Learn how to use a slow cooker and get answers to some of your most important slow cooker questions. Plus, we have a few slow cooker hacks for you to try, as well as some of our best slow cooker recipes.
Short Rib Beef Stew

A continuous slow cooker cooks food at a very low wattage. The heating coils, or elements, wrap around the sides of the cooker and remain on. On this type of cooker you'll likely notice three fixed settings:

  • Low (200˚F)
  • High (about 300˚F)
  • Automatic (shifts from low heat to high heat)

The ceramic liner may or may not be removable.

An intermittent cooker (one with a dial indicating temperatures in degrees) is not recommended for recipes designated for slow cooking since they require continuous slow-cooking temperatures. In this appliance, the heating element or coil is located below the food container and cycles on and off during operation. 

Get the recipe: Short Rib Beef Stew

Slow Cooker Sizes

Dilly Slow Cooker Dinner Rolls

Slow cookers range in size from 1 to 6 quarts. Many recipes list the recommended size or sizes that will accommodate that recipe. Check the capacity of your cooker to see whether it fits the recommendation.

Tip: For the best results, your slow cooker must be at least half full and no more than two-thirds full.

How Often Do I Need to Stir?

Slow Cooker Steel-Cut Oatmeal

For most recipes, you do not need to stir; in fact, stirring can greatly alter cooking time. Because a slow cooker prepares food at a low temperature, removing the lid can dramatically reduce the cooker's interior temperature. Therefore, when you lift the lid to stir or add ingredients, replace it as quickly as possible, especially when cooking on the low-heat setting.

Keep the heat: An uncovered cooker can lose up to 20 degrees of cooking heat in as little as 2 minutes. A quick peek, however, will change temperature by only 1 or 2 degrees.

What Heat Setting Should I Use?

Italian-Style Slow Cooker Meat Loaf

If you want dinner to cook all day and be ready when you get home from work or running errands, use the low-heat setting of your cooker. This allows most foods to cook for 10 to 12 hours.

For a shorter cooking time, use the high-heat setting, which cooks most foods in 5 to 6 hours. Cooking times may vary depending on the cooker, but the timings generally work well for all continuous slow cookers.

If a slow cooker recipe recommends cooking only on one setting, do not use any other setting because your food may not turn out properly.

How to Clean a Slow Cooker

Crunchy Ranch Party Mix

Always remember to unplug your cooker before cleaning, and never immerse the cooker or the cord in water. To clean the ceramic lining, use a soft cloth and warm, soapy water. If your cooker has a removable liner, you can wash it in the dishwasher. Skip abrasive cleaners and cleansing pads. To avoid cracking the crockery insert, cool the cooker or the insert completely before cleaning.

Get the recipe: Crunchy Ranch Party Mix

How to Freeze Leftovers

Slow-Cooked Moroccan Chicken

Many cooks buy large-capacity slow cookers so they can cook once and have enough leftovers to enjoy at another meal. To freeze leftovers, cool the food about 30 minutes and transfer it to freezer-safe containers. Label and freeze.

To reheat, do not use your slow cooker. Place the frozen food in an appropriate-size saucepan; cook and stir over low heat until boiling.

Slow Cooker Safety

Slow Cooker Falafel

Foods prepared in a slow cooker are safe to eat even though they are heated at a very low temperature. The long cooking time and the steam that forms in the tightly covered container destroy any bacteria.

To ensure that your food is safe to eat, take a few precautions. Clean the cooker and all utensils before you start. Do not use the slow cooker for large pieces of meat. Cut in half any roasts larger than 2-1/2 pounds.

Get the recipe: Slow Cooker Falafel

Yummy Slow Cooker Ideas

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Now that you have all the info for how to use a slow cooker, you can start putting it to work! Make any meal of the day, from breakfast to dessert, much easier with one of our favorite slow cooker recipes.

Helpful Slow Cooker Hacks

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Pie

You can make more recipes in your slow cooker than you might think. Have you ever tried pie or homemade yogurt in the slow cooker?

Plus, we have a few other slow cooker tips and tricks to make crafting and cleaning easier than ever.


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