• 6 Common Slow Cooker Problems and How To Fix Them

    6 Common Slow Cooker Problems—And How To Fix Them | stupideasypaleo.com

    Slow cooker problems can turn one of Paleo’s most useful kitchen tools into a headache. These appliances are utterly indispensable for busy people who want to cook healthy food, so dialing it in can really help your time in the kitchen. From stews to bone broth to roasts and even veggies, with a little know-how, you’ll be well on your way to making satisfying meals.

    Here are 6 common slow cookers problems and what to do if and when you encounter them!

    Slow Cooker Problems #1: Meat comes out dry / tough.

    When you’re cooking meat in the slow cooker, the leaner the cut, the drier it tends to get. That means fattier cuts of meat—think pork shoulder roasts and beef pot roasts—do better than leaner ones, like pork sirloin or chops. If the meat comes with skin or a fat cap, leave that intact to keep the meat from drying out.

    It’s also possible that the meat simply cooked too long. Generally, start out with about 1 to 1.25 hours per pound for cooking on high and 1.25 to 1.5 hours per pound for cooking on low.

    Slow Cooker Problems #2: The food’s too liquidy.

    For slow cookers, you need about half the amount of liquid that a traditional recipe (for the oven or stovetop) calls for. If the recipe isn’t optimized for a slow cooker, cut the amount of liquid by about 50%. In fact, when I cook a whole chicken or pork roast in the slow cooker, I put the meat in without any liquid at all.

    If your final dish comes out too watery, remove the lid and turn the slow cooker to high for about an hour. This will allow some of the moisture to evaporate, thickening the sauce / broth.

    Slow Cooker Problems #3: There’s no automatic shut off / timer.

    This one’s a valid concern with a simple solution. If you can’t be around to switch off the slow cooker and yours has no automatic shut off, purchase a lamp timer! Then, plug your machine into that, set it, and it’ll turn off even if you aren’t home.

     

    Slow Cooker Problems #4: It makes too much food.

    Many slow cooker recipes make large portions, especially for small households. Luckily, many meats / roasts, soups and stews freeze well so you can store them for days you’re too busy to cook.

    Slow Cooker Problems #5: The food isn’t cooking evenly.

    This is a common problem with slow cookers. If you’re making a beef stew with carrots, for example, some carrots may be mushy while some are too hard. Food that’s cut into pieces that are the same size will cook more evenly than food that’s chopped haphazardly. Very soft / fast cooking vegetables can usually be added toward the end of the total cooking time so they don’t break down into mush.

    Slow Cooker Problems #6: You aren’t sure whether to use the low or high setting.

    Believe it or not, the low versus high settings aren’t different final temperatures. Rather, the high setting gets the slow cooker to boiling point faster than the low setting. Then, the contents will remain at a simmer for the rest of the cooking process. I personally prefer the low setting because I think meat comes out a bit more tender with the longer cooking time.

    Click here for my free Quick Slow Cooker Recipe Guide

    And, check out my favorite slow cooker cookbook, The Paleo Slow Cooker. Happy eating!

    If you have an issue I didn’t cover, check the comments section below…lots of people have written in about their slow cooker problems, and you might have the same issue!

    Pin this Slow Cooker Problems post for later!

    6 Common Slow Cooker Problems—And How To Fix Them | stupideasypaleo.com

    Steph Gaudreau is a certified holistic nutrition practitioner, weightlifting and mindset coach, and the author of the best-selling Performance Paleo Cookbook. Her recipes and expert advice have been featured in SELF, Outside Magazine, Elle, and Greatist. Steph loves barbells, cats, and anything Lord of the Rings. She lives in San Diego, CA.

    93 thoughts on “6 Common Slow Cooker Problems and How To Fix Them

    1. This is very helpful! I love my slow cooker. The one I bought in 1998 lasted 10 years and then went caput. I don’t ever buy appliances w/out lots of online research- you could say I tend to go overboard. I dug up some interesting info online about slow cookers that might help someone who is looking for one to buy. The government passed a law in 1998 that made manufacturers make all slow cookers heat to a hotter temperature for safety reasons. I can’t remember the temps exactly, but Low setting is supposed to be around 180-190, and High is supposed to be 190-200- a slight difference. I got a CrockPot, and it just kept heating my food too hot, and the food was always cooked way too fast, ending up tough or burned, which never in my life happened before! Slow cookers really weren’t capable of that pre-1998. So now you’ll find recipes with really short (like 5-6 hrs) cook time on low, which just seems weird to me. Many people rigg up a Crock-O-Stat to lower the temps back down to the old-fashioned level. If anyone’s interested, you could just Google it. However, you can just go to garage sales, and also ask your friends (what I did) to keep an eye out for old ones. That’s how I got my “new” old-style slow cooker.

