Slow cookers are great for busy families, but there are some important dos and don’ts to be aware of when you’re cooking with a slow cooker. For instance, you might be wondering if you can leave food in a slow cooker overnight? The answer is yes and no.

As a seasoned home cook and slow cooker expert, let me walk you through some general guidelines for delicious — but above all — safe meal prep! (This is not medical advice).

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crock pots with intentional hospitality recipes cooked in them

Feeding 6 kids while homeschooling them all kept my days busy, and I needed help making dinners that did not take a lot of time. Hence, my love for my crock pot grew! Spend a few minutes putting everything in, turn it on, and I could go about my day.

I want to share with you some tips and tricks I learned over the years. This guide provides you with valuable information on usage instructions, safety precautions, cleaning tips, and storage advice to help you maximize the potential of your Crock-Pot.

With the help of this guide, you can easily prepare delicious meals that are ready for you to enjoy after a tiring, hectic day.

Whether you are a newbie or a pro at using a crock pot to prepare delicious food, you will get great information from this guide. Get answers to simple questions like, can you put a hot crock pot in the fridge to an extensive safety guide and tips.

Good Reasons To Use A Crock-Pot

The crock pot, also known as a slow cooker, is my favorite versatile kitchen appliance that helps me easily prepare delicious, home-cooked meals with minimal effort hours before it’s time to eat a meal. It works by slow cooking food over a long time period, which allows flavors to meld together and makes tougher, less expensive cuts of meat tender. The crock pot also saves energy by using less electricity than an oven and does not heat up your kitchen during warm weather. 

Here are a few of my Favorite Slow-Cooker Recipes to help me out on busy days. Once you learn how to safely and easily use your crock pot with this Crock Pot guide, you will want to start collecting recipes for your slow-cooked meal. Some of my favorites are chicken and corn soup in slow cooker , cracker barrel cheesy hash brown recipe, and salt and pepper chicken wings recipe. Nothing is better in cold weather than coming home to a large pot of crock pot potato soup or a famous Zippy’s chili recipe in your slow cooker.

How To Choose The Right Crock Pot For Your Family

Choosing the right crock pot for your family can depend on several factors, such as the size of your family, your cooking needs, and your budget. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a crock pot.

row of crockpots on table
  1. Size: Crock pots come in various sizes, from small 1.5-quart models to large 8-quart models. Consider the size of your family and how much food you typically cook when choosing a size.
  2. Cooking features: Some crock pots have additional cooking features, such as a searing function or a timer. Consider which features are important to you and your cooking needs.
  3. Material: Crock pots can be made from different materials, such as ceramic, stainless steel, or aluminum. Consider which material you prefer for cooking and cleaning.
  4. Brand and price: Consider the brand and price of the crock pot, and choose one that fits your budget.
  5. User reviews: Read user reviews online to see what others have experienced with different models and brands.

Tips For Choosing The Right Size and Shape Crock Pot

Crock pots, or slow cookers, come in a variety of sizes and shapes to suit different needs and preferences. Here are some of the most common sizes and shapes of crock pots available.

  1. Small crock pots: These are typically 1 to 3 quarts in size and are ideal for small households, singles, or couples. They are also great for dips, appetizers, or small meals.
  2. Medium crock pots: These are typically 4 to 6 quarts in size and are the most popular size for families. They can accommodate most recipes and are ideal for everyday meals.
  3. Large crock pots: These are typically 7 to 8 quarts in size and are great for cooking larger meals or for entertaining. They can be used to cook whole chickens, roasts, or multiple servings of soups and stews.
  4. Oval-shaped crock pots: These crock pots have an oval-shaped cooking vessel and are great for cooking roasts or whole chickens. They can also accommodate longer cuts of meat, such as brisket.
  5. Round-shaped crock pots: These crock pots have a round-shaped cooking vessel and are great for soups, stews, and chili. They are also good for cooking casseroles or pot roasts.
  6. Multi-cooker crock pots: These crock pots have multiple cooking functions, such as pressure cooking, sautéing, and steaming. They are great for those who want to cook various types of meals with one appliance. LINK

Types Of Slow Cookers 

Programmable Slow Cooker: This type of slow cooker allows you to set the cooking time and temperature, so you can program it to start cooking at a specific time and stop cooking when the food is done. This size is perfect for making my easy Crock Pot Boiled Peanuts.

