Start a Tradition: Slow Cooker Sunday! Article -
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Start a Tradition: Slow Cooker Sunday!

A few helpful hints will ensure your slow cooker Sunday is a great success.

What could be more convenient? Prepare your slow cooker the night before and refrigerate, or simply toss everything in first thing in the morning. Then plug it in and forget about it! You'll have a delicious meal by evening.

    Slow Cooker Tips

    Keep a few favorite recipes and ingredients on hand, and you'll always have a meal idea at the ready. Here are some other quick tips:

    • No frozen meats. Always defrost meats and poultry before placing them in a slow cooker.
    • Smaller chunks. Cut whole chickens and large pieces of meat into smaller chunks to ensure thorough cooking.
    • Layer your ingredients. Vegetables should be placed in the bottom and up the sides of the pot, then layer in the meat on top. 
    • Fill 'er up. It's best to fill a slow cooker to at least one-half and no more than three-fourths full. 
    • Keep the lid on. Each time you lift the lid you'll lengthen the cooking time, this can be anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes.

    Get more slow cooker recipes and advice:

    Jun. 28, 2009 10:01 am
    Can you overcook on a slow cooker? If I get home from work after a ten or twelve hour day, and it was supposed to only cook for eight hours, will it still be good? Also, can I prepare everything the night before and refrigerate in the cooker bowl, then just plug it in the next morning?
    Jun. 28, 2009 1:09 pm
    From my experience, meat fares just fine going longer on low, as do chopped vegetables for flavoring or adding to the au jus or gravy. Just microwave your vegetables instead of putting into crockpot.
    Jun. 29, 2009 12:08 am
    We have winter now and luv warm saucy meaty dishes. The crock allows for soft and tasty oxtail - just roll the meat in flavoured flour, add 2 cups of stock, 1 cup of good red wine, a bay leaf, parsley, some ground cloves, coriander, nutmeg, a touch of garlic and some braised onions. (No salt - the stock is salty - rather add salt at the table to taste!) Micro or steam an assortment of baby or chunky veg, mushrooms, etc - strain and add do meat just before serving! Simply add the starch of your choice - rice, crushed wheat, samp or 'pap'. Pap is the African word for a type of porridge made from maize meal. It comes in mainly three consistancies - soft like oatmeal, sticky and crumbly. The last variation being the popular one in our region!
    Jul. 30, 2009 9:59 am
    I have prepared the dish the night before and refrigerated it and popped it into the Cooker before leaving for work in the morning,
    Lynda Park 
    Aug. 3, 2009 7:51 am
    I tried the Moist and Tender Turkey Breast in the August/Sept. issue. It did not say to add any water or liquid; just the spices and cover. Will this cook properly without adding liquid.
    Nov. 5, 2009 5:56 pm
    Lynda - yes, surprisingly it DOES cook properly even with no liquid. I was hesitant at first, but I made it on a day I was home to monitor the crock pot and it came out amazing!
    Nov. 7, 2009 12:12 pm
    I love my slow cooker!! My Husband to be, can't believe how easy it is!!! He loves it!!!!
    Tara M 
    Nov. 15, 2009 10:12 am
    What size crock pot do you recommend for two people? I have a 6 qt crock pot and whenever I cook in it, it's just too much.
    Nov. 17, 2009 7:38 am
    Tara you can get a smaller crockpot,change the serving size in the recipe or just freeze the leftovers for another meal
    Dec. 24, 2009 3:11 am
    I read that you should not put frozen meat in the slow cooker. I have been doing this for years and never had any problems. Even with a 4 or 5 lb roast. Should I discontinue this process?
    Dec. 28, 2009 6:40 am
    If it has worked for years why change it?
    Jan. 8, 2010 4:44 am
    I, too, have used frozen beef for years and never had a problem. I'm not going to change just because "all of a sudden" it's not good for you!
