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.