New York Times best-selling author, slow cooking expert, mom of three
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A Year of Slow Cooking

Friday, August 22, 2008

Help! My Slow Cooker cooks too fast!



HELP!

I've gotten quite a few emails lately asking what to do about a hot crock, or a slow cooker that cooks too quickly, and burns or dries out food.

ick. I hate that.

First off, I'm sorry. So sorry.

There is nothing more defeating than thinking you have dinner all ready to go and come home to a gross dried-out or charred mess.
I'm really sorry.

But, hopefully this will help, just a bit.

1) Make sure you are using the right size cooker.  A slow cooker needs to be quite full in order to heat evenly and cook properly. I have used pretty much all of the different types of cookers on the market, and have now collected quite a few -- (I now have 14! in the house!)


 I realize that storage space is at a premium, but consider getting a smaller slow cooker if you find that you aren't filling your crock at LEAST 2/3 of the way full each time you use it.

This goes against the bigger-is-better American mentality. I know. I'm sorry.



2) Start easy. Don't try out a pasta dish or a rice dish, or bleu cheese and steak roll-ups for one of your first crockpot cooking adventures. The reason they come with a little book full of stews and soups is because they are easy and somewhat fool-proof.

Try:

taco soup
beef stew
minestrone soup
lazy chicken
cream cheese chicken
white chili
enchilada casserole
sausage and vegetables
marinated meat

3) Cook for the shortest and lowest cooking time if you are going to be out of the house.


huh?

I know, it doesn't make sense.

If you are going to be out of the house for 10 hours, and the cooking time says 6-8 hours, don't set it for 10. Set it for 6, and then let it stay on warm for the rest of the time you're going to be out of the house. Worst case, the meal isn't quite done and you flip it to high while you change your clothes and set the table.


The cooking time is a range. You have to get a feel of your slow cooker (which is why you should start with the easy ones, first) and figure out due to your altitude, humidity, etc. how long things will take.

You will get a feel, I promise. I'm a complete dunder-head when it comes to cooking, yet I can slow cook.
You can, too. I promise.

4) But my slow cooker doesn't switch to warm! If you don't have one of the newer "smart" pots, and you plan on being out of the house for a long period of time, you should really invest in one. 

These are the slow cookers I happen to use in my own home, and I've heard from readers that they have been able to score them for *quite* cheap at garage sales or on Craigslist.



5) I think my slow cooker releases too much moisture. Okay. Some of the newer slow cookers have a slot in the stoneware for a spoon to rest, or there is a vent hole in the glass lid. I have no idea why the manufacturers have put those things in. They certainly didn't ask me my opinion! When you release steam through these holes or slots, your food dries out. 

You can remedy this by putting down a layer of foil over the stoneware, and then put the lid on like normal. PLEASE BE CAREFUL!!! when taking off the foil---the steam will shoot right out.


6) I want to make something small but only have a geat-big-huge cooker. 
That's okay. All you need to do is simply insert an oven-safe dish into your cooker and then put your food into the dish. This will create a smaller cooking vessel which will insulate your food and keep it from getting over-cooked or lost in a huge machine. I use corningware or pyrex, but metal pans are fine, too. Here are my recommendations


Use a smaller oven-safe dish in your slow cooker to create a smaller cooking vessel and to insulate your food. No need to add the lid, but you certainly may to ensure that lots of moisture gets trapped close too your food.

7) I've done all that and it's still way too hot and it's making my countertop hot, and I think there's something wrong with it. Don't use it. Call the manufacturer. Talk to the experts who actually made the product. I'm a mom who drinks too much coffee and wears slippers all day. I can't fix it. I wish I could. I'm sorry.

If you have a hard time getting through to a particular manufacturer, please email me. I now have contact information for the different customer service channels and will try my hardest to connect you to the correct person who can be of service.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I hope this helps! xoxo steph




Alphabetical Listing of Recipes
Save Money by Using Your Slow Cooker
Frequently Asked Crock-Pot Questions
An Important Note About Safety
My New Year's Resolution
Slow Cooker Troubleshooting

86 comments:

Deanna said...

Steph, Great Post! I've had some crockpot recipes turn out so-so...kinda over cooked...kinda dried..or ick. I've got a big honking pot and am, at most, mabye filling it half full. I didn't realize that I needed to fill it more than that. AND, mine does make the countertop VERY hot. I thought they just did that. I'll be trading that one in for a newer smaller one. Thanks so much!

Org Junkie said...

I use my crockpot quite often and there is nothing that is worse than overcooked food, blech. Always go for the lower amount of time to be on the safe side. I'm thinking of getting myself a new one since I don't have the automatic warmer, that sounds like a very handy feature!