Casserole slow cooker: This type of slow cooker is designed to resemble a casserole dish, making it easy to serve food directly from the slow cooker at the table. I like using this one for recipes like this Portobello Mushroom Chicken Recipe; Texas Roadhouse Copycat or my Cracker Barrel Cheesy Hash Brown Recipe.

Travel Slow Cooker: This type of slow cooker is designed for portability, with a locking lid and handles for easy transport. You will want to buy this one if you go to potlucks often. Be sure to visit my Favorite Easy Church Potluck Crock Pot Recipes.

Connectable Slow Cooker: This type of slow cooker allows you to connect multiple units to cook different dishes at the same time, making it ideal for entertaining or large gatherings. This is the perfect crock pot when hosting the big game day. Fill it with the best Chinese Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings, only 3 ingredients Crockpot BBQ Wings and Crock Pot Chex Mix.

Multi-Cooker: This type of appliance can function as a slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker, and more, offering versatile cooking options in one appliance. Have a special dinner coming up? This Ninja is perfect for Marry Me Chicken Recipe or French Onion Soup Mix Chicken.

Basic Steps for Properly Using a Crock Pot

Before you use a new crock pot, it is wise to read through the instruction manual. Crock pots operate basically the same. However, different manufacturers might have information pertinent to their brand and model that you need to know. 

crock pot on with food cooking inside

  1. Choose an easy recipe: Start with a simple recipe that doesn’t require a lot of preparation. This will help you get used to the basic operation of the crock pot.
  2. Use the right size crock pot: Make sure to choose a crock pot that is the right size for your recipe. The food won’t cook evenly if the crock pot is too small. If it’s too large, the food may dry out.
  3. Follow the recipe instructions: When using a crock pot for the first time, it’s important to follow the recipe instructions carefully. This will help you get a feel for how the crock pot works.
  4. Don’t lift the lid: It’s important to resist the urge to lift the lid during cooking, as this can release heat and extend the cooking time.
  5. Add liquid: Make sure to add enough liquid to the crock pot to cover the ingredients. This will help prevent the hot food from drying out.
  6. Experiment with cooking times: Crock pots vary in cooking times, so it may take some experimentation to figure out the right cooking time for your recipe. Start with the recommended time in the recipe and adjust as needed.
  7. Check the temperature: Make sure to check the temperature of the food with a food thermometer before serving. The internal temperature should be at least 165°F for meat and poultry.

 Tips For How To Layer Food In A Crock Pot

Layering food items in your recipe is important when using a crock pot for cooking. Proper layering will help ensure your meal is cooked evenly and thoroughly. Here are some tips on how to layer ingredients in a crock pot.

  1. The first thing to do is start with a layer of vegetables: Begin by adding a layer of vegetables to the bottom of the crock pot. This will help to prevent the meat from sticking to the bottom of the slow cooker.
  2. Add meat: Add your meat on top of the layer of vegetables. Try to choose meat that is roughly the same size and thickness so that it cooks evenly.
  3. Add seasoning and spices: Once you’ve added your meat, sprinkle your seasoning and spices over the top. This will help to infuse the meat with flavor as it cooks.
  4. Add another layer of vegetables: After seasoning the meat, add another layer of vegetables on top. This will help keep the meat moist and prevent it from drying.
  5. Repeat the layering process: Continue layering the ingredients in the crock pot until you’ve added everything you want to cook.
  6. Add liquid: Before turning on the crock pot, add liquid such as water, broth, or sauce to the crock pot liner. This will help create steam and ensure the meat and vegetables cook thoroughly.
  7. Cook according to the recipe: Follow the recipe instructions for cooking time and temperature. Avoid lifting the lid too often, as this can slow down the cooking process.

