HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


newbie has dumb questions

I am now the proud owner of a 6 qt digital slow-cooker/crockpot. Although I've always wanted one, I
didn't realize how little I know about using them. The thing looks like a spaceship to me. All I have to work with right now is a 1.5 lb piece of bottom round, 2 cans of beef broth, and some seasonings. I put the meat in a fry pan with some oil and seasonings for a few minutes on each side, then put it in the pot with my 2 cans of beef broth. It looks so small in there...
Anyway, I put it on low and set it for 4 hours. Is this going to even come out edible?
Next time, I won't shoot first and ask questions later. Any help is appreciated!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I might get slammed for saying this but I have to tell you I despise those things. Besides a select few dishes like stew or possibly osso bucco I cannot see any other purpose for these slow cooking dishes that all come out like mush.

    Based on your post yes I think you will have very flavorful edible mush. Bon appetite!

    1 Reply
    1. re: jrvedivici

      If all I used mine for was my chicken stew, it would be worth it for that alone.

    2. You have to start somewhere. A six-quart slow cooker is pretty big, so you'll want to make a big batch of something that will refrigerate well. It's not much more trouble than a small batch. I would have made beef barley soup with those ingredients. You can still do that if the meat turns out to be nothing special. Just refigerate the meat, find a beef barley soup online which seems suitable for your crockpot, cook the barley with other ingredients (carrot, onion, seasoning), dice up the cold precooked meat and throw it in.

      1. Even though its little, It would probably need to cook longer than 4 hours on low in a crock pot. Especially when it's in one that's way too big. Try high or plan to cook it longer if its still tough after 4 hours..

        1 Reply
        1. re: C. Hamster

          I thought I was the only slow-cooker hater out there! The only interesting use I've seen for it comes from a kosher kitchen whose owner said it was perfect for making beautiful amber-colored hard-boiled eggs in advance of the Sabbath:


          They are truly delicious - almost a meaty taste, which will console you when you've thrown out the bottom round :)

        2. Unlike others in this thread, I love crock pots but only for certain cuts of meat, not a bottom round. It needs to be a fattier cut with connective tissue that breaks down with long slow moist cooking. Think meats you'd braise, chuck roast, short rib, pork shoulder. You did a good thing by searing first, at least. If you keep a close eye so it doesn't overcook, you might be able to slice it thinly against the grain and it would be edible.

          15 Replies
          1. re: chowser

            Crockpots overcook food almost by design.

            If the OP wants to thinly slice against the grain they should get it out of the crockpot and into a hot oven and cook to mid rare.

            1. re: C. Hamster

              They work for slow braises because they don't get hot and they keep the food moist. I prefer a dutch oven or stove top but some days, I'm out of the house and get home at 8. There's nothing better than having dinner ready to go. If you understand your crockpot (I mean that generally not specifically) and have a timer so it turns off at the right time, you can get a good meal. But, it's not made for all cuts of meat, eg the bottom round. But, since the OP has already put it in and let it go, it's too late to change so I was giving a suggestion on how to best utilize it.

            2. re: chowser

              Be careful with those cans of beef broth! If they are not low sodium, you could wind up with a very salty dish, especially if you add any salt or salty sauces.

              I rarely use my slow cooker, but I have had good results with lamb shanks and oxtail. I agree fully with other posters that have stated that fattier, sinewy cuts fare better in the slow cooker. I once tried to do a whole chicken. It basically melted off the bones. Not pretty. A meatloaf attempt was grey and unpleasant looking, but tasted okay.

              Upcoming potential uses for my slow cooker: curried goat, braised short ribs.

              1. re: 1sweetpea

                The whole chicken was one if those crockpot disasters. DO NOT ATTEMPT.

                1. re: melpy

                  Yeah, people repeatedly talk about doing whole chicken in the crockpot and how it's wonderful because the meat falls off the bones. Chicken meat should not fall off the bones.

                    1. re: chowser

                      That's so true! Only do this if you want the juices that leak out to be 100X more flavorful than the meat!