Tara said...

You are so cute. I love all your crockpots thats funny. I am noticing all my chicken dinners cook fast, prolly cause i only use chicken tenderloins vs the breasts. I am searching for a 4qt crockpot that i can set on low for 4 hours or so then switch to warm. I haven't seen anything like that latley. So if anyone sees anything like that let me know

EJW said...

This is such a dumb tip, but it's saved many a dinner at my house:

For an older crockpot without fancy timing options, get a Christmas tree timer. I can put the food in the fridge overnight (which cools the crock) and in the morning, plug it in to the timer set to start cooking at noon. By 6pm, the food is hot and not overdone and not burned.

There's some potential food safety issues here, with an unrefrigerated crock sitting out all morning, but I found that the chill from the fridge takes several hours to come to room temp, so I don't worry about it. Plus, we don't use a lot of raw meat in the crockpot, mostly browned and sauteed stuff.

Melanie said...

Ohhh also if you have a metal insert instead of ceramic, it will cook much faster. I have one metal and one ceramic and there's definitely a difference.

Love your blog!

SaraK said...

Love that photo of you with all your crock pots :)

Ann said...

Thanks for the tips. I am about to buy a new one, because the one I have is way too big for just the two of us, unless I want to eat the same thing for three days.

Now, if I did make too much of something, are there any recipes that would be suitable for freezing after cooking, and reheating later? Or is that just a recipe for tasteless mush?

Amie said...

How cute are you. =) Where DO you store them all?

Carli said...

I had the same suggestion in reguard to the timer. I've done this many many times and it works great. I also chill the crock (and I mainly cook with raw meat) but I figure if there is any bacteria, cooking for 10ish hours is going to kill it all off. You can buy a lamp timer at any hardware store for around $5.

Sara Edwards said...

Would you please mention to all that there have been crock pot recalls. Mid 90's to early 2000 era pots could overheat, depending on Manufacturer and Model. If your pot was purchased in that era, please check with your manufacturer!!!

Rebekah Sanders said...

A good tip for people who don't have a timer/timed crockpot is to invest in a $5 lamp timer. That way if they only need to cook their food until 6pm but won't be home at noon to turn it on, they can simply turn it on (I realize this only works with the old school knobby turning crockpots), set the lamp timer to turn on when they need it to and go. A lot cheaper than a new crockpot and just as reliable.

(And you could set it to turn off after a certain time too - just in case plans change and you go out for dinner or don't get home right away).

MaryK said...

The older crockpots, from say the '80s, cooked at much lower temperatures than the newer ones. Even when I put my new one on "warm," it still cooks way hotter than my vintage crockpot. I work full time so I need to be able to leave the crockpot on for 10 hours or so. My solutions:

1. For recipes with a lot of liquid, I use the newer crockpot and set it on "warm" the whole time.

2. For other recipes, I have gone to eBay and purchased older model crockpots. If you do an eBay search for "vintage crockpot" or "vintage slow cooker," you can usually find one for a decent price. Check eBay item no. 320287521422 right now (8/22/08). I have several of this model and I wouldn't give 'em up for anything.

karen said...

i have looked everywhere for my instruction manual to my corningware slowcooker model sc 5038. the only question i have is that i don't know what auto is on the dial. it's the only dial which has low, high and auto. i do realize that some stuff does cook fast, but i do use your 2/3 rule.I love your blog and have cooked a few things. the cheesecake is all gone, boo hoo:(

Angie said...

Thanks so much for all your wonderful recipes and for taking the time to post them. Wonderful Blog!

I use the small crockpot to cook for my daughter and myself and it works wonderful for the two of us. We are both gone during the day and no one is there to turn it off - so I usually start the crockpot when I get home from work and then turn it off before we go to bed and put it in the fridge. When my daughter gets home she puts it out and warms the meal back up! Works great for us!

Esmerelda said...

My Crock Potting For Dummies book has a whole chapter devoted to deciding if you've really got a crock pot or some other kitchen appliance.

I have one that says it's a crock pot/steamer/deep fryer...so if you're food isn't in crockery...that's your first problem.

Amma said...

As a note to Karen...one of my crock pots is w-a-y old and also has the "auto" setting. On mine, the auto setting cooks at High power for one hour and then switches to Low for the remainder of the time until you turn it off. Hope this helps! (Used to cook in it all the time, but only use it for hot spiced cider these days.)

karen said...

thanks amma, i really appreciate it!

Brandie said...

