The Real Reason You Should Use Less Liquid In Slow Cooker Recipes

When you're working late or have a million chores to do, being able to cook dinner with minimal effort can take a lot of pressure off. This is part of the reason slow cookers have been rising in popularity in recent years.

Originally introduced in the 1950s and popularized in the '70s, the devices had decreased in popularity, only to begin spiking again in the last decade as food and energy costs have continued to rise (via BBC). According to Food & Wine, as of September 2021, 80% of U.S. households reported having one of these devices, due to their convenience and cost-effectiveness, and BBC noted that two of Amazon's best-selling cookbooks are dedicated exclusively to slow-cooker recipes.

While these appliances are great for prepping hearty meals without dedicating hours of your time to cooking, it's important to avoid this common pitfall of slow cooking if you want your meals to turn out delicious and save yourself a mess in the kitchen.

Letting off steam

One of the most common mistakes beginner slow-cooker chefs make is overfilling their crockpots with too much liquid (via All Recipes).

Slow cooker lids sit tightly on their pots so steam can build up inside and cook the food; that's the whole function of a slow cooker (and also the reason why you shouldn't take the lid off to check your food too often). The downside of this is that minimal evaporation occurs. This means steam can condense on the lid and drip back down into the food, causing it to become bland and watery, notes Love Food.

BBC Good Food recommends using recipes specifically designed for slow cookers to avoid this problem, and when using adapted recipes, to cut liquids by about a third, so the water or broth just covers the top of the meat and vegetables when making dishes other than soup. It is also recommended to never fill the pot more than three-quarters of the way when starting out your meal.

Avoiding unnecessary messes

Not only does not overfilling your pot keep your flavors strong and your stews more hearty, it can help avoid a major mess. Fruits, vegetables, and meats all release moisture as they cook, so if you start your pot nearly full, it can fill up and spill over.

Obviously, this sort of accident will not only spoil your meal, but it can create a huge mess in your kitchen, which the slow cooker is supposed to help you avoid.

Make sure to consider how much extra liquid your ingredients might produce before you start cooking, and possibly trim any excess fat off your meats to avoid extra grease in your pot. If you do notice the pot starting to get too full while it's cooking, Kitchen Appliance HQ recommends opening up the lid and ladling out some of the excess moisture. If the food is almost done you can also leave the lid off and allow some of the excess moisture to evaporate, which will thicken the broth or sauce.

Like anything else in the kitchen, using your slow cooker takes practice to get right, but before long, you'll master just how much liquid you need in your crockpot so you can set it up and get back to your busy life while it does all the work.