                      1. re: chowser

                        Chickens dry out and disintegrate in a crockpot. But people either dont get that or dont care,

                        1. re: C. Hamster

                          Chicken breasts do, but thighs do very well in a slow cooker. I always use thighs on the bone, but skinned.

                        2. re: chowser

                          Whole chickens done in the crockpot are bereft of crispy skin. A sacrilege.

                          1. re: LindaWhit

                            When I tried the whole chicken bit, even the soggy, pale skin was falling off the bone. Very ugly sight.

                            1. re: pine time

                              Just the thought of the flabby pale skin on cooked chicken squicks me out.

                            2. re: LindaWhit

                              Exactly--rubber skin. And that's why that recipe that I posted above from crockpot365 was so unappetizing. She wrapped cornish game hens in raw bacon and then crockpotted it. Rubber skin and rubber bacon!

                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                If I'm stewing chicken, I take the skin off first and toss it in a baggie in the freezer. Then, occasionally, I make a batch of roasted or deep fried chicken skins. Win-win!

                      2. Thanks for all the great feedback, everybody! I'm so outta my league here. To be honest, I've not done too much cooking, living alone and all. But I like a good meal like everyone else. I really want to move on from shake-n-bake to doing some real cooking. I though the slow-cooker would help. So much to learn...

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: gizmos

                          There's so much you can do with a Dutch oven, a small pot, a heavy duty frying pan and perhaps a good quality nonstick pan. I consider slow cookers to be non-essential extras, like a fondue pot, panini press or raclette maker, all of which I own, by the way. Each gets used about once per year, and that includes the slow cooker. The pots and pans get use pretty much daily. One item I find handy is a cast iron pan, but it is by no means essential.

                          1. re: 1sweetpea

                            My cast iron pans are essential in my house. :) One of these would be an excellent addition to the OP's kitchen. Inexpensive, too!

                            What type of raclette do you make most often? Love the stuff!

                            1. re: chefathome

                              +1, for cast iron. Have a set of cast iron, stainless pots, lids, and even a dedicated since new non-stick 10" omelet / crepe fry pan. Find my 12" cast iron skillet, mine is a Lodge, gets used most (also have a 10" and a 14" the larger is almost too big to handle, clean, or heat on a stove top and would not recommend). A 12" fry pan can be had for $20 - $25. Also have a dutch oven can brown on the stove top then finish in the oven. With cast iron especially at first do not use soap, do not let set with water or food bits. When properly seasoned and then you have something that will work great last a lifetime.

                              For stainless pots I like Regal-brand. I get mine used at second hand stores for a few dollars each to build my set. Great for browning then getting a pure clean pan sauce (when do not want to use cast - example if using tomatoes or other acid will hurt a 'seasoned' cast pan). In stainless my two quart just bigger than a small burner with lid and my 12" with lid get used most. Even though Regal lids and handles appear plastic find they do handle mild oven temperatures. My grandma, a nurse for 50 years, lived to be 97 cooking on mainly cast iron and stainless Regal pans (NOTE: she would not knowingly eat food from microwave ovens or Teflon - hated both).

                              1. re: smaki

                                When I moved into my own place my mother gave me her well seasoned 10" cast iron pan. It, along with my Dutch oven, are my most beloved kitchen essentials.

                          2. re: gizmos

                            Don't be discouraged. Though I don't use my slow cooker very often I do like to use it to keep things warm but not so much for cooking. This website may give you ideas. Tons of people love slow cookers and swear by them. If you have one you may as well use it!

                            1. re: chefathome

                              I'd be leery of that crockpot365--there are decent recipes but many aren't. I know she scored a cookbook deal off of it but the gimick is what sold it, not great recipes.

                              1. re: chowser

                                Ah. OK. I don't use the site myself but a few people I know have. Thanks for pointing it out!

                                1. re: chefathome

                                  I kind of assumed you didn't since I've read your posts and you don't seem to be the type to think something like this would work.