    Jan. 9, 2010 12:16 pm
    I have used crockpots for 20+ yrs and have never added water to any roast or meat because it makes it's own juices..hummmm. Once I took my prepared crockpot dish from the refrigerator that was prepared the night before and because it was cold... it cracked my crockpot...I would not suggest anybody doing what I did, because it can happen. I have put whole cleaned chickens in mine to roast, set it on low and cooked it all day... it is sooo good and the juices make the best gravy..specially for making dumplings. Hats off to the person who invented the crockpot!
    Jan. 13, 2010 12:58 pm
    I start with meat that is cold or only partially defrosted. I bought an automatic timer, just like the ones you have for your lamps, etc. I leave the house at 7 a.m. and the crockpot goes on at 10 a.m. or whenever. I have had meals that turned to mush when cooked too long or that lost all their juices. Chicken breasts are a good example of things that can be overcooked in a crockpot. I cook at least four meals a week in the crockpot, winter and summer!
    Jan. 14, 2010 5:08 am
    I just the love the idea of automatic timer , did not think about that before,clever, I have trying to find one with set time and was not sure, this way I can use my old crokpot.Thank you for the idea
    Jan. 15, 2010 12:39 pm
    I totally agree with what everyone has said about the slow cooker, I have just recently up dated mine, and I too have cooked a roast joint in it without liquid, and it was great, the chicken even bowned, just as it would have done in a conventional oven, I will be using it a lot more in future, so look forward to all the hints and tips on this web site.
    Jan. 16, 2010 2:54 pm
    I have a 5 lb top round roast and would like to use shpinky's slow cooker beef roast recipe. Do I have to cut it in half and cook it for longer time. The recipe calls for 2 lb roast for 6 hrs
    Jan. 17, 2010 7:39 am
    Thanks for the auto timer idea, Ann! I wanted to add that I too put frozen meat in the crock pot! Especially frozen 5 lb roasts, at least once a week. I don't have as much luck with frozen chicken in there though. But, I happen to not like chicken in the crock pot although my family thinks its fine.
    Jan. 18, 2010 4:52 pm
    I received a crock pot for Christmas and I am anxious for anyone who would be willing to share some tried and true recipes with me. I've made beef stew and it was excellent. I just don't want ALL my dinners to taste like "stew".
    Jan. 24, 2010 5:45 am
    I really like cooking my pot roast in my slow cooker - I put carrots in the bottom, then the roast. I mix 1 can cream of mushroom soup with 1 package dried onion soup mix, add some ground pepper, a dash of dried thyme and a couple of bay leaves. The sauce mixture goes over the top and the slow cooker goes on low all day. Really good. I really don't think it can get overdone. I also like cooking pork shoulder (boston butt) -- I have slow cooked it with barbeque sauce, and I have also done it with picante sauce, cumin and canned green chiles -- use it as filling for soft tacos or quesadillas. The pork needs to be cut into smaller chunks, because typically the boston butt can be 7 or 8 lbs. Sometimes I like to do spaghetti sauce, but you have to be careful with tomato products - The tomato can begin to get carmelized and black - this can happen with salsa, too. I have noticed it with a couple of mexican chicken dishes. There is a chicken corn chili on Allrecipes that is really good. It ma
    Jan. 24, 2010 7:44 pm
    the new crockpots have automatic timer that switches to warm once timer is done, this keeps the food from overcooking, I am not a cooking person so this works great for my family,I put the ingredients in once son is in school and dinner done, makes life easy.
    Jan. 31, 2010 9:14 am
    This is for susandj regading overcooking - yes, you can overcook and I had a similar problem. I solved it by buying an inexpensive but reliable timer and using that with my slow cooker to turn it on so it would only be cooking for the alloted time. You can also buy a SC with a timer but this was my easy solution! Enjoy.
    Mar. 9, 2010 1:20 pm
    DO NOT DO IT!!! I had everything ready and put the insert bowl in the fridge with the ingredients overnight. I placed it in the cooker the next morning and put it on low. It cracked my bowl!
    May 8, 2010 7:38 am
    I prepare stuff all the time on Sunday and stick it in the fridge. Monday morning - I just set the crock out on the counter while I'm getting ready for work--and pop it in the cooker when I leave. I've never had a crock - crack. lol!