I've had my crockpot for over 6 years. I never realized until reading your blog this month that they make newer ones that switch to warm. I want one!! I'm a bit of a kitchen clutz. I've broken a blender, baked my toaster oven, melted the cord of my hand mixer...I could go on and on. Well, this morning I accidently broke the ceramic part of my crockpot (my toe is okay thank goodness). So, looks like I get to buy the newer model after all!
Yipee!

:0)

1215656559s20768 said...

I use my crockpot all the time. So glad I found this blog. I'll be back!

Martine said...

One of my four crockpots, has the low and high temperatures reversed! I only thought to try switching after reading comments on Amazon dot com.

Anonymous said...

Ok, so I have a tiny-weenie suggestion. Is there any way you could rate each recipe as to how easy it was/how much your crew liked it/ etc and put them into categories? Like 1 star, 2 stars, etc. I LOVE all the ideas you give especially that they are GF. Very cool.
Thanks

Smelling Coffee said...

This is such helpful information! I love reading all you do with crockpots. I love and use my crock pot, too... and you've inspired me to make even better use of it.

I saw you on Rachel Ray some time ago, and have been reading your blog ever since.

Thanks for sharing with us...May the Lord bless you...

Jennifer

mMm said...

I just got a really cool slow cooker that has three inserts for it - a 2, 4, and 6 quart. So far i've been thrilled with it, and am always happy to have the correct size on hand for various recipes.

Love this blog - i've had so much fun trying out your recipes!

Shan said...

I know Hamilton Beach is making a crockpot that comes with a 2,4, and 6 quart liners. I've been thinking about making a move to one like that. I only have the large oval one which is great for larger roasts, but not so great for smaller dishes.

Lynette said...

Hi ya! I was trying to click on the link to take me to the Taco Soup recipe and it kept taking me to the beef stew recipe. Then I tried clicking on the beef stew link and it took me to the beef stew as well. Was wondering if the Taco Soup Link was broken? Thanks for helping me!

Crockpot Lady said...

Lynette, I'll fix the link right now.

anon, that IS a good suggestion!

xox
steph

Anonymous said...

The previous comment by maryk is correct.
Newer crocks cook hotter than older ones...which makes the cooking times on older recipes totally wrong.

For those that want to bother, there are two solutions to control the temperature of the newer crocks:

1) Plug the crockpot into an expensive variac.

2) Make a controller using common parts from any hardware store. If you're a DIY type person, search the web for "crockostat". I made my own version and have been using it for over two years for "normal" crockpot use, and just the other day did my first "sous-vide roast" which required the dimmer to be turned down even more than usual.

Anonymous said...

I have an older crockpot..ahem...a gift from when I was married a LONG time ago..okay OKAY it's from 1978, there, I said it...it's an old Rival...only has 2 settings, low and high, period. I have never had issues with foods being overcooked, I must say. What's my point? Maybe that folks could try finding some of these vintage crockpots at resale shops or garage sales--I believe I read somewhere that they cooked at lower temps way back then.

Jen said...

Thanks so much for this post! I had a recipe overcook last week, and I will have to try it again in a smaller size.

Kathryn said...

Oh my stars.

Could you be any cuter?

Love the tips. I am now rewarding my frugality and replacing my 18 year old crockpot with a "smart" one. I cook for a family of five and this includes TEENS. They eat. They eat a lot of food!

Denise said...

Thank you so much for blogging about this. I can never go by suggested recipe cooking times as all of my crockpots cook much faster, even on low. I often have to cut the cooking time in half, which is a pain if I'm going to be out for the whole day.

BTW, love your blog! Looking forward to 365 days in 2009...hint, hint.

~Denise

Anonymous said...

My daughter showed me your blog..I've been using crockpots for years, and you've come up with some do-able and GREAT recipes. I made one with steak (July) with $2/lb sale cuts and had the entire 6 quart pot eaten up by the teens that were here. I barely managed to save a piece for Larry!
Lee

Lee said...

My daughter showed me your blog..I've been using crockpots for years, and you've come up with some do-able and GREAT recipes. I made one with steak (July) with $2/lb sale cuts and had the entire 6 quart pot eaten up by the teens that were here. I barely managed to save a piece for Larry!

Jennifer said...

My crock (a newer 6-qt variety) said right in the booklet that it will get hot on the outside and to avoid setting it directly on certain countertop materials. When I use mine, I put it on top of a heat-resistant glass cutting board with feet. If your board only has four corner feet like mine, consider adding another foot in the middle or using something to support the center. A loaded crock can get mighty heavy- I was worried that it would heat and then break the glass.

Kim said...

You can purchase a "smart module" for any brand crock pot/slow cooker. However, they cost about $15 - $20. Right now, you can buy a programmable crock pot on Amazon.com for $19.99!