Tips For Setting The Temperature and Cooking Time On Your Crock Pot

Setting the temperature and cooking time for a crock pot or slow cooker is an important step in preparing your meal. Here’s how to set the temperature and cooking time.

close up of crock pot controls
  1. Choose the right temperature: Most slow cookers have two or three temperature settings – low, high, and sometimes a “keep warm” setting. Generally, low heat is used for longer cooking times, and high heat is used for shorter cooking times.
  2. Determine the cooking time: The cooking time will vary depending on the recipe and the type of ingredients you’re using. Some recipes may require six to eight hours on low heat, while others may only need two to four hours on high heat.
  3. Follow the recipe instructions: To set the temperature and cooking time for your crock pot, follow the recipe instructions. If a recipe doesn’t provide specific instructions, use the following general guidelines:
  • Low Setting: Cook for 8 to 10 hours. This is a good option for soups, stews, and tougher cuts of meat.
  • High Setting: Cook for 4 to 6 hours. This is a good option for recipes that require less cooking time, such as chili or pulled pork.
  • Keep warm: Once the cooking time is complete, you can switch the crock pot to the “keep warm” setting, which will maintain a safe temperature for the food until you’re ready to serve it.
  1. Avoid overcooking: It’s important not to overcook your food, as this can result in a mushy texture and loss of flavor. Avoid lifting the lid too often and follow the recipe instructions closely to prevent overcooking.

How To Properly Clean a Crock Pot After Cooking

Here are some steps for properly cleaning a crock pot or slow cooker after cooking.

  1. Let it cool down: Before cleaning your crock pot, allow enough time for your insert crock to cool down completely to avoid burns.
  2. Remove any remaining leftover food: Using a spatula or spoon, remove any remaining food from the crock pot.
  3. Wash crock insert: Remove the inner pot of your slow cooker from the exterior. Use a sponge or soft cloth to wash the slow-cooker insert with warm, soapy water. If you have a stoneware insert or a ceramic insert
  4. Clean the lid: Wash the lid separately with warm, soapy water. Be sure to clean any crevices or areas where food may have collected.
  5. Dry the crock pot: Once the crock pot and lid have been washed, dry them thoroughly with a clean, dry cloth.
  6. Crock Pot Storage: Store the crock pot with the lid removed, and avoid stacking it with other heavy items.

It’s important to clean your crock pot after each use to prevent bacteria buildup and ensure that it functions properly. By following these simple steps, you can keep your crock pot clean and in good condition for years to come.

How To Clean The Outside Of A Crock Pot

Cleaning the outside of a slow cooker is a simple process. However, there are a few dos and don’ts you need to know.

  1. Unplug the slow cooker: Before cleaning the outside of the slow cooker, make sure it is unplugged and cool to the touch.
  2. Wipe the exterior: Use a soft cloth or sponge to wipe down the exterior of the slow cooker. You can use warm, soapy water if the exterior is particularly dirty.
  3. Use a non-abrasive cleaner: If there are stubborn stains or marks on the outside of the slow cooker, you can use a non-abrasive cleaner specifically designed for kitchen appliances. For best results, avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive scrubbers, as these can damage the finish.
  4. Dry the exterior: Once you have finished cleaning the exterior of the slow cooker, dry it thoroughly with a clean cloth.

Top Safty Tip For Cleaning Your Crock Pot: It’s very important to avoid getting water or cleaning solutions inside the slow cooker, as this can damage the heating element and electrical components. By following these simple steps, you can keep the outside of your slow cooker looking clean and in good condition.

How To Store A Crock Pot After Cooking With It

After using your crockpot or slow cooker, it’s important to store it properly to keep it in good condition for future use. Here are some steps you can follow to store your slow cooker.

  1. Unplug the slow cooker: Before storing the slow cooker, make sure it is unplugged and has completely cooled down.
  2. Clean the slow cooker: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning the slow cooker after each use. Once the unit has been cleaned and dried, you can store it.
  3. Store the slow cooker with its lid off: To prevent moisture from accumulating in the unit, store the slow cooker with the lid off. You can store the lid separately, but make sure it is clean and dry before storing it.
  4. Store in a dry, cool place: Store the slow cooker in a dry, cool place where it won’t be exposed to moisture or extreme temperatures. Avoid storing it in areas that are humid, such as a basement or garage.

