Crock Pot Tips: How to Make Recipes with Short Cooking Times Work For You

(Weight Watchers Friendly Crock Pot Cooking Day 144)

I’ve had several emails and comments about what to do when you’re going to be away for more hours than the suggested crock pot recipe cooking time.

So, instead of sharing a recipe today, I’m going to offer up a few crock pot tips, suggestions and strategies for this slow cooking dilemma.

It’s never fun to come home after a long day of work to a crock pot of dried out, overcooked, mushy food!

All I can say is YUCK!!

So, I put on my thinking cap and scoured my cookbooks and the internet for these following crock pot tips…

Slow Cooker Cooking Tips

Crock Pot Cooking Tips

1. My first suggestion is to invest in a Programmable Slow Cooker. This type of slow cooker lets you set the cooking temperature (HIGH or LOW) and cooking time. When the cooking time is up, the cooker automatically switches to “warm” setting that will keep your meal hot until you are ready to serve it.

When using a programmable cooker, set your crock pot to cook for the lower number when a range of cooking times is suggested. If the recipe says to cook for 5 to 7 hours, set the cooker to cook for 5 hours and then let it automatically flip to “warm” until you get home. There’s less chance your food will be overdone that way.

I know they’re pricey, but I think it’s a worthwhile investment when you consider all the money you save cooking at home compared to eating out and/or grabbing takeout.

2. Try to choose recipes with long cooking times on your especially long days. Many soup, stew, chili, roast, bean and lentil recipes will hold up well to long cooking.

3. Cook ahead on the weekends. Often, I’ll have 2 or 3 slow cookers all simmering away on the counter on Saturday and Sunday. When the food is done I pack it up and place it in the fridge for quick and easy weeknight meals that can be easily reheated in the microwave.

4. Cook tomorrow’s meal after work tonight. There are many recipes that will cook in the few hours you have between getting home and going to bed. Get the crock pot going as soon as you get home. When the food is done, remove the crock from the cooker, transfer the food to a storage container and let it cool as long as you can. Then pop it in the fridge. Your dinner will ready and waiting for you to quickly reheat when you get home from work the following day.

5.  Begin with cold food in a cold crock pot. This should extend the cooking time by at least 1 hour. Get everything prepped and into the slow cooker before you go to bed. And then place it in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, pull it out, set it in your slow cooker and switch the flip to cook, last thing before heading out the door. Or use your lunch hour to come home and turn on the cooker. Or ask a friend, neighbor, or family member to do it for you.

6. If you have kids who are old enough to take the ready-to-go crock of food out of the refrigerator, place it in the cooker and flip it on when they get home from school, ask them to do it :-)

I hope these crock pot tips help. I know what a challenge it can be to eat well when faced with long days filled with working and commuting.

Do you have any other crock pot tips to share? I’d love for you to leave them in the comments!!

If you liked this post about crock pot tips you might also like:

How To Choose a Slow Cooker
Slow Cooking 101 with Peter
Crock Pot Cooking for Weight Loss

Here’s a little food for thought…

“Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.”
~ Charles Swindoll

And a Weight Loss Tip…

Think 20% less. Research has shown that people can eat 20% less without missing it. So cut back on your portion of pasta by 20% and supplement with 20% more salad and/or veggies. Your stomach will be satisfied and your taste buds too!

Do you have a favorite motivational quote and/or weight loss tip? I’d love for you to leave it for me in the comments!!

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Comments

  1. says

    Re your Crock Pot tips: I’ve noticed that the chicken recipes almost always have a shorter cooking time, which is a problem for me since I’m gone for about 10 hours. I’ve solved the problem by using frozen chicken. I put all of the other ingredients in the crock pot the night before, then put it in the refrigerator, as you suggested. In the morning, I take it. Out, then add the chicken right out of the freezer. This has worked for me every time.

  2. Amy says

    I have a suggestion that is less expensive than the purchase of a new, programmable crock pot cooker. Instead, purchase a timer that you can plug into the outlet, and plug the crock pot into the timer. You can set it to begin at whatever time you wish. This makes your current crock pot EFFECTIVELY a programmable crock.

  3. Alice says

    When a recipe calls for chopped onion, I like to saute them first in a small bit of oil (2 tsp.) and then add to the crock pot. The onion taste sweeter and more tender. It takes a few extra minutes. I use a small skillet that is easy to wash.

    • says

      Hi Alice,

      Thanks for the great tip! I’ve also begun cooking my onions in the microwave for a few minutes to soften them before adding them to the crock pot. It’s a tip I read in the Cook’s Illustrated Slow Cooker Revolution 2 cookbook.

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