Starr said...

For chicken, which almost always seems to cook waaaay to quickly, I put the whole recipe together (unless it has tons of acid that could "cook" the chicken) except I use frozen chicken and put it in the fridge the night before. I pull it out the next morning and put it in the crockpot and turn on low. The chicken then turns out perfectly when I get home. Since i'm away from home for 10 hours and do not have an automatic switch to warm, this method works perfectly.

Erin said...

So this is kind of embarrassing, but I burned a meal to a crip in my crockpot and it won't come out. I'm afraid that it will never come out! Does anyone have any suggestions for cleaning and making it useable again?

Crockpot Lady said...

Hi Erin. Not embarrassing. It happens to the best of us.

On a day you are home to monitor, squeeze some dishsoap into your crock and add 2 cups or so of water---enough water to cover whatever baked-on mess you've got going on in there.

Then turn it on high. Set a timer for an hour, and with a wooden spoon CAREFULLY stir and try to scrape off the icky part. Rinse, then do the same thing over again. Depending on how gross the crock is, you may need to do it a few times.

for heavily baked on things, you can also try soaking a fabric softener sheet in there, and cooking for an hour, or 1 T of dishwasher powder.

After the crock is somewhat free of debris, run through the dishwasher.

xoxoox
steph

Diedra said...

I am still in mourning since my 1980s crock-pot's cord broke. They knew how to make crock-pots in the olden days.

I hate the new ones. I have a Rival that burns anything on the back side of the crock. On high it does a rolling boil, on low it still boils and on warm it still bubbles but at least not as hot. HATE IT.

I have a new small crock-pot that is much better with only a high and warm setting.

Mama Squirrel said...

I have been using the same Rival pot since 1991 and the whole thing's looking a bit worse for wear, although it still cooks fine. The crock's also hard to clean.

So I bought ANOTHER BRAND, somewhat newer pot from the thrift shop, that looked to be in better shape and had more of a ceramic insert. It must be of that newer generation, because it cooks way hotter than I'm used to. The first thing I tried was applesauce--left the kitchen for awhile and then came back--applesauce running all down the sides, yuck. I thought it was just me, but the next thing I cooked, the same thing happened--way too much pressure happening, liquid forming around the lid--and that was just on LOW.

Sigh. I guess I'll go back to my wedding present--when I want to slow cook something, I like to know that it's going to be slow. And not all over the counter.

Christi said...

My last two soup recipes of yours looked delicious, but what I got was completely different than your pictures (the broccoli cheese and the apple and white bean chili). They smell great, but the cream seems to have separated out. I have a large crock pot. Do you think a smaller one would help...is it over heating? thanks for the recipes I'll keep trying, I'm determined to make this work! :)

Crockpot Lady said...

Hi Christi,
I get separation with soups sometimes , too. After a quick stir, they are fine, so I don't think too much of it.

Canned soup separates also---I think it's pretty normal for heavy stuff to sink and lighter stuff to float.

xox
steph

zan said...

I've seen reviews of the 2.5 Quart model, but has anyone had experience with the Rival 2 Quart Crockpot? I was going to get it, but I was afraid that being so small it might overcook things. It has removable stoneware, Off/High/Low settings (no warm), and a plastic lid.

I saw it at Walmart for $10 but can't find it ANYWHERE online. Lots of results for a 2.5Qt model, but it's like the 2Qt one doesn't exist. I even searched for the model number (SCR200) and turned up nothing. A search for the UPC code of 048894748219 shows it's a Rival Crock Pot, but nothing else. No listing of a 2Qt model at crock-pot.com either.

amy best said...

Are the contents in the crock pot supposed to be constantly boiling, even on the "low" setting? Whatever I am cooking, the liquid is always boiling- doesn't seem to be "slow cooking" to me! Am I wrong here?

Thanks!

Tracey said...

I'll let you know how the 2Qt works. I just got it today.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone seen a Consumer Report or Cook's Illustrated rating of crockpots? I'd like to see what they recommend before I buy one...especially after reading these posts.
Grammie

Elizabeth said...

I read somewhere that crockpot manufacturers now often have the low setting higher than in the past because of food safety concerns (disputes about whether the low setting really brings the food up to the safe temperature fast enough). Somewhere I found directions on how to test the temperature and, sure enough, the wedding-present crock (from 1996) was fine, but the new purchase wasn't. Of course, the '96 crock was a Rival, and the new one was an Aldi brand. . .

But even with the Rival, I've had chicken recipes get massively overdone. Finally had one work really well -- instead of the 8 hours on low of most recipes I've seen, this one called for 4! hours.

