do not turn to mush. In fact, I think the big advantage of cooking beans in a slow cooker is that they hold their shape. I cook on low, and have an older slow cooker that doesn't cook too hot, so it's not actually boiling. I would think that if your beans are losing their shape, the are being agitated by boiling water, indicating that your slow cooker is cooking hot.

                    1. re: MelMM

                      You are right about the temperature, MelMM. I just made chili with beans today. 10 hours on low, beef and pinto beans. Not mushy in the least. I have an older model (several older models in different sizes actually) and they DO cook at a lower temp. I bought a new one a few years ago and hated it. It overcooked everything.

                      1. re: sedimental

                        I've been hesitating to buy a newer slow cooker for just this reason. I'd like some of the new features, like being able to program it to switch to a "keep warm" setting after a certain number of hours, but I've had such good luck with what I have, and I'm afraid of throwing that out the window for some features that may not be worth it, and may, in fact, be unnecessary with an older cooker that cooks at a lower temp. I'm pretty sure I could leave my beans on forever without them turning to mush.