It can be hard finding time to make a delicious meal for your family every night. One way you can do this is by using a slow cooker. A chicken stew or a chili mince is great… but you could do with a bit of variety, right? What if you could come home to a tender roast and potato dinner?
Can you dry cook in a slow cooker? Even though a slow cooker is designed to cook with liquid, you can dry cook some foods in a slow cooker. You want to select foods that will release enough liquid so that food doesn’t burn or stick to the bottom of the cooker.
Get ready to find learn more about the how’s and why’s of slow cooking, plus a helping of recipes to get you started.
Does a slow cooker need water in the base…always?
Most foods need some liquid in a slow cooker for the same reasons they need liquid when they are being cooked in a frying pan or put in a pot in the oven—to keep them from burning, sticking to the pan, or drying out.
There are some differences…
- Heat — a frying pan can reach a temperature of up to 700 ºF while a slow cooker’s high setting is typically 300 ºF.
- Liquid – slow cookers are designed with a lip for seating the lid because you’re supposed to keep the lid on. Moisture released from the foods you placed in your slow cooker will steam. That steam helps cook your food. The lid stops the steam escaping.
So when you place food in a slow cooker, the temperature will be lower. This means it is less likely to burn. Also, much like the 100% ceramic cookware, the moisture that is released from the meat or vegetables will stay within the cooker—as long as you put the lid on!
Another way of thinking about it is that in a slow cooker, by the time the food could get burned or stuck to the pan, it will have released enough moisture to keep from sticking. Unless you didn’t put the lid on.
Read also: Best slow cooker with ceramic insert
What Do You Need to Dry Cook?
What you need to dry cook is food that has medium to high moisture content.
Starchy vegetables and most meats fall in the 70-80% moisture content. Any food that is in that range can be used in a dry cooker set at a low setting.
By the time that food could burn, enough liquid will have been steamed out of foods in that category to keep them from burning.
One caution—foods that have a moisture content of 90% or higher should not be placed in a dry cook recipe at the beginning, and certainly not on the bottom.
Onions, for example, will release so much liquid that they can turn what would have been a thick, gravy-like sauce into a watery soup.
With meat, we have a second caution. Avoid using cuts of meat that are lean, such as chicken breasts. You will have more success with pork shoulders or less expensive cuts of beef.
And if you but in raw meat, such as ground beef, it will cook. You don’t need to worry about food poisoning. However, because of the low heat, it will not brown. For the best results, first, brown your meat and then add it to your cooker.
One final piece of advice—remove the skin from chicken and trim the fat from other meat for healthy cooking. You’ll also avoid having remnants floating around at the bottom of your cooker.
Layering the food
When you dry cook in a slow cooker, layering the food is important.
When you turn your slow cooker on, the base of it will slowly transfer heat to the bottom of its pot, then the heat will continue to up the sides and throughout the pot. Unlike in a pot of boiling water, heat is not evenly distributed in a slow cooker. That is why food placement is important.
That is why most slow-cooked recipes have you place the root vegetables in first and then add the meat on top.
- Pro tip: For best results, cut pieces into equal sized pieces. That way, they will cook uniformly. (Unless you happen to like some of your veggies mushy. In that case, cut however you want).
Making a pot roast
Sometimes simple is best. Here’s a recipe that proves it. Plus, with a little time management, you should be able to get this done while getting dressed–provided you don’t hit that snooze button one too many times.
- Trim the fat from a beef roast (the night before)
- Pan fry it for a few minutes on all sides (while waiting for your coffee to brew)
- Mix together salt, pepper, and whatever else you like for a rub (multi-tasking, because you’re also making your lunch)
- Rub the roast (coffee’s almost ready)
- Turn the cooker to low, put the roast in, and don’t forget the lid.
Now grab your lunch, coffee, and dash out the door!
When you get home, you’ll want to add any of your favorite herbs and spices, say some sprigs of rosemary, or sage leaves, and let it cook for another hour. While that’s going on, toss a couple of potatoes in the oven, steam some veggies, and relax with a glass of wine.
A pot roast cooked this way should take between 10-12 hours. Voila!
What foods should I not dry cook?
For starters, foods not to dry cook are those that create their own liquid. Then there are the low moisture foods like rice and beans that would become crunchy on the outside and remain uncooked in the center.
Here’s a quick guide…
Cooking dried or raw beans in a slow cooker is something to avoid, especially with some. According to the University of Minnesota Extension, some beans, e.g., kidney beans, need to be boiled to neutralize the toxins that they contain.
High moisture vegetables—think green—will turn to mush if placed in a slow cooker for 8-10 hours. Stick to root vegetables, like potato and carrots, or similar vegetables that take longer to cook.
Do I operate a slow cooker differently when I dry cook?
You don’t have to operate a slow cooker any differently when you use a dry cook. Although, when you dry cook you need to remember not to lift the lid because any moisture in the pot could evaporate which will make your food dry out.
It’s easy to find recipes online, but we wanted to highlight another one that is straightforward with a tasty end result.
Read also: Pros and cons of slow cooker liners
Can you cook chicken in slow cooker without liquid?
Yes! You sure can cook chicken in a slow cooker without adding liquid. Here’s a recipe on how…
Delicious Slow Cooker Chicken and Potatoes
Ingredients you will need:
- 1 Whole Chicken
- Baby Carrots, you will need about ½ a bag of carrots
- Small Red or Yellow Potatoes, you will need about ½ a bag of potatoes
- 1 Red or Yellow Onion
- 3 teaspoons Paprika
- 3 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons of Black Pepper
- 3 teaspoons of Tarragon
- 3 teaspoons of Rosemary
- 3 teaspoons of Minced Garlic
Gather all your ingredients. Clean your potatoes, carrots, and onion. Cut potatoes into bite size pieces. Cut carrots into about one-inch coins. Cut onion in half.
- Clean your chicken, remember to remove giblets and neck from it.
- Rinse your chicken off, pat it dry with a paper towel.
- Now, shake salt all over the inside and outside of your chicken.
- Combine all spices in a bowl, Sprinkle half of them on the outside of your chicken.
- Place it on the bottom of your slow cooker pot.
- Use the other half of your spices and sprinkle them over your vegetables.
- Put potatoes, carrots, and onion in slow cooker.
- Cook everything on low for about 8 hours.
Can you put raw chicken in a slow cooker?
Yes! You can cook a whole or part chicken in a slow cooker by adding it raw. Some recipes may say to brown it first, but it is simply a preference. I always add chicken raw to the slow cooker.
Can you put raw meat in a slow cooker?
Yes. You can put raw meat in a slow cooker. Cooking it this way isn’t a worry in terms of food poisoning as the heat is enough to prevent that. However, browning the meat before adding it to the slow cooker will enhance the flavor of the meat and the overall appeal of the meal. This is why many recipes say to do that. At times I brown the meat first, other times I don’t. It’s not a large concern overall.
The Bottom Line
It is possible to dry cook in a slow cooker. However, remember if you are cooking without any liquid then you should refrain from opening your slow cooker up until your food is cooked through.
Another detail to keep in mind when using a slow cooker is that most recipes require a small amount of liquid. But there are those that don’t, and they are just as delicious. So, why not try some now.