My current pet theory is that cookbook authors, in order to make crockpots convenient for gone-all-day types, stretch out the cooking times too much! I find that for most recipes, it's best for days that I'm working at home, or am at home with the kids but need something I can prep and get started during naptime.

I've also read that boneless chicken really is usually not suited for the crockpot and you ought to be using bone-in chicken. Haven't tried that, though.

Patsy said...

Last year for Christmas I bought my mom a 3 in 1 crock.... It comes with a 2,4, and 6qt insert and they store inside each other. She LOVES this thing... before she had one of each size because of different things she does. (she still has them but they are now in storage in case she needs them) This crock pot is great. I plan on getting one next time I buy one.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/417lskR5mzL._SS500_.jpg

Lori S. said...

Wellm reading these comments has answered my question, which was "why does my crockpot take so much LONGER to cook things than it says in your (and many other) recipes?" And I think it must be because I have a "vintage" crock which cooks slower than modern crocks. It drives me crazy because I follow the recipe and think I have plenty of time to get the meal cooked, but come home from work and find it's still half raw. So now at least I know why!

Laurie said...

Ya learn something new every day, "they" say, and today's my day, I guess! When my Mom died back in '06 I inherited her late '80s Montgomery Ward rectangular slow cooker with grill base, and used it until the knob rusted completely closed on us one day. Dear hubby tried to free up the control but couldn't. I still have all the parts, but ... anyway, I still used the pot itself on the stove top, using the two racks from our toaster oven to elevate the pot, and turning the electric burner to low! Necessity really is the mother of invention, lol! My aunt bought us a new 6-qt for our 1st anniversary and everything is done in much shorter time than I'm used to. Now I know why. Thanks so much for this blog, Steph. I crock pot at a minimum every Sunday (my "sleep-in-with-hubby day) and have been desperately searching for new recipes to try. Won't have to search elsewhere for a while. I'll post a few of my own concoctions too, if that's all right. I love to "mix and match" out of the cupboard and fridge. (Hubby has put on twenty pounds since we married in January of '07!) Thanks again, and I'll be back! Laurie

Laurie said...

Ya learn something new every day, "they" say, and today's my day, I guess! When my Mom died back in '06 I inherited her late '80s Montgomery Ward rectangular slow cooker with grill base, and used it until the knob rusted completely closed on us one day. Dear hubby tried to free up the control but couldn't. I still have all the parts, but ... anyway, I still used the pot itself on the stove top, using the two racks from our toaster oven to elevate the pot, and turning the electric burner to low! Necessity really is the mother of invention, lol! My aunt bought us a new 6-qt for our 1st anniversary and everything is done in much shorter time than I'm used to. Now I know why. Thanks so much for this blog, Steph. I crock pot at a minimum every Sunday (my "sleep-in-with-hubby day) and have been desperately searching for new recipes to try. Won't have to search elsewhere for a while. I'll post a few of my own concoctions too, if that's all right. I love to "mix and match" out of the cupboard and fridge. (Hubby has put on twenty pounds since we married in January of '07!) Thanks again, and I'll be back! Laurie

Missy said...

Man, I'm glad I read this post yesterday! I've been following your blog for about a month but hadn't read this post yet because my old crockpot was fine! Unfortunately, my "vintage" (from 1997) crockpot met an untimely demise when the ceramic insert met our ceramic tile floor for the first time. (and still full of sauce from the korean short ribs!) :(

I had to buy a new crockpot, and like other ladies have said, it cooks a whole lot faster/higher. My spaghetti sauce yesterday was practically boiling when I got home, and it was on low! And let's not discuss how bad the beef broccoli came out..... I guess I'll either need to use frozen meat, or cook any meat first and use the warm setting, or ask Santa for a smartpot for Christmas. Yeah!!

R said...

Our dump has a recycle table, so I grab any crocks that get left. All fit in my various crockpots and its very handy having extras. Some are a bit shorter and these cook longer than the ones that go all the way to the bottom. Try posting on freecycle for crocks, sometimes people have the crocks because their base died.

I love the older crockpots but hated having to clean the non removable crocks.

My favorite clean up tool is a flat razor with handle, it sits on my window shelf for cleaning crocks, glass roasters etc. Use the razor to scrap off the burnt off stuff - much easier.

Back when I had 5 kids I used the big nesco version because it was the only way I would have left overs (4 boys) LOL. At bare minimum I had 2 rounds going, one for lunch and one for dinner.

Ria

kyrielle said...

