how to use a slow cooker
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January Is Slow Cooking Month: How to Use a Slow Cooker

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January is Slow Cooking Month! With the winter months upon us, it is the perfect time to get more use out of your slow cooker.

A slow cooker is one of the most popular kitchen appliances on the market, and for good reason. They’re inexpensive, easy to use, and they can help you create delicious meals with minimal effort!

That makes a slow cooker a staple appliance for any kitchen. Not only will they save you time, but a lot of money as you can skip the drive-through when things are beyond hectic in the family schedule.

But what if you haven’t really used one much before?

Here is your guide on how to use a slow cooker, plus the best tips to get the most out of it!

How to Use a Slow Cooker

If you want something so tender that you can literally cut it with a fork or have a budget that only allows you to get the cheaper cuts of meat, a slow cooker is your best friend.

With low and slow cooking, even the toughest cuts of meat can end up a gourmet delicacy. This concept lets you pop ingredients into the pot before you head off to work and walk into an amazing smelling home with a ready-to-plate meal fit for royalty.

It is as simple as putting in your food, turning it on, and letting the magic happen.

To begin, use a slow cooker liner for easier clean-up. We love these Reynolds Kitchens Slow Cooker Liners for durability and for being BPA-free.

Then get all of your ingredients washed, sliced, and diced, so you can layer them into your slow cooker. It is best to put the things like potatoes or other hard root vegetables at the bottom of the pot. The food that cooks faster should go on the top.

Once you add all your ingredients, secure your lid. While many slow cookers have locks on your top, those are usually more for transporting your food to a different location than actually being used while cooking.

Then you simply turn on the heat to the right temperature. Depending on how long you have until your meal will determine if you use low or high. Low usually takes double the amount of time to cook as high, but yields a more tender final result.

Set it and forget it. Go do other things and let the appliance do its job. There is no need to micromanage your meal so check other important things off your list while knowing that dinner is cover

Once it is finished, stir it thoroughly, scoop your meal out, and enjoy!

5 Tips for Using a Slow Cooker

  1. Don’t open the lid! This is just like opening the oven door while you are baking something. While it is tempting to see if your food is thoroughly cooked, opening the lid just adds more time to the cook. Know ahead of time when your food will be done, so you don’t have to open the top.
  2. Don’t underfill or overfill. When you underfill your pot, it can start to burn your food after some time. However, you also cannot overload it or else the food will not cook properly. It is best to have your slow cooker ½ to ⅔ full.
  3. Meal prep ahead of time. If you are really running low on time, it is best to meal prep before making your dinner. Take a little time to cut up all your veggies, brown your meat, and put it all into a Ziploc-like bag. This will help you just toss the contents into your slow cooker and get cooking!
  4. Add dairy last. Dairy can curdle in the heat. If your recipe calls for dairy, it is best to add it to the last hour of cooking. This will keep the taste and not curdle the dairy!
  5. Take good care of your slow cooker. The pot can crack when it is exposed to opposite temperatures immediately after using it. Be sure not to place it on a cold surface right after cooking and vice versa.

Can You Cook Everything in a Slow Cooker?

While most foods work great in a slow cooker, a few foods don’t cook as well as others. You will see recipes for all kinds of food, and they will probably turn out okay, but some things are better cooked on the stove or in an oven.

When cooking with wine or alcohol, it will not cook off and evaporate in a slow cooker. If you use some in your slow cooker recipe, be careful not to add too much! A little goes a long way.

Best Foods to Cook in a Slow Cooker

There are literally hundreds of amazing foods you can cook in your slow cooker! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Any type of soup or stew
  • Pulled pork or carne asada for any kind of Tex-Mex
  • Chicken breasts or thighs
  • Hamburger helper or mac n cheese
  • BBQ chicken
  • Meatballs
  • Lentils or Dried Beans
  • Roast with potatoes and carrots

Here are a few recipes that we absolutely love:

You can also make some delicious desserts in your slow cooker too! Try to make some cinnamon rolls, cobbler, brownies, cheesecake, or even rice pudding.

With the cold weather being here, use your slow cooker to whip up some mulled cider or even hot chocolate. Have a holiday party to hit? Dips and other appetizers work great in the slow cooker as well!

As you can see, the options are pretty endless.

A slow cooker is one of the best kitchen essentials to save you time and money during your busy schedule. The next time you see an insanely busy window coming up in your schedule, dust off your slow cooker and put it to work!

I will be posting recipes and other tips about slow cookers throughout this month! Stay tuned!

Loving Life — The Reboot!


January Is Slow Cooking Month: How to Use a Slow Cooker


  • Elisabetta

    Thanks for this post! I love to discover new ways to cook and new foods. I am evaluating the purchase of a slow cooker (saving money to purchase one) and the recipes you suggest really seems amazing!

    • Dominique

      I am glad you enjoyed it. I will be posting more slow cooker recipes this month so hopefully, there will be others that you enjoy!

  • Laurie

    How I love a crock pot full of soup!
    There is no tastier way to eat beans than those that have been slow cooked.
    I miss using my crock pot, but off grid, on a generator, it just doesn’t make sense to use all that generator for a slow cooker. I need to come up with a good alternative. For now, beans are cooked in a pressure cooker. Maybe once we get out solar running we can use a crock pot, because I don’t really think they draw a lot of power, it just has to be constant!

    Thanks for the slow cooking January focus!

    Ridge Haven Homestead

    • Dominique

      That is a challenge. I think solar would be a good option because you’re right — the power usage isn’t high just constant. Let me know how that goes!

  • Jeanine Byers

    I had a look at, and then, bookmarked the cinnamon casserole recipe. Yummy! After my move last year, I couldn’t find my crock-pot, and I miss it. Might be time to get another one.

  • Roy A Ackerman, PhD, EA

    I used to use a slow cooker when my kids were little and my professorial duties required an evening class. It was the best way to ensure they would eat a wholesome meal while dad was away. Since that time, I’ve used the slow cooker about once every five years. (That means 4 times….)
    But, you might have enticed me to stop waiting for 4 more years and use it this week.

    • Dominique

      I will post a few more recipes this month so perhaps you will find something you like! My mom used to use the slow cooker like that for me too.

  • Martha

    I love slow cooking! Besides having a delicious meal, the house smells yummy all day while it’s cooking. I didn’t realize it was slow cooking month!

    • Dominique

      Yep — I will be posting some other slow cooking recipes this month. Hopefully, there will be some recipes that you would enjoy!

  • Elisa

    I love my slow cooker and just printed your brown sugar garlic chicken to try out tomorrow night. Can I use thin-sliced chicken breasts or is that not recommended?

    • Dominique

      You would just have to watch the meat so you can decrease the time– the time would probably be shorter since the pieces of meat are smaller. If you use sliced breasts, let me know how it went!

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