      I have to (friendly :)) disagree with #1 above. Even on the new cookers, if you haven’t gotten AT LEAST past 6 hours on Low setting, your meat will be TOUGH. I kept trying to explain this to my mom, who was new at slow cooking. She’d have a roast and veggies on for 5-6 hours, and it was tough and dry. She kept complaining that her slow cooker was getting too hot and over-cooking her food. I told her to keep it on Low setting, but go way beyond that time on the recipe. For the most amazing, tender cheap cuts in the world, you’ve gotta go 8-10 hrs, and then it will just melt in your mouth. I actually have never cooked anything on Low in either of my pots (the new one and the old one) for less than 8, but usually anywhere from 10-12 hrs. There’s a phenomenon that happens in a slow cooker: the meat gets cooked, then, because it is such a slow, low heat, it starts breaking down the fibers for a few hours even though it doesn’t get more done- it just gets juicier and tenderizes the whole thing. But you have to fill it up- use the correct size for your family- that’s key, too.

      1. I agree on going longer with the tougher cuts. When I suggest folks do pork shoulder for at least 16 hours, they get pretty worried!

      2. Thanks so much for posting about the hotter new cookers, explains so much! Adele Davis Let’s Cook It Right explains that if you cook meat above 100F then the fibres toughen and shrink and push the juices out of the meat. If you cook it below 100F they melt and the meat is soft juicy and tender and retains more vitamins. So the new temperature will still make tougher meat, and you are totally right to demand the lower heat, slower cooking time. I am now going to toss my new cooker and search the thrift shops and garage sales for an old one.

    2. Oh, almost forgot. My solution to my new CrockPot burning my food, is that I was using it on High, with only a chicken breast or two at the bottom. Now I can do that, but I only use it on Low. It makes great chicken for all kinds of dishes, especially tender for babies and toddlers. And when I can’t decide what to make for dinner, I just throw in 2-3 chicken breasts while I take all day to figure out what to make with them.

    3. I was just saying that I wanted to get another slow cooker that had a timer on it (even though I have 3 already!). Such a simple fix…Can’t believe I haven’t thought of a lamp timer before!

    4. One more tip that I’ve learned along the way: If you only have a large slow cooker and you don’t have a big enough meal to fill it up so that it cooks properly, you can put the food into a smaller pyrex or ceramic dish and set that dish into the slow cooker!

    5. Don’t understand the purpose of a shut off timer – built in or add on lamp timer…. How are you not worried that the food will be spoiled after it sits out after it’s been turned off? You can’t just leave cooked food sitting out on the counter. Perhaps someone can explain this one to me. If it’s only for say an hour or so, then why not leave it go on low? One more hour on low isn’t going to hurt anything… I must be missing something here.

      1. Some people want to set up the food in the morning to be ready for dinner at night. If the crock pot shuts off during the day, it would sit for hours unheated which is unsafe from a food safety perspective.

        1. Right. My point exactly. So why advocate for a timer when using one is dangerous? This is the part I don’t understand.

          1. If it’s within a short time of it shutting off and you returning home, it’ll be fine. Obviously you wouldn’t want to let it sit for hours.

            1. I think you missed my point. I don’t need a lesson in food safety, I am just wondering what kind of “good advice” it is to tell people to get a light timer for their crockpot so they can have it turn off (and hence leave food sitting unheated to spoil). If it’s only going to be for a short time, then leaving it on for that same short time won’t hurt anything either. It’s hard to overcook food in a crockpot. I just think it’s strange advice, and I don’t understand what GOOD a timer is. I was hoping someone could explain (thinking there might be a reason/circumstance that I hadn’t thought of), but apparently there is no real good reason for a timer (which is probably why most models don’t have one).