7 Top Tips For Using A Crock Pot Safely

Using a crock pot can be a safe and convenient way to prepare meals, but following some basic safety rules to prevent accidents is important. Here are some top safety rules to keep in mind when using a slow cooker or crock pot:

  1. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions: Be sure to read the instructions that come with your slow cooker or crock pot before using it for the first time.
  2. Keep the unit on a flat surface: To prevent the slow cooker from tipping over, make sure it is placed on a flat, stable surface. The surface should also be heat resistant. 
  3. Don’t leave the slow cooker unattended: While slow cookers are designed to be left unattended, it’s still important to periodically check on the food and ensure that it is cooking properly.
  4. Use the right amount of liquid: Slow cookers require a certain amount of liquid to cook properly. Be sure to follow the recipe instructions and use the recommended amount of liquid.
  5. Don’t overfill the slow cooker: Overfilling with too much liquid can cause the food to cook unevenly and may also result in spills or burns. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding how much food to add to the slow cooker.
  6. Use oven mitts when handling the slow cooker: Slow cookers can become very hot during use. Use oven mitts or pot holders when handling the unit or removing the lid.
  7. Follow Safe Cooking Temperatures: The USDA recommends cooking meat to a safe minimum internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria and ensure that the meat is safe to eat. Here are the recommended safe minimum internal temperatures for meat cooked in a slow cooker:
    1. Beef, pork, lamb, and veal (steaks, roasts, and chops): 145°F (63°C) with a 3-minute rest time after removing from the slow cooker
    2. Ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal: 160°F (71°C)
    3. Poultry (chicken and turkey): 165°F (74°C)

It is best not to lift the lid while food is cooking in your slow cooker. I use a ThermoPro Wireless, so I do not have to lift the lid to check if meat is at the proper temperature and fully cooked in my slow cooker. You can keep an eye on slow-cooked food temperature without having to lift the lid. 

For more information on how to safely use a crock pot visit the University of Minnesota slow cooker and food safety guide. The article has expert safety measures.

What is the difference between a Crock Pot and a slow cooker?

There is no difference between a Crock Pot and a slow cooker. “Crock Pot” is a brand name that has become synonymous with slow cookers, much like Kleenex is often used to refer to facial tissues. Crock Pots and slow cookers are countertop appliances that use low heat and a longer cooking time. So, when people refer to a Crock Pot or a slow cooker, they are talking about the same appliance.

Can you put a hot Crock Pot in the fridge?

Putting a hot Crock Pot directly into the fridge is not recommended as it can cause the temperature inside the fridge to rise and potentially spoil other food in the refrigerator. It is best to allow the Crock Pot to cool down to room temperature first before transferring the food to an airtight container and placing it in the fridge. Alternatively, you can place the entire Crock Pot in a sink filled with ice water to cool it down quickly and then transfer the food to an airtight container for storage in the fridge.

What size crock pot should I buy?

The size of the crock pot you buy will depend on the size of your family and the types of meals you want to prepare. For small households, a 1 to 3-quart crock pot is ideal, while a 4 to 6-quart crock pot is best for families. Larger crock pots of 7 to 8 quarts are great for entertaining or cooking larger meals.

Is it safe to leave a crock pot unattended while cooking?

Crock pots are designed to be left unattended while cooking., but it is important to follow safety guidelines, such as avoiding overfilling the crock pot and ensuring that the electrical cord is not in contact with water or heat sources.

Can I cook frozen meat in a crock pot?

Cooking frozen meat in a crock pot is not recommended because it can increase the risk of harmful bacteria growth. Take the time to thaw meat in the refrigerator or microwave before cooking in a crock pot. It’s not worth the chance of food poisoning. 

crock pot with plastic liner

Is it safe to use plastic bags as liners for a crock pot?

Using plastic bags as liners in a crock pot is not recommended. However, if you would like easy clean-up after cooking in your crockpot, the best bet is to use crock pot liners that are food-grade and made specifically for cooking in a crock pot.

Advanced Tips For Using A Crock-Pot

friends dishing out of crock pot and filling bowls with chili
crock pots with intentional hospitality recipes cooked in them
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Crock Pot Cooking Guide

Slow cookers are great for busy families, but there are some important dos and don'ts to be aware of when you're cooking with a slow cooker. For instance, you might be wondering if you can leave food in a slow cooker overnight? The answer is yes and no.

Note: Be sure to read through the recipe’s post for tips and details about this recipe.

