Do you hate the clean up after a meal? A slow cooker saves you a bunch of pots and pans to clean but there’s still that one pot that needs soaking and scrubbing. Slow cooker liners (AKA crock pot liners or crock pot bags) change that. Here I cover the pros and cons of using them and what you can use instead (alternatives).
After a busy day, if you’re like me, you’re wanting a to enjoy a hearty meal without the stress of extra effort. An Instant Pot provides for quick meals but you don’t want to leave an Instant Pot on all day unattended, as I explain in my article on using one.
Using a slow cooker to cook on auto while you’re away helps. But still, there’s always that clean up after the meal that takes up valuable.
Slow cooker liners make life simpler in that respect, reducing the clean up time and giving you more time to enjoy the things you like to do.
What is a slow cooker liner?
What is a slow cooker liner? Slow cooker liners are plastic bags that cover the inside of your slow cooker (AKA crock pots) so food does contact the pot and stick to it. They are made for easy clean up. You simply discard them after use. But there are other advantages and some downsides as well. Read on…
Some call them slow cooker bags others call them crock pot bags or liners. They mean the same.
Many of these cooking liners are marketed as bisphenol A free (BPA-free) and without BPS (Bisphenol S).
There are different brands of crock pot liners available but most involve a type of nylon blend, like the slow cooker liners by Reynold’s…
Check out the Reynolds slow cooker liners at Amazon
Nylon is a trade name for a plastic known as polyamide. There are many types. The type of nylon used for these is a blend and features high-heat resistance and is also designed to resist abrasion resulting in breakage.
Using slow cooker liners
Step 1. Line the pot
Open the liner in the pot, evening it out vertically and horizontally. Tip: Avoid tucking the liner into the heating element section of the slow cooker as you don’t want it in direct contact with the surface temperature, which may exceed 400 °F.
Step 2. Add the food
Add your ingredients to the pot with the liner in place. That is, place the food on top of the liner.
Step 3. Cover the contents
Put the lid on the pot ensuring a good seal. Optional: Stand the excess liner up around the lid to avoid steam from under the lid dripping down.
Step 4. Relax
After letting the slow cooker cool, simply lift out the liner and dispose of it in the garbage. Liners are not reuseable. And, there you have effortless clean up!
There’s no scrubbing.
Video showing how to use slow cooker liners…
Now let’s get to the nitty gritty…
Pros and Cons of using crock pot bags
Like everything, there are pluses and minuses to using slow cooker liners. So here’s what to look for and know about using slow cooker liners.
First up, the liner quality… I’d expect a standard that withstands the highest heat of the crockpot. And, no way do I want tearing or breaking when I’m transferring a crockpot bag full of food from the cooker to the freezer or elsewhere.
See for yourself whether these plastic liners are right for you or you’d prefer to choose something from the list of alternatives I give further down.
10 Pros of using crockpot liners
Many of these are obvious advantages of using a cooking liner inside your pot. Some you may not have known.
1. Quick and easy clean up
Clean up is as easy as removing the liner and depositing it in the garbage. No more stubborn, stuck-on messes where you have to clean the crock pot top to bottom, inside and out.
2. Water savings
Less water needed in the clean up — You won’t need to soak your slow cooker and this means you will use less water.
3. Dishwasher efficiency
There’s more room in the dishwasher for other items, as there’s no need for this intensity of cleaning.
4. Freeze leftovers easily
Some home cooks freeze meals in these crockpot bags and then, when it’s time, place the frozen meal directly in the crockpot.
You should know that the manufacturers, Reynolds Kitchen, advise that “While the slow cooker liner material is excellent for cooking, it does not provide a barrier against moisture loss for food storage. Freezer storage is not recommended…”
So it’s probably not a good idea to leave these meals in these cooking pot liners in the freezer for too long.
5. Makes easy transporting of meals
For many people, the liners mean less stress in preparing meals that they then take to other venues. They find that you can easily take the cooked food with you in a slow cooker liner. Just place the liner containing the food into a vessel that is lighter, portable, or less fragile than the crockpot for transporting elsewhere.
Contrary to this, the manufacturers, Reynolds Kitchen, advise that “leftover food should only be stored in the liner while it is still in the slow cooker bowl. At no time should the liner be lifted from the bowl with food inside.”
This is probably a concern if the bag busted the hot contents onto you.
6. Adaptive aid
The liners make life easier for people who find the lifting and cleaning of crockpots difficult because of arthritis or other mobility problems or physical impediments.
