While the slow cooker is usually used to cook food that needs a long time to cook, some recipes can be cooked quickly or even “dry” in the slow cooker. In this case, the food cooks in the cooker with nothing added to it. Some ingredients may be added during cooking, such as a liquid to cook rice, but the food will still cook without any added liquid.
Yes, you can dry cook in a slow cooker!
When dry cooking in slow cookers, you should use foods that already contain a considerable amount of natural liquid. The liquid creates the needed steam to cook the food.
I’ve already named some types of meat that can be dry cooked in a slow cooker. These meats have two things in common: they have lots of natural moisture and fat.
When dry cooking meat, you can also create steam by adding minimal amounts of liquids to it. These could be from the vinegar or the sauce used for marinating, a little beer or wine, or even a small amount of broth.
Root vegetables are also suitable for dry cooking in a pot.
The commonly dry cooked root vegetables are carrots, onions, and potatoes. All these contain enough liquid to form the steam for dry cooking.
What will happen if I use too much liquid in a slow cooker?
If you add too much liquid to a slow cooker, your food might be overcooked or have a bland taste.
If the food you’re cooking requires a limited amount of liquid, here are several ways you can pre-empt the dryness without adding too much liquid:
- Defrost food before cooking. Frozen food accumulates extra liquid if it’s not tightly sealed during storage. The extra liquid will increase the intended amount during cooking.
- Allow the frozen food to thaw before placing it in the slow cooker.
- Cover meats and vegetables with flour. Dipping meat or high-fluid vegetables (georgettes, eggplants, etc.) in flour before placing them in the slow cooker will reduce the amount of liquid they release. Adding a little oil will also give the meat or vegetable a crispy taste similar to that of pan-cooked food.
- Drain the liquid. If your food is cooked and you still have a lot of liquid in the slow cooker, remove the lid and cook on high until the extra liquid is gone. You can also drain the extra liquid manually and use it for cooking other foods.
- Add a thickener. Thickening the liquid will redeem some of the lost taste. You can thicken the extra liquid with cornstarch or tapioca.
- Adjust the seasoning. If you’re afraid that the extra liquid has watered down the flavor of your food, you can add a bit of seasoning to ensure to boost the taste.
Does meat need to submerge on liquid when drying?
It all depends on how you want your end product.
If you want your meat to break apart easily, don’t dry cook it in the pot. You will have to submerge your meat in liquid if you want it to be extra tender.
Leaner meats also need to be submerged in a liquid when prepared in a slow cooker. When cooked dry, they become tough and stringy, which defeats the tenderizing intent of simmering meat in a pot.
If you are using a dry meat recipe, dry cooking works perfectly. The only liquid you’ll need is that which creates the steam. Dry cooking fatty pieces give them a great flavor while keeping them moist.
In the past, many cooks have been burned by slow cooker recipes that call for too much liquid. When you add too much liquid, your food gets waterlogged and the result is bland and soggy. Not to mention that you may have to cook longer to get your food tender.
That’s why it’s so important to keep your liquid to solids ratio in check. Slow cooker recipes typically call for liquid in ratios of 2 to 1, or 3 to 1. For 2 to 1, that means using 2 cups of liquid for every 1 cup of dry ingredients.
What tips to remember when cooking in a slow cooker?
There are a few things to know about using a slow cooker, like how much liquid to use and when to lift the lid. If you’re not careful, any of the following 15 things could seriously wreck the perfect meal you had planned. Know what you should avoid so you can have a tasty hot meal ready when dinner rolls around.
- Don’t overfill or under fill the slow cooker.
Perhaps second to a Dutch oven and a just-hot-enough oven, slow cookers are the ultimate braising machines.
They cook up perfect pot roasts and brisket so tender you could eat it with a spoon. The key to getting that kind of result out of the machine is filling it with the right amount of food and liquid.
- Never start with frozen meat.
While you can start with frozen meat when using an Instant Pot or pressure cooker, the same doesn’t go for your slow cooker. Frozen meat should never be cooked in the slow cooker.
Because slow cookers operate at a lower temperature, food is likely to be in the temperature danger zone (temperature range between 40 and 140°F) for too long when starting with frozen meat, which increases the risk of harmful bacteria.
- Don’t open the lid during cooking!
It’s mighty tempting to lift the lid to see what’s going on inside, or even to take a taste, but try to avoid this. Slow cookers work by trapping heat and cooking food over a long period of time. Every time you remove the lid, the slow cooker loses heat, and it takes a while to heat back up.
- Don’t add too much wine or liquor.
Unlike cooking on the stove top or oven, where the heat is much higher and food often simmers without a lid, wine and liquor don’t boil down and reduce in a slow cooker. So instead of subtle wine undertones, you may end up with the harsh flavor of “raw” alcohol, which is far from appetizing.
- Don’t add dairy products too soon.
Adding dairy products like milk, cheese, or sour cream too soon will cause them to curdle.
- Do not add herbs too soon.
When food simmers for a long time, the flavors soften and mellow, and some herbs aren’t strong enough to survive to the end. Wait until the end of the cooking time to add soft herbs like parsley and chives.
On the other hand, hearty herbs like rosemary or thyme can go in at the beginning and the flavor will carry through, though you may still want to add a bit more before serving, especially if the recipe has been cooking all day.
- Add enough flavorful ingredients.
We’ve already established that slow cooking mellows out flavors over time. This means that if you want a flavor to stay strong and carry through to the end, you need to add a little more of it than you normally would.
If you’re cooking a dish with garlic, for example, put in more at the beginning or throughout if you want to taste the flavor at the end.
- You overcook vegetables.
Few things wreck a dish like mushy, flavorless veggies. To avoid this, cut hearty vegetables like onions and carrots into bigger chunks than you normally would, and add delicate vegetables like spinach toward the end of the cooking time. Just leave them in there long enough to be heated through.
- You overcook the recipe.
Many slow cooker recipes like roasts and soups can take eight or more hours to cook. (It’s called a “slow cooker” for a reason.) However, thicker recipes that don’t have a lot of liquid (such as casseroles or meatloaves) can burn on the edges after just a few hours. Save these dishes for your day off so you don’t come home to a burnt dinner.
- You add all the ingredients at once.
If you throw a handful of ingredients in the slow cooker and come home several hours later expecting a ready-to-serve meal, you may be disappointed. Instead, think about layering the ingredients over time so you get a nice blend of textures and flavors.
It can be as simple as adding ingredients at the very beginning and then topping off the recipe with a layer of ingredients at the end. It’s not adding a bunch of work or time, it’s being thoughtful about tasting before you serve. Things like herbs, nuts, seeds, and soft vegetables all make great last-minute additions.