I want one of those newer "warm" crockpots but our household is so small that 4 quarts is more than we need. And no one seems to sell one that will auto-switch to warm that's less than maybe 5-6 quarts. It's crazy. Do they think singles or couples don't want this feature? I don't want to make THAT much to freeze. Even my little preferred three-quart makes way too much.

Carol E. said...

I'm sad that your crock pot year has come to an end! It has been great fun to read; I love your sense of humor and joie de vivre. Thanks so much for sharing all your fabulous recipes!

Ted said...

Now it is all making sence to me! I thought that I was unable to cook with a CrockPot, as mine too would rapidly boil the food on high and be a good simmering boil on low.

Here is a question for people. Would you be able to measure the cooking temperature for both low and high on some "vintage" Crockpots so we can compare to the modern ones? Mine is only a few years old with the High, Low and Keep Warm settings, and if I just need to bump down the temps a bit, I've got the Variacs to do it with. (Although my wife might not like the metal case with wires coming out of it on the counter!)

Thanks,
Ted

The Fiskeaux Family said...

The only Crockpot I have is 6qt. I'm afraid to use it because so many recipes are for smaller CPs. Can you just double or 1½ a recipe for a smaller CP to use in the 6qt? I'm 6 months pregnant, so I'd love to have extra to freeze. We have just a 2½ year-old right now. Thank you for this blog! (My family might actually get "real" food once in a while now.) Curse you for this blog! (I haven't gotten work done all day.)

Crockpot Lady said...

Hi there, yup, you can increase the measurements if you'd like to have extra food. If not, you can put the food into an oven-safe dish inside of the crock to create a smaller cooking vessel (pyrex, corningware), or you can put a layer of foil down near the food to make a lid-within-a-lid which will help keep moisture in.
xooxox
steph

LisaZ said...

I'm so glad I found your site and read these comments today. I found out thru the comment about it that my early 2000s Hamilton Beach slow cooker is on recall, just called the company and I'll be getting a new one eventually. Yay! No money spent!

I still may try purchasing a Rival, as you suggest, but for now the new Ham. Beach without a broken handle should be a big improvement.

Anonymous said...

I have six different sized crockpots (3 Rivals, 3 Ham. Beach) and I wouldn't part with a one of them. None of them have timers, so I purchased a couple of lamp timers at Walmart. If you want two pots to come on and go off at the same time, put an extension cord in the timer and plug the pots into the extension cord. Use a new good quality cord. I have had one pot plugged into one timer, and had two plugged into the second timer all at the same time. Remember that food continue to cook some after the pot goes off.

Anonymous said...

For those who are looking for a 4 qt slow cooker w/a warm setting, I just got a Cuisinart 3 1/2 qt recently. I have only used it twice, but I love it so far. Totally successful both times (two different recipes for short ribs). I know they are much more expensive than the other brands, (I had a store credit to use up!) But it's the right size, has the right settings and it's even kind of nice looking.

Anonymous said...

My SW has just pointed out to me that others are having problems with too hot newer pots. If you have a 2 or 3 position "click" selector switch, there is a good chance that they can be re-calibrated to a slightly lower setting if you have a friend who has electric capabilities. If you can pull off the knob, and it is on a hollow shaft there is PROBABLY a small calibration screw down in that hole. Its unlikely that an appliance repair shop will do this for you however because of the previously mentioned bacteria problems with low slow cooking...

hlkenney said...

Can someone recommend a crock pot they've used that actually falls within the recipe's cooking time?

I have a Crock-Pot 4qt Manual Slow Cooker, and it definitely cooks too hot (and can't be programmed to switch to warm). I'm willing to invest in a new one, but don't want to get another crock pot that has the same problem. Any suggestions for one that cooks within the recommended time range? Thanks!

R said...

I have a collection of crocks some are not as deep as others - these tend to cook slower ..

I would almost bet if you stuck a heat safe plate on the bottom to raise up the crock it would work the same way ..

Something that would NOT touch the bottom of the crock all the way around maybe a small glass pie plate?

**some 2 inch tiles or the small 1 inchers might work inside too.. use either 3 or 4 on the bottom of the crock pot and sit the crock on them .. just don't pull them out for a long time after you turned it off .


As for the heat on the counter, stick some tiles under the feet, the tiles can handle the heat.

You know the expression if it works leave it alone - wish they would have listened to this when they redesigned the new crocks. I know in this PC, 'lets sue' world, the manufacturers are covering their tushes but gee its such a pain in the butt here at home in the real world.

Michelle said...

Wow! This is all so great.
I need help... My Rival Smart Pot came with an insert that has 2 wells. Can I fill only one well for smaller meals? Will this overcook? undercook? make a big mess?