Instructions
 

  • How To Use A Crock Pot
  • Choose an easy recipe: Start with a simple recipe that doesn’t require a lot of preparation. This will help you get used to the basic operation of the crock pot.
  • Use the right size crock pot: Make sure to choose a crock pot that is the right size for your recipe. The food won’t cook evenly if the crock pot is too small. If it’s too large, the food may dry out.
  • Follow the recipe instructions: When using a crock pot for the first time, it’s important to follow the recipe instructions carefully. This will help you get a feel for how the crock pot works.
  • Don’t lift the lid: It’s important to resist the urge to lift the lid during cooking, as this can release heat and extend the cooking time.
  • Add liquid: Make sure to add enough liquid to the crock pot to cover the ingredients. This will help prevent the hot food from drying out.
  • Experiment with cooking times: Crock pots vary in cooking times, so it may take some experimentation to figure out the right cooking time for your recipe. Start with the recommended time in the recipe and adjust as needed.
  • Check the temperature: Make sure to check the temperature of the food with a food thermometer before serving. The internal temperature should be at least 165°F for meat and poultry.
  • How To Clean A Crock Pot
  • Let it cool down: Before cleaning your crock pot, allow enough time for your insert crock to cool down completely to avoid burns.
  • Remove any remaining leftover food: Using a spatula or spoon, remove any remaining food from the crock pot.
  • Wash crock insert: Remove the inner pot of your slow cooker from the exterior. Use a sponge or soft cloth to wash the slow-cooker insert with warm, soapy water. If you have a stoneware insert or a ceramic insert
  • Clean the lid: Wash the lid separately with warm, soapy water. Be sure to clean any crevices or areas where food may have collected.
  • Dry the crock pot: Once the crock pot and lid have been washed, dry them thoroughly with a clean, dry cloth.
  • Crock Pot Storage: Store the crock pot with the lid removed, and avoid stacking it with other heavy items.
  • How To Store A Crock Pot
  • Unplug the slow cooker: Before storing the slow cooker, make sure it is unplugged and has completely cooled down.
  • Clean the slow cooker: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning the slow cooker after each use. Once the unit has been cleaned and dried, you can store it.
  • Store the slow cooker with its lid off: To prevent moisture from accumulating in the unit, store the slow cooker with the lid off. You can store the lid separately, but make sure it is clean and dry before storing it.
  • Store in a dry, cool place: Store the slow cooker in a dry, cool place where it won’t be exposed to moisture or extreme temperatures. Avoid storing it in areas that are humid, such as a basement or garage.

Equipment

Notes

7 Top Tips For Using A Crock Pot Safely
Using a crock pot can be a safe and convenient way to prepare meals, but following some basic safety rules to prevent accidents is important. Here are some top safety rules to keep in mind when using a slow cooker or crock pot:
  1. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions: Be sure to read the instructions that come with your slow cooker or crock pot before using it for the first time.
  2. Keep the unit on a flat surface: To prevent the slow cooker from tipping over, make sure it is placed on a flat, stable surface. The surface should also be heat resistant. 
  3. Don’t leave the slow cooker unattended: While slow cookers are designed to be left unattended, it’s still important to periodically check on the food and ensure that it is cooking properly.
  4. Use the right amount of liquid: Slow cookers require a certain amount of liquid to cook properly. Be sure to follow the recipe instructions and use the recommended amount of liquid.
  5. Don’t overfill the slow cooker: Overfilling with too much liquid can cause the food to cook unevenly and may also result in spills or burns. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding how much food to add to the slow cooker.
  6. Use oven mitts when handling the slow cooker: Slow cookers can become very hot during use. Use oven mitts or pot holders when handling the unit or removing the lid.
  7. Follow Safe Cooking Temperatures: The USDA recommends cooking meat to a safe minimum internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria and ensure that the meat is safe to eat. Here are the recommended safe minimum internal temperatures for meat cooked in a slow cooker:
    1. Beef, pork, lamb, and veal (steaks, roasts, and chops): 145°F (63°C) with a 3-minute rest time after removing from the slow cooker
    2. Ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal: 160°F (71°C)
    3. Poultry (chicken and turkey): 165°F (74°C)
It is best not to lift the lid while food is cooking in your slow cooker. I use a ThermoPro Wireless, so I do not have to lift the lid to check if meat is at the proper temperature and fully cooked in my slow cooker. You can keep an eye on slow-cooked food temperature without having to lift the lid. 
Author: Gina Dickson

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