                                  I can't imagine bacon wrapped cornish game hens in a moist environment. Ruber-y bacon! People do recommend the site often.

                                  1. re: chowser

                                    Whew! You've read me right. Someone I know was gushing about it just the other day. Before posting I should have at least taken a cursory glance at this site. That'll learn me! :)

                            2. re: gizmos

                              There are quite a few books on cooking in crockpots and the like, and no doubt plenty of recipes online too. If you're new at cooking for yourself, or just new at using the slow cooker, start with some recipes, then buy the food you need to make them.

                              1. re: gizmos

                                Good luck with your experimenting. I think the biggest mistake people do w/ crockpots is thinking of them as a short cut to cooking a meal. You really can't just put everything in and hope it turns out well. I find it takes more time to use the crockpot but I wouldn't dismiss it was useless IF you're busy and want to come home from work or wherever w/ dinner ready to go. We're on the go, kids at different activities, coming home at different times. I can make a meal in the crockpot, mid morning when I have time and everyone gets a hot meal.

                                If you want something to start out with, try these two recipes. They don't require as much work as searing the meat, sauteeing the vegetables, etc. and the results are pretty good.

                                Caroline style pulled pork:

                                chalupa dinner bowl:

                                1. re: chowser

                                  I agree with chowser. There are plenty of tasty dishes that can be made in a slow cooker. You can get a pretty damn good braise in a slow cooker.....just make a bowl out of foil over the top, then a flour paste to seal the lid. The item can be placed atop chopped vegetables without liquid so it doesn't boil the item. Puree the mushy vegetables into sauce, and add more vegetables at the final stages of cooking.

                                  1. re: rudeboy

                                    A immersion blender is perfect for pureeing the vegetables--it's a great way to thicken the sauce and get kids to eat vegetables.

                              2. gizmos, Welcome. You have come to a great place to learn and found an AWESOME food website. The day we stop learning is when the end begins. Possibly ask before you buy specific items to get opinions in the future can also for cooking ideas / feedback.

                                There are lots of good books and all kinds of information online. A great place to start is here on Chowhound (now also known as CHOW.com) - use the search bar in the upper right. Online searches with your favorite search engine like also Google sometimes helps. Chances are good if you are thinking it others have already thought about that and maybe have answers already. After doing a few CHOW / online searches if still have questions then ask away. Try to keep your comments and questions food related here is a general rule. There are no dumb questions. Look for smart answers and don't believe everything you read online. Remember all recipes are only a guide.

                                Thought you may enjoy a recent thread on kitchen tools people had 'a ha' moments with:

                                Be careful what you buy as some kitchen 'tools' are like exercise equipment where people buy then never use - throwing money to the wind then having to store the 'junk' for years before tossed is not smart.

                                With your roast today. +1, Good job browning before adding to crock pot. I would also make a quick grocery store run and add: a pound or two of rough cut carrot chunks, a fine chopped onion, 3 cloves of fine chopped garlic, a few rough chopped potatoes with skin (in such a dish I prefer red-skin or Yukon gold), a few sticks of chopped celery. Then season with salt and pepper (if have not already) and 2 tsp of thyme, and 2 tsp of rosemary (I powder my rosemary and thyme before using so edible in the end dish and does not get stuck in my teeth - with a large stone mortar with pestle or Magic Bullet in its small container with flat blade attachment). OPTIONAL: For a fresh vegetable crunch to break up the stew 'mush' toward the end of cooking if take it that long you could steam a pound of petite peas that come already cooked (just need to heat through) and / or broccoli (cut in about 1" chunks both flowers and stems steam 7-8 minutes). Maybe some sliced white button and / or cremini mushrooms AKA Italian brown (I like mushrooms as close to fresh as possible because find when cook still eat but I find do not appreciate as much the more rubbery more chewy texture). Keep in mind cooking in a crock pot is braising in steamed liquid which makes things tender, so is hard to overcook just need to make sure done especially with poultry and other meat (eating raw meat can be dangerous). If do not want to overcook your beef into soft 'mush' to know when done buy an instant read thermometer (bought one last week on sale for $4, get one that is adjustable to zero). The USDA says for beef Rare 140, Medium Rare 145, Medium 160, and well done fully cooked 170 degrees F. I find at about 150 beef is still pink inside but not red. So would cook to about 150 if want for roast beef sandwiches without all the above added vegetables (slice as thin as you can cross grain with a sharp knife).