            2. Many models actually DO have timers. And when it switches off low or high, it goes to “keep warm” mode.

          2. I am with you Bella. It is unsafe to leave food to sit between temps of 40 and 140 (bacteria grows exponentially at those temps) and surely leaving a crockpot turned off for any length of time would allow your food to reach those dangerous temps. Bad idea! Buying a crockpot with a timer that switches to warm is really the best idea. Don’t use a lamp timer!

            1. Nobody should leave the crockpot unplugged / off with food for a long period of time, of course.

          3. Buying a timer is not dangerous. If I start dinner @3 am, and i won’t be home until 6pm,i don’t want it on for that long! I might set the shut off timer to 4p,so that when i get home it’s not over done. I think that’s what the author is saying. And with the lid on my food, if I don’t get home until 7 or 8? Ehh, not that worried about it. I think we’ve all eaten pizza that’s Sat out over night before right? Maybe it’s just me, but I think it would be more of a safety issue to leave a hot oven on the counter top plugged into the wall for 14—16 hours while no one was home, then to eat some food that was kept warm for two hours. When I come home, I don’t want to find my home burnt to the ground! Lol

      2. if you went out for the day and left your slow cooker on and were involved in an accident or held up in traffic or anything like that, that is where a timer comes in handy

    6. #1 – food that is washed out tasting and stringy might also be due to too much liquid. A roast needs no more than 1 cup of liquid because it will also lose juices along with the onions, etc…
      I used to cook whole chickens in the crockpot on low for about 5 hours using a lamp timer (also known as xmas light timer). If it is frozen, add an hour.

      Lesson that took me a LONG time to learn – less is more where spices and herbs are concerned. Perhaps I used tons of flavor enhancers in the early days because I was cooking with factory food. Pastured meats are naturally flavorful.

    7. I have a hard time cleaning my crock pot. It is black. We don’t have a dish washer. It always looks clean, then when it dries, there is a white film on it. I started using Reynolds crock pot liners. They save me so much time!! Like an oven bag, but for the crock pot. When I am done coking, I can just throw the liner away. Works wonders with cheesy things! I even put the bag 8 a bow with a lid for storage.

      1. I never heard of Renold’s liners but if you run out of them parchment paper works great too. Clean up takes a quick minute. Before my son told me about it I used to dread cooking with my slow cooker due to the clean up. Now I use it at least three times a week. One pot meals are everyone’s favourite…now they are mine too.

    8. Too much food is a problem?! Wow, not in my house, and there’s only the two of us. I haven’t met a slow-cooker dish yet that didn’t freeze well. Oh, and I totally agree on the long hours for cooking — pork shoulder is delicious after 12 hours. I always put it on AFTER dinner and it’s ready for breakfast, yummy.

      1. I used to just cook for one so I used to have a lot of leftover food, especially if I was testing recipes 😉 That’s the perfect plan…we do that too!

    9. My problem is the flavor! The vegatables taste werid and the broth is, I dont know, bitter or burnt or metallic. Im so discouraged. Ive cooked at least six different chicken and/or beef dishes and the results are similar. Any solutions?

    10. I cooked a pork shoulder 6-8 hours..kept in for another 2 hours because it was still not easy to pull apart with the fork.
      I unplugged it, let it cook down, put in fridge and decided to cook it again on low the next day…is that a good idea?

    11. I messed up and cut the fat cap off. Can I use olive oil (or another oil) to fix the mistake? I did one without the fat cap & it came out edible, but dry.

    12. Last night I made chicken pozole in the slow cooker. After 3 hours, I noticed that I had put it on the warm setting instead of low for 8 hours. Once I realized what I did, I quickly switched it to the low setting for 8 hours. Then….my brother turned the slow cooker off after 5 1/2 hours. When I checked the chicken (which was covered by the liquids) this morning, the chicken appeared to be cooked, as it was falling off the bone and was not pink. My question is whether or not it’s safe to eat considering that it started on the warm setting and was turned off early? It should be noted that my slow cooker does get EXTREMELY hot when it does cook the food.

      1. Hi Sesi,

        The safe zone for food holding is above 140F. You’d need to determine if your slow cooker holds temp accurately, which the “stay warm” feature should do if it’s functioning correctly.