Tessa said...

I have a timing question:

I work mornings, and my husband works 2nd shift. So, lunch is our main meal of the day.

How would I go about cooking something using my crockpot? I recently found your site, and am drooling over the many options available, but I really don't feel like waking up at 4am to turn the darn thing on. I haven't even considered the crockpot an option since this schedule began.

Should I cook it overnight on low, and then switch it to warm when I get up in the morning? We don't eat until early afternoon.

Thank you so much!

R said...

TESSA:
you ought to try using the crockpot on a day you are home to see how it actually cooks a normal meal

it might be possible if you have a new one to put it on high and it would be done by lunch

OR

invest in a timer for the crockpot - I'd get a good one, then in the morning pull the timer and plug in direct

Ria

Judee said...

I have a Crock Pot cook book of '80 vintage and it has a "test" you can do to see how hot your crock is really cooking. Since water only comes up to boiling and doesn't get hotter (it turns to steam instead) you really can't determine the highest temperature of your crock being filled with water, but you can with oil. The book basically stated how to fill your crock with vegetable oil, suspend a cooking thermometer in the oil and then choose the different settings and watch the temp rise. This is especially helpful when you are trying to watch what the "auto-shift" setting of older slow cookers do, and what temp is really high, low and warm.

Crock Pot Hell said...

Thank goodness finally some answers to my crockpot dilemma. This has been bugging me for years(well not that many but enough) and I've bought many Rivals and recently I went to All-clad but they may have all been too big and they are definitely STILL cooking too hot! I'm still trying to get my Mom to give me her pea green 1979 Rival crock pot and she thinks I'm nuts!!!

kelly said...

I just found your blog and love it. I am so glad to see recipes that don't rely on "cream of whatever" soup! Anyway, I have a 7 quart crock that I have had burning/overdone problems with in the past when I didn't have it at least 2/3 full. What has helped, I discovered, is putting the meal together then covering it loosely with a piece of aluminum foil, No more dried out roasts, chicken, etc. Now I am waiting to hear that long cooking of aluminum foil in a crock is bad for you... please tell me it isn't so.

Thanks for your blog!

Kelly

Stephanie O'Dea said...

Hi Kelly,

I do that too! It works really well to trap in the moisture.

There have been internet links to aluminum foil and alzheimers. If you want to google it, you'll find the info. So far my head is in the sand, however...

there's always something!

xoxo steph

M said...

I wonder if you could use parchment paper in place of foil. I may try it. I have one that cooks way too hot no matter what though so I may not be a good test.

Sheeri K. Cabral said...

I didn't read ALL the comments so it's possible someone already mentioned this -- if you are gone for 10 hours and you need to cook for 6 hours, and you don't want to buy a "smart" slow cooker....

(I didn't even know they had such things, so this is what I've been doing)

Get a self-timer, around $5-10, and you can set your slow cooker to turn on and/or off at a certain time -- so in the morning, I'll put stuff in the slow cooker, leave at 8 am having set the slow cooker to *start* at 12 noon using the timer, and when I come home at 6 pm dinner is just plain ready for me.

Mike said...

Variac's are very cheap now. If you don't want to build a Crock-O-Stat look on Amazon, Ebay, Harbor Freight, etc for a:

Router Speed Control

Most are $30 with shipping and then you can tune your crock to whatever temp you want and no DIY required!

MarkinDC said...

Like with many things, I go "strictly vintage" when it comes to crock-pots. I have a kitchen full of 1970's vintage Rival Crock-pots (burnt orange!) and wouldn't give them up for anything. The early sealed models seem to cook more evenly, and cook at a lower temperature. Ok so there aren't fancy timers, but plugging it in to a lamp timer is nearly as good.

Most my prep takes place at night, then it (the crock pot) goes in the fridge. Before going to work in the morning, I take it out of the fridge, and plug it in on low, when I get home from work (about 9-10 hours later) it is done.

These units are well sealed, and takes them a couple hours to reach room temperature when chilled, also takes a while to cool off. If I'm gone after work, I set it to turn off about an hour before I get home.

Thrift shops are always full of them, and they're all over eBay. Yes, you have to pay shipping (not always cheap either), but they're still often cheaper (and better made) than new ones.

The 3.5 quart size seems most prevalent, but the 2.5 model is out there as well.

Anonymous said...

I hope some of you with a couple of problems read this. First off, I'm on my own so a full crock-pot is far too much for me. I prepare my crock-pot meal in a smaller, lidded casserole and stand that inside the crockpot inner and pour water around it then put on the crockpot lid. Sort of like a double boiler. Instead of the casserole lid, you could use a saucer or a double piece of baking paper tied round the top.
Secondly, if you don't want to use a casserole inside your crockpot, you can cut a piece of baking paper to the right size and lay it on top of the food then put the crockpot lid on. The food underneath the paper will not turn black and hard.
Lorna
New Zealand

Vita said...