    May 23, 2010 8:50 am
    I've been putting frozen meat in my crockpots for years and have never had a problem with cracking. I think the cracking is caused when you put the crock itself in the fridge and when the heat hits it, it cracks. If you just use the crock at room temperature and put the cold meat in, it generally should be okay (but never say "never").
    Jun. 26, 2010 9:18 pm
    Thanks everyone for your helpful tips on slow cooker recipes. I have recently purchased a cooker so am reaping the benefits of your experiences. Thank you again and keep the recipes and great tips coming.
    Jul. 16, 2010 7:26 am
    I agree with all the advice except the cracked crock. I wonder were they put right on the cooker b4 bringing to room temp? I have never had this happen, but I do know if you put something really cold on something really hot this will happen. To those who recently got crocks happy times ahead. I have been using mine (on my 3rd) for years.
    Jul. 17, 2010 11:34 am
    Okay for all of you who want to prepare food the night before and put back in fridge....I adore Reynolds wrap brand Crock Pot can assemble food inside the liner then put in 13x9 dish or bowl then in morning slip the liner with food inside into crock pot VOILA no chance of cracking!! Better yet cleanup is a breeze!! I do this with carry-ins at work and everyone is converted now to the crockpot liners( and no there is no after taste and no they do not burn or tear when using 8+ hrs!!) try em!
    Jul. 30, 2010 8:45 pm
    I have been using my original crockpot (3qt) for 31 years now, have stuck the whole thing in the fridge overnite before, taken it out and plugged in before leaving and no problems ever. My other larger 5 or 6 qt one with a removable crock was a gift from a friend that I received about 5 years ago, I've stuck that crock in the fridge and then put it in the base and turned it on next morning with no problems either. It would almost HAVE to be a defective crock, or just plain old bad luck, for those that have cracked. Sorry 'bout yer luck, folks!
    Jul. 30, 2010 8:47 pm
    Oh, slwk82 I can't wait to try the liners now, I had no idea!! Thanks for sharing that info-what a brilliant idea!! As it is, I most often have to fill with water and let soak overnite-it would be heavenly to just stow the SC away when it cools enough! Yay!!
    Aug. 3, 2010 7:23 pm
    I think the no-frozen meat issue has more to do with food safety than cracking your crock. It is the equivalent of letting food defrost on the countertop and bacteria potentially growing. The food does not get up to a safe temperature quickly enough. But I admit I do put frozen chicken breasts in since those definitely can be overcooked if left in all day while at work. Again, I think food safety is the real issue. Although convenient, the timer has the same potential of food sitting out at room temperature too long before cooking.
    Aug. 29, 2010 11:51 am
    Can someone please share the Moist and Tender Turkey Breast recipe? I can't seem to find it. Thanks!
    Sep. 11, 2010 2:20 am
    Enjoyed reading all the comments on slow cookers. I have three, all different sizes. I use the little one when I make a meal for two. The big one makes the best apple butter I have ever tasted. And the house smells divine while that apple butter is simmering. Good luck to aoo of you newbies with your slow cookers.
    Sep. 11, 2010 2:21 am
    oops, "all"
    Sep. 11, 2010 9:47 am
    we love cooking with the crock pot we have a motor home and travel most of the year. before we take off in the morning i put my meal in the crock pot and turn the inverter on when we arrive at our next rv site dinner is done. nice feeling joan
    Sep. 15, 2010 11:54 am
    I always put frozen meat in my crock pot - just make sure it's on low. I cracked one pot when I put it on high. I too am away for 11-12 hours and cannot use a timer because my crock is digital - suggestions anyone?
    Sep. 18, 2010 12:17 am
    Re: liners I have used them also to transport soup in my crockpot. It kept the soup from spilling as we traveled(I tied the top with a bread tie for the ride)then I was able to keep the soup warm in the crock pot til time to serve it and all with no mess.Hope this is helpful for someone.