                                1. I'm with the other folks here in that much of the food that comes out of a crockpot is kind of tasteless mush. There are exceptions, as already noted, such as fatty meats. I also found that Thanksgiving stuffing/dressing did very well in the slow cooker for Thanksgiving, but I intuit that that might not be your type of cooking - ?

                                  Regarding your current dish, I would saute some onions and mushrooms and garlic and throw them into the pot with your roast, along with some dried thyme and a bit of dried tarragon. If you have a tablespoon of tomato paste, that would help, too. Red wine certainly wouldn't hurt. Just don't be discouraged if it isn't great the first time. You might want to look at a slow cooker cookbook for ideas.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: sandylc

                                    Actually, I'm a stuffing/dressing FREAK! :) I would love to have a good recipe for that. Mac and cheese, too!

                                    1. re: gizmos

                                      Oh, boy....there are a lot of opinions on chowhound about stuffing/dressing! Just do a search and you will find all sorts of ideas about this topic!

                                      I did my family stuffing in the crockpot this year and it turned out GREAT.

                                      What is your idea of the ideal stuffing? Cornbread, white bread? Add-ins? Eggs or not? Fluffy, moist, or dry? You get the idea.....

                                      1. re: sandylc

                                        I really prefer white bread stuffing and I like it moist. I grew up loving my gramma's white bread and celery stuffing. She would do all the prep the night before, hand-breaking up the bread and putting in whatever those "magical" ingredients were she used, then she'd let it sit overnite and stuff the bird early in the morning. Heavenly! I know I'll probably never be able to duplicate it, but if I can come close, I'd be a happy camper. I wish she was still with us so I could ask her what all she used...

                                        1. re: gizmos

                                          Chances are pretty good that she cooked onions and celery in butter. My family also puts in apples here.

                                          Then she probably dumped the onion/celery/butter over the bread, along with poultry seasoning (or sage and thyme), salt, and pepper. My family puts in a little sugar here.

                                          Then your gramma added liquid - sometimes just water, but often a mixture of chicken stock and eggs.

                                          I cooked mine this year in the crockpot on high for 45 minutes, then on low for 4-5 hours. You can pour pan juices from your roasted bird over it at the end if you like.

                                          Easy peasy. Of course, you can shop around in the threads here and find all sorts of wonderful and different recipes for stuffing.

                                          1. re: sandylc

                                            That sounds like it! I do remember her pouring something from a saucepan into the mix. Unfortunately for me, she was one of those folks who didn't like anyone underfoot when she was cooking, so I never got a chance to learn.

                                          2. re: gizmos

                                            That's my family's go to. Cut up day old bread into cube. Dice celery and onion and saute in a mix of butter and oil. Add freshly ground pepper and some sage, and then mix in the bread so it's coated in the onion/celery mixture.

                                            To cook it in a slow cooker, put the bread mixture in the cooker on a low setting, and drizzle broth over it. Let it cook slowly, moistening occasionally with the stock, for several hours.

                                            This is how I make stuffing for Christmas without owning an oven.

                                            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                              This sounds like it tastes fantastic. I will give it a try! Thanks!

                                    2. Well, folks- I reached the 4 hour mark, just checked on my sorry little piece of meat, and it's tough as shoe leather. I think you're all witnesses to my first crock-pot disaster. I've set it for another 4 hours, but I have a feeling it's hopeless. Thank goodness I only paid $5.00 for the meat. It'll make throwing it out a little easier. And I got the cooker on sale from $80.00 for only $40.00; I never could pass up a bargain.
                                      Live and learn, I guess...