        My motto is always, “When in doubt, throw it out.”

    13. Wrong blog..I thought it said problems and hiw to fix them. #1 Dried out roast beef, use fatty next time, but what about now??

      1. All slow cookers heat to the same temperature. When you put it on low it gets there slower than if you put it on high. There’s not much you can do.

    14. I’ve already cooked my meat on high for 4 hours and it turned out pretty dry. If i put it back in for low on 1-2 hours, would that make it more tender or overcook it?

      1. Hi Karen,

        What kind of meat? Would be be more specific? Unfortunately if the meat is dry there’s usually not much that can save it.

    15. So I assume that my meat that is coming out tough is either because 1) my meat is too lean and/or 2) I am using the warm setting instead of low. My cooker has warm, low and high. I always worried because my low really seems to be a medium. Guess I shouldn’t worry about it so much.

    16. I have a new Cuisinart slow cooker. I believe it’s 6 Qt. I made a 4# pot roast twice. the first time I did the recipe with whatever it called for it on high. It was not “break-apart” tender. I finished it in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes (thank God). The next time I cooked it like it said for low setting for 9 hours. STILL not break-apart tender, so finished it off in the pressure cooker. This is ridiculous. If I do the time exactly as the slow cooker directions say, it should come out the way they say it will (break-apart tender)!!! I might as well just buy a big pressure cooker and do the meat in there for 35 min. when I get home. It’s delicious there as well. The only think I’m happy with my slow cooker for so far, is making bone stock. 🙁

      1. A 4 pound roast probably needs more than 8-9 hours but it sometimes also depends on the exact cut of roast to get the description of “break-apart tender.”

    17. I made a 4 pound roast (I cut it into 4 1lb cubes so it fits in the slow cooker better) and I had it on low for 8.5 hours and it came out super tough, it was not dry, just really tough. I was wondering if maybe it’s because before I started cooking it, it wasn’t quite thawed all the way. I made the same roast a month ago, in the same way (4 1lb cubes), size, cut, etc. but it wasn’t frozen, and it was soooo tender. I’m not a good cook so I don’t know if that is actually the issue or if maybe I did something else. I believe I used chuck roast. Input is greatly appreciated.

    18. He there! Happy Sunday and Spring! I have a Large all clad slow cooker, put 5#porkshoulder butt in for 12hrs low& warm 3hrs! Was very tasty a little dry , could I put parchment paper on top to ” fill ” the pots empty top space and make it more tender? Thanks

      1. 7 quart is pretty big, and the general rule is to fill a slow cooker at least half way. The meat could have been leaner than usual or for some reason, tougher than normal. Sometimes those things happen. It’s hard to say.

    19. I broke our crock pot lid, can we use a tad-bit smaller lid. My wife said no I’m guessing we will be fine?

      1. Hi Mike…you definitely want a lid that fits so that it makes a seal. It needs to contact the crock all the way around. As long as it does that you should be fine.

    20. After many, many happy years of crockpot cooking, I purchased a Wahl crockpot by James Martin. It’s very good at heating up my kitchen, but after MUCH experimentation on times, temperature settings and recipes, I remain absolutely disgusted with it. The meat takes ages to become even bite able, and when it does, it’s as dry as eating blotting paper. I note your previous comments re EU regs on safe cooking temperatures, but this crock pot is NOT capable of ‘slow cooking’ ……but very good at heating the kitchen and burning me! WHY can manufacturers get away with this……..answer……because we, the customer, shut up and say nothing. I LOVED both of my previous crock pots (Tower and Prestige) I’ve always used one at least once a week for a family casserole and everyone enjoyed my yummy stew I proudly put on the table. I’ve stopped making them now, but we all miss our crock pot dinners.

    21. Ok, so as I read this, I’m cooking a roast in my crock pot. It was tough and I felt I had too much liquid, so I drained some of it and left just enough to cover the beef. Then I made a rue with the juices added to flour, oil and spices until I got it thick enough. The meat is now starting to fall apart. I’m looking forward to a great dinner! ?

    22. my Cuisinart slow cooker is heating up liquid just fine,but not cooking the meat and potatoes. I am cutting both into small pieces. I have only had this slow cooker for about 2 years.