    Sep. 19, 2010 9:37 am
    I just noticed that their are no slow cooker ham recipies. I want to make a ham for dinner, but have a bunch of other things to do, I think I am going to throw a ham and a can of pineapple in their on low and see what happens.
    Sep. 21, 2010 8:20 pm
    I recently bought a SC at the Goodwill for $7. I love it! Let me know how the ham turns out.
    Sep. 28, 2010 4:20 am
    @ Carol, maybe you can find an extension cord to plug into the power outlet with a time on it? That way you can set the timer on the power to come to live on a set time, so you don't overcook it...
    Oct. 4, 2010 7:44 pm
    I roast a whole chicken in the crock pot. Line bottom with onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes. Season with garlic, salt and pepper. Salt and pepper inside of bird cavity. Stuff fresh thyme and a whole lemon cut in half inside cavity. Add a cup of water or chicken stock to bottom for all the juices to gather And make gravy when it's done after 8 hours on low. Si use kosher salt. Sprinkle salt and pepper and a little paprika for color on outside of bird. Put the lid on and your house will smell so wonderful and comforting like thanksgiving. I also make beef stew in the crock pot. My mom taught me. Beef cubes, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, Rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, pepper, bag frozen mixed vegetables, 1 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup water or broth. Turn on overnight, or cook up to 10 hours. Adjust liquid as needed.
    Oct. 4, 2010 7:45 pm
    Got to get me some liners. Genius! Thanks for the tip!
    Oct. 9, 2010 11:21 am
    I try to plan for a week's worth of meals at a time. With a busy schedule, typically 1-2 of our meals are from the slow cooker each week. For recipes that have ingredients that aren't affected by freezing, when I come home from the market, I prep each slow cooker meal for the freezer. I'll put all the ingredients for a slow cooker meal into a large freezer-proof zip top bag. During the week, since we are up at 5:30 am, I get the slow cooker meal out of the freezer and empty the contents into my slow cooker, then let it cook all day.
    Nov. 13, 2010 10:06 am
    Thank you all for your great comments and wonderful hints I am knew at this method of cooking. Jeannie
    Nov. 23, 2010 11:50 am
    Hi For all the folks worried about their pot breaking after it's spent a night in the 'fridge, how about putting the pot in a sink of warm - not hot - water first? (obviously not up to the brim!!). Give it a quick wipe with a tea-towel, pop it in the base before switching on, and it should be fine. Hope that helps. Oh, and for Carol: I understand the 'digital' bit, but your croc is only semi-digital, else it would have a timer built-in. Only solution? Buy another simpler, cheaper croc. Andy, Oulu, Finland. Proud owner of a Murphy Richards.
    Dec. 7, 2010 7:58 pm
    Thanks for the wonderful information.
    Dec. 10, 2010 7:58 pm
    I wss always told to put the meat in first?? then the veggies and then top it off with whatever
    Jan. 15, 2011 8:16 pm
    @ susandj... I have been trying to make slow cooker meals for two over the past few weeks as our schedules have been very crazy but are trying to stay on a budget and eat in more often. Anyhow I came home from work one day and was tied up a few extra hours and the entire dinner was burnt to a crisp at the bottom of the pot. It won't be terrible if you 'overcook' your meat but make sure there is enough liquid so it won't dry up. Also it is suggested that you prepare your meal in a separate bowl and then transfer it to the crockpot in the morning before you leave. Yummm good luck!
    Jan. 22, 2011 1:45 pm
    I have been assembling food in the crock the night before, putting it in the fridge and then taking it out the next morning and putting the crock in the crock pot without a cracked crock-have used the same one for 12 yrs. Recently got a smaller one and have done the same thing with it many many times without an issue. I have to wonder if the people who have had a problem with their crock breaking have turned the pot on and then stuck in the cold crock? I always put my crock in and then turn the pot on low. Just a thought....