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: gizmos

                                        The meat is probably still good in barley soup. Refrigerate it, then dice small. No need to waste it.

                                        1. re: gizmos

                                          Actually, I don't think that low for 4 hours is long enough. Crockpots are designed to cook meat on low for 8 or more hours. Let it go for a few more hours; what do you have to lose?

                                          1. re: gizmos

                                            Take the temperature. It could be hard because it's not ready or because it's overcooked. Crockpots vary tremendously so four hours means nothing.

                                          2. Since I see your initial question has been answered, I'll give you other Slow cooker info (BTW totally jealous of the fact that yours is digital) I have two - a 4 qt and a 6 qt. for the two of us the 6qt is a little big. it's used mostly for making huge batches of chili or meatballs for parties, stock from turkey or chicken bones, etc..

                                            The smaller one I use quite a lot, for stews, soups, braises, chilis. smaller batches of stock.

                                            People use them to bake potatoes, make oatmeal and for cuts of meat or chickens that are better off roasted. for me, these applications don't make sense, I'd rather use my stove.

                                            check out this thread for lots of ideas and recipes... http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/864364

                                            1. Ah, no worries, I think lots of folks do the same thing: buy a crockpot too large for their needs. I did it with a 4-qt (still have it, and I make better use of it now). And I think that's why so many folks associate tasteless mush with slow cookers; I certainly made my share of those at first.

                                              My most-used cooker is 1.5-qt. I would suggest you consider one (under $20) -- it makes 2-4 servings of stews, braised chicken thighs, beans, etc. A cooker needs to be filled 1/2 to 3/4 full -- so if you use the 6-qt that's a lot of chili, etc. I get bored if I cook too much of something and even get tired of it from the freezer.

                                              1. While I'm not a huge fan of the crockpot in general, I made this for our Labor Day party this year and I though it was fantastic. I poured the liquid into my gravy separator and added the juices back into the meat without the fat and grease.

                                                I also use it to make super flavorful stocks where the liquid becomes a rich velvety gelatin upon cooling.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. All of you have been so awesome! You've me feel welcome here and not alone, otherwise I'd be kicking myself right now. I've learned 2 valuable lessons today: 1) a crock-pot is not a magic bullet that does all the work for you and 2) I need a smaller one. Someday, maybe I'll master this thing!

                                                  1. If you are all by yourself, a 6 quart crockpot is too big. A 3 or 4 qt model would be better for you. I am sure you can still use the big one, though.

                                                    There are only a few dishes that crockpots do really well for.... making stock is the single best thing you can make with one. The longer the bones and meat cook the more flavor the crockpot sucks out of them.

                                                    Pulled pork is absolutely great in a crockpot! Braising dishes like chicken cacciatore and coq au vin are very good. They are probably even better in a cast iron dutch oven. however these dishes are a lot easier and convenient in a crockpot.

                                                    Check out some crockpot recipes on this site or others. Most recipes are good but not as good as if you fixed them another way. You will have to decide if the convenience is worth it.

                                                    Beans and chilis do well in a crockpot.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                      Well, I'm all by myself, and my 5 or 6 qt. crockpot gets used all the time - beef stew, chicken stock, and several other items.

                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                        I would keep the size I have, too--most of the foods that come out well in a crockpot, braises, soups, stews are great as leftovers.

                                                    2. These are all great tips. I'm learning all kinds of new stuff. I'm really glad I found this site!

                                                      1. I do cassoulet in a slow cooker.

                                                        beans and dark meat chicken come out terrific. Stews, chili... short ribs, any shanks, pot roast. I did a beef based chinese meal in my crock a long time ago I cannot remember the recip0e, but I dream of it often. Ignore the stinkers who claim no meal worth eating can come from either a crock or slow cooker.

                                                        Not a dumb question at all.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                          Thanks, Sal. I'm feeling better about the whole thing.