    23. I have a slow cooker without a timer function. It has Low High and Auto functions – how does the Auto function work ? If a recipe is 8 hours Low or 4 hours Hi – then what would selecting the Auto function do ? And what impact on the cooking time ? Thanks

      1. I think the auto function is comparable to “keep warm.” You’ll want to read up on the model you have because they all vary 🙂

    24. i have a beef bone broth question- i have my bones in the slow cooker and it accidentally was switched to warm at the 16 hour point and left overnight like that! is it edible? is it just full of bacteria?

    25. Hi, The issue I have is that I put meat in the crock pot frozen so that within 10 hours when I return home it will be cooked. I usually add potatoes or onions to the bottom of the crock so the meat doesnt burn, when finished I have to skim the fat and stuff off the potatoes, onions whatever before I serve them. How can I prevent that from happening? I am thinking of putting the veggies in the bottom and then cheese cloth and then the meat, hopfully the cheese cloth will catch the drippings that I dont want to eat??? Any ideas?
      thanks Linda

    26. I have had s problem with plugging in my crock pot into some outlets and it will not turn on. It is not broke. Works fine at home. Is the problem the grounding if the outlet?

    27. I have a 5lb roast on low. No idea the age of the slow cooker. It sounds like you recommend at least 10 hours.

      How can I tell when it’s done? I hear “fork tender,” but how tender?

      Thanks for your blog and your insight. Much appreciated.

    28. I always cook frozen chicken breast with other ingredients on high for about 3 to 4 hours, at first it got really liquidy after an hour and I became worried. But by the last hour the juices are always soaked up and it always comes out so good and tender, I love my crockpot.

    29. I just bought a 6 qt Crockpot. First chuck roast (about 3 lbs) with some veggies turned out very good. Didn’t use any liquid, just spread a seeded mustard all over roast. Now, I would like to do a small 1 lb + roast. I know the pot is too large for such a small roast. Does adding a lot of veggies “count” towards the filling of the pot? Also, I plan to add about a cup of red wine 🙂 Too much for small roast in your opinion? Thank you for your input!

    30. Help. I build my crock pot with sauerkraut then a layer of pork chops with sweet potatoes on the top turned it on what I thought was high came back from a party 5 hours later to realize it was the warm setting I had turned it on then turned it on high for the rest next 4 hours and then down to low for 4 hours will any bacteria that grew during the warm period at the beginning be killed during the High cooking time at the end? S

      1. The warm setting should be over 145F. Check your model’s information to find out for sure. Food must be kept at 140F or over to prevent the growth of bacteria. Your food should be just fine.

    31. After removing the lid, is it okay to turn the heat up to high to get the temp back up quicker and then turn it back to low? If so, do you have a suggestion as to how long it should remain on high? Today, I had to add some more water after two hours in an 8-hour recipe. Although the water was hot, it wasn’t boiling, so I’m sure it cooled it down somewhat. Thanks.

      1. Hi Barbara…I really am not sure since I don’t know what you’re cooking. You can turn the temp up to high then lower back to low. Shouldn’t be a problem.

    32. Hi. We are cooking beef stew in a large slow cooker. The recipe is typical with stew meat, veggies, beef broth, etc. It’s been cooking for approximately six hours, and there are now several bubbles above the stew, almost as though like from dish soap. Have you heard or seen anything like this happening? I don’t remember this happening before. Any explanation as to why this might happen? Thank you.

    33. I have searched everywhere for advice on this, but can’t find an answer. So I thought I’d try here 🙂

      I love doing bone broth in my slow cooker, as it allows me to safely leave it cooking for 24 hours. Wouldn’t want to do that on my gas stove!

      But, I’d love to figure out a way to set it somewhere between LOW and WARM. Low (or High) eventually bring it to boiling, but Warm doesn’t quite get hot enough to even bubble.

      Anyone know a hack to insulate the slow cooker or something to get it to run a little cooler?

      Thanks for any ideas!

      1. Warm is usually 140 degrees F on a crockpot, Goeff. Not enough to boil but hot enough to hold food safely for several hours.

        I have no idea what the answer is. Why not use an Instant Pot (or other pressure cooker) and the broth is done is done in 2 hours?

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