    Jan. 30, 2011 6:20 pm
    Just got my lst slow cooker-a hamilton beach 6 qt programmable with a meat probe and high-low-warm setting-goes to warm auto when timer or temperature is reached. The care and use book is kind of meager with info advising the cooker be always least half full but no more than 3/4 full so as to leave at least n inch to the top. I assume that means liquid. Yet all the recipes I see from this site and all others on line and in print list from no liquid to a 1/2 cup to a cup and a half. I have email hamilton beach to be more specific in re liquid amount needed. I would think the advice from this site would be clearer and more precise. Thanks
    Jan. 30, 2011 7:06 pm
    I have overlooked an item in the troubleshooting page of the care and use book of the hamilton beach model 33967,programmable slow cooker I mentioned in my prev post. One of the example questions was My meal was overcooked. Why. The probable cause answer was-Was the crock at least half-full? The slow cooker has been designed to thoroughly cook food in a filled crock. If the crock is only half filled check for doneness 1 to 2 hours earlier than recipe time.
    Mar. 20, 2011 2:01 pm
    I am still using the same West Bend crock pot I got as a wedding gift in 1977. The pot is all metal, so there is nothing to crack. I can put everything in the night before and refrigerate overnight. Just pull it out of the fridge in the morning and set it on the base to cook and off to work I go! Love it!
    Apr. 6, 2011 11:52 pm
    I love my two crock pots! I have made so many good meals without any problems. I find the recipes from all over the network so can cook different meals for my family.Had my first one back in the 70's but rarely used it until 1990's and will use from now on.
    May 13, 2011 3:36 pm
    I also have 2 crockpots, anad LOVE them. Especially at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I make my dressing in one, corn pudding in another. Both are wonderful, and my whole family loves both. I use the liners too, and swear that is one of Reynolds best inventions. I take out the corn pudding and the dressing, and then put my special sweet potato dish in. When I get to my son's house, I simply warm everything up in the microwave. He cooks the turkey(bless you my son)and we are good to go. Tonight I am putting together a pork pot roast, with yams, small white potatoes, other veggies, and pour a can of coke over all for the liquid. It's simple and very good.
    May 13, 2011 3:40 pm
    Most anything you can name is good for the crockpot. Use your imagination, write down the recipe, and then note if it's good to try again, perhaps with a little modification. Add and subtract is the key to good cooking.
    May 26, 2011 6:50 am
    I usually use crock-pot liners, but once when I was out of them, I used cooking bags for the oven. They work just as good and maybe fit even better. They are longer than crock-pot liners, just cut them off to fit.
    Aug. 6, 2011 1:54 pm
    Someone said something about a Moist and Tender Turkey waaaay earlier in this thread, and another person asked if someone would please post the recipe. I agree - I would love to try out the recipe, but I can't seem to find it! Would somebody please, please post it?
    Aug. 10, 2011 7:17 pm
    Hi, I have a SC but rarely use it.  Any advice for my situation??  We eat our main meal at noon sharp when my DH gets home. If I stumble into the kitchen at 7AM, I'm not sure I can get a SC meal finished by 12.  But it sounds so convenient that maybe I should try.  Thanks so much!
    Sep. 16, 2011 8:51 pm
    I love cooking ham in the crock pot, I actually pour some orange juice over mine which coats the ham adn acts as a liquid during the cooking process...Low for 8 hrs works good
    Oct. 1, 2011 7:58 am
    I take boneless pork loin chops, a a bag of sauerkraut (not in a can ), a large onion thinly sliced, a few shakes of soy sauce, and a bit of ground black pepper, and put it all in the slow cooker. I have one that goes from high to low after 2 hours. I do this in the morning, and supper is ready by 4 or 5 pm. Great with Rice pilaf or baked sweet potato, and a quick m/w frozen veggie like peas.
    Oct. 5, 2011 12:53 pm
    Nanc_b...When we have roast for lunch on Sunday, I always put it in the slow cooker the night before. When we get home from church, it is ready. Cook it on low and make sure you have enough soup and water or whatever you put on it to cover it completely so it won't dry out.