Sorry if some of this repeats earlier posts, but here are my lessons learned: smaller pyrex inside my huge 6.5qt pot still burned smaller quantities of chicken, but I did not cover as Lorna from NewZealand suggested (wish I thought of that!). Since Santa did not, I bought myself a 3.5qt Cuisinart crockpot frankly b/c it was smaller than the smallest Rival (5qt) at the store. It still fits a whole chicken. Expensive (around $50 w/coupon), but SO worth it: it has 4 settings -- hi,lo,simmer,auto-warm. Simmer = the OLD-STYLE low, so burning risk is now very low (eg overnight oatmeal on "low" burns, but not on "simmer"). THANK YOU Steph--we are in our 4th straight week of slow-cooking only, mostly your recipes, and it has been great!

Anonymous said...

I echo what others have said about the lamp timer -- it's a saver, especially with chicken breasts or fish, which can dry out easily.

When I got my new slow cooker with 3 sizes of crocks, I contacted the manufacturer to find out what the temps were for each setting. By doing that, not only do I know that 2 qt/low runs about 275 and 6 qt/high runs about 375, and all the in-betweens, but I can adapt regular recipes to the crockpot much more easily.

okstatesdrewski said...

Steph, you're truly amazing! The boys at the firehouse love when I bring in my crockpot, especially on busy days like today when we dont have time to slave over the stove. These are great ideas, and im trying your Orange Honey Tilapia tomorrow... I'm sure it'll be a hit! Thanks, and Keep Em Comin!

Anonymous said...

Im just wondering if one of the pots I have is actually a CROCK POT... It says Hamilton Beach 6.5 Quart Roaster... I have always used if for crock pot recipes but it has temperatures not high low settings... and cooks everything kinda fast...I also have a small crock pot that cooks super slow

Kirsten said...

OH MY GOODNESS THANK YOU!! I had a funny feeling that my problem with my slow cooker was I wasn't filling it enough, but I could never bring myself to waste that much liquid to fill up the pot. I'm going to invest in a smaller size. Great blog.

Catt of the Garage said...

For people trying to use a smaller insert inside the crock - if your aim is to make it cook slower, you *need* to put water in around the smaller insert.

Slow cookers don't have thermostats. They just pump in a constant power, like a microwave. So the less stuff you put in, the hotter it gets. If you aren't filling it with food, you need water to absorb the excess heat and keep the temp down to 100C.

Catt of the Garage said...

Some tips - I've got the 6.5 litre oval Rival Crock Pot and I've been collecting accessories for it to let me cook smaller quantities and different things. Rival don't bother making anything, so here are the bits I've found:

An oval rack that fits neatly in the bottom and has handles - makes it easier to lift out chickens and joints:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002N1L1P2

DON't be tempted to buy the medium or large sizes as they won't fit

An oval pie dish which fits neatly in and lets you cook smaller quantities and transfer straight to the oven:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B000UO9BQ0/ref=oss_product

A rack with legs to lift the pie dish or oval rack up above water:
http://www.lakeland.co.uk/p10066/Remoska-Rack

I realise these are not all available everywhere, but hopefully they will give you ideas. For reference I am in the UK - I had to buy the oval rack from Amazon.com because it wasn't available here, but it was no problem getting it shipped.

somersly said...

Hello - I have been looking at the Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6 Quart Programmable Slow Cooker for purchase. It seems like it has gotten many good reviews. However, in your post above, you mention not liking the slow cookers that have steam or vent holes in the lid because too much steam can escape and the food dries out. This Set and Forget cooker has a hole for the meat probe. If not using the meat probe, the instructions say not to close it up with anything. Do you find that the food is dry when using this slow cooker? Do you have any comments about the hole in the lid on this model?
Thank you for your input!!

Stephanie ODea said...

Hi somersly, I own three of the ham beach set and forgets, and find that they cook beautifully and the probe hole is just the right size to keep the lid from rattling and does not release too much steam. I think you will really like this pot. It's not a Ninja, :-), but a very, very good pot.

I hope this helps! Oh, and you need to keep the lid locked while in use.

Steph

L.D.Meyer said...

If you're worried about the crock pot heating up what its sitting on try inverting a cookie sheet and that should leave enough space to keep the counter or table cool. You could even rest the cookie sheet on a couple of wood dowels to ventilate. Bon Appetite!

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