    Nov. 19, 2011 6:18 am
    Pizza Pasta, is an oven dish that I make. I just mix meat/spaghetti sauce with my cooked pasta the night before. Since you may need a large bowl to mix it in,just cover and refrigerate over night and assemble in the morning. I just put put mine in the fridge and pop in the slow cooker base and so far have had no bad experience. Once the pasta/sauce mixture is combined, top with a layer of mozzarella, pepperoni finish it off with a little Parmesan. Be sure you have enough sauce if taking with you or leaving in the cooker all day. The pasta will soak it up. Cook til bubbly (depends on how much). Sorry it isn't a real recipe but it was something I adapted and we just make it. Even my husband and oldest son know how to do it. ;)
    Nov. 21, 2011 6:22 pm
    I make extra and freeze it in individual containers. Great for when you're pressed for time and for packing in lunches! ...And I love the liner idea!
    Dec. 27, 2011 4:49 pm
    I confess I am a crock pot queen. When I moved from Wisconsin to Hawaii I found seven crock-pots. Didn't take them with me except the small 1.5 qt one(I do my steel cut oatmeal in it using a timer). In the wintertime I would preassemble the dinner the night before and leave the crock pot in the garage then take it out to cook when I left in the morning for work. Never had a cracked crock(but I did leave the entire crock in the garage or makeshift fridge in the wintertime) It is always heavenly to come home to the smell of dinner cooking. My favorite is doing corned beef in the crock pot, cooking the beef, potatoes, carrots and cabbage all in one. Using tough cuts of beef in the crock pot is ideal as it gets so soft. I also do a Hawaiian style luau pork in the crock pot. The trick is to line the crock with banana leaves (your local Asian markets usually carries frozen banana leaves) then rub liquid smoke and Hawaiian salt all over a big pork roast then cook all day and voila you have yo
    Dec. 27, 2011 4:50 pm
    I confess I am a crock pot queen. When I moved from Wisconsin to Hawaii I found seven crock-pots. Didn't take them with me except the small 1.5 qt one(I do my steel cut oatmeal in it using a timer). In the wintertime I would preassemble the dinner the night before and leave the crock pot in the garage then take it out to cook when I left in the morning for work. Never had a cracked crock(but I did leave the entire crock in the garage or makeshift fridge in the wintertime) It is always heavenly to come home to the smell of dinner cooking. My favorite is doing corned beef in the crock pot, cooking the beef, potatoes, carrots and cabbage all in one. Using tough cuts of beef in the crock pot is ideal as it gets so soft. I also do a Hawaiian style luau pork in the crock pot. The trick is to line the crock with banana leaves (your local Asian markets usually carries frozen banana leaves) then rub liquid smoke and Hawaiian salt all over a big pork roast then cook all day and voila you have yo
    Jan. 22, 2012 6:24 pm
    If you haven't stumbled upon this website yet, get to stumblin'! A Year of Slow cooking by Stephanie O'Dea. Soooo many good ideas and recipes (with honest opinions as to results).
    Sep. 15, 2012 12:15 pm
    When I used to work, I used my slow cooker VERY often in just the way you describe. I am a lazy cook, and all I had to do was set the table and serve. Occassional I cooked rice, or bread, whatever, to go with it...but asways something easy!
    Oct. 6, 2012 1:10 pm
    I just watched on Alton Brown's Good Eats show about what to do about leaving it on all day. he bought a timer from a hard ware store, the kind you use for security lights, to pretend someone is home the lights would go on at a certain time and then off at a certain time. Anyway, he plugged his crockpot in the timer and set it for when he wanted it to go on and then off. Perfect idea!!
    Dec. 20, 2012 4:12 pm
    Alton Brown is full of good ideas. I'm going to have to pick up a timer and give it a try. I love using the Crock Pot but on work days -- the days I would really love to use it -- I have to try and make sure I do recipes that work into my time schedule. Looking forward to new possibilities!
    Sep. 29, 2013 2:10 pm
    I put a timer on my crock so it comes on later in the morning. This way it does not overcook and is is a homey smell ready to serve when I get home.
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