7. Stress-free meal preparation
You can prepare the ingredients the night before and place these in the liner and store it in the refrigerator until the morning. This is more convenient than trying to fit a bulky crockpot in the refrigerator.
This makes the morning less stressful and preparing the slow-cooked meal in the morning is just a simple matter of taking the food out of the refrigerator and placing it in the slow cooker and turning the appliance on.
8. More nutritious meals
Slow cooking is a healthy option for preparing meals, as it locks in the flavor and goodness of the ingredients we add to the pot.
Using slow cooker liners makes life easier and you’re likely to enjoy using this way of preparing meals more frequently! This then equates to more nutritious home-cooked meals and fewer take-outs.
9. Cook multiple meals at once
By using two or more liners side by side, you can cook multiple items separately in the same pot. This is great news for someone within the family who requires a special diet or has a preference for certain foods.
Or, if you have a large slow cooker, you can prepare two separate dishes when entertaining or wanting to save time and energy costs if only one or two of you are dining.
10. Many uses in cooking
Slow cooker liners serve other cooking methods.
They are versatile in that most brands of these liners can be used in the oven with bakeware or a roaster pan or in pans on the cooktop to steam vegetables or the like. People use them in rice cookers and toaster ovens. They are cooker safe up to temperatures of 400 ºF (204 ºC).
Using a slow cooker liner in instant pot: Slow cooker bags are safe to use with Instant Pots in slow cooker mode, but NOT when the Instant Pot is in pressure cooker mode.
Do not use slow cooker liners in a pressure cooker: Slow cooker liners are not for use with any type of pressure cooker, including an Instant Pot in any mode other than a slow cooker.
10 Cons of using crockpot liner bags
There is certainly good reason to use slow cooker bags given all the above.
But do they pass the test given their downsides? Let’s check this side of the coin out…
1. Single-use plastic
The liners are single-use plastic bags, which concerns environmentally conscious folks. Since they are neither recyclable or reuseable, the liners mean more waste going to landfill or ending up as debris in the marine environment.
2. Non-biodegradable material
Given that these are nylon, they are not biodegradable. No form of nylon is biodegradable. So you can’t compost these if you are concerned about waste going to landfill.
3. Manufacturing footprint
Slow cooker liners are typically made of heat resistant nylon.
Good On You reports that the making of nylon produces greenhouse gas emissions of nitrous oxide. It uses large amounts of water (for cooling of the fibers) and substantial amounts of energy.
This is a downside for those wanting to reduce their environmental footprint.
4. Chemical residues
Most slow cooker liners on the market are, at least, BPA-free. According to breastcancer.org, BPA (Bisphenol A) is a weak synthetic estrogen that’s best avoided.
Yet, a 2011 study found detectable quantities of other chemicals similar to natural estrogen leaching from almost all of the plastic products they sampled, including the BPA-free ones. The risk of this with the liners is unknown.
Some people like reduce their exposure to chemicals in plastics. The best I can tell you is that there are those, including Reynolds, that are food grade nylon. And, all food-containers, like the liners, have to comply with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements where sold in the US.
Plastics have a softening point. This should not be a problem with the normal use of good quality slow cooker liners. Slow cooker liners that are made of heat resistant nylon should be safe up to 400 ºF (check the maker’s claims), which is beyond the heat of a slow cooker.
But, be aware when using these on or near stovetop burners or using the slow cooker liners in oven where the plastic could come into contact with heated elements the plastic could stick and create a clean-up problem.
6. Tears and Leaks
Some people complain of the liners leaking.
What to watch in this case is that using a sharp knife or fork to stir your food could puncture the bag. Cutting up the chicken while in the pot with a liner is not a good idea.
Some foods, such as chicken bones or fish bones, can pierce the liner creating holes allowing the liquid to leak out into the pot.
Shaking or stressing a full bag can also result in rips that cause leakage.
7. Moisture forming
Moisture can form on the bag and drip down into the pot or outside the pot. This doesn’t affect the cooking. It just means you’ll need to wipe out the pot and the surroundings after use. The clean up won’t be entirely effortless but still shouldn’t entail soaking and scrubbing.
8. Hot spots
Not all brands are the same. Be aware that some liner brands require you to put an amount of water in the pot before adding the liner to stop the liner from sticking to the pot.
The humidity from the water prevents hot spots from forming where the liner sticks to the pot.
If for some reason you find the liner has burned onto the surface of the pot, soak the affected area in dishwashing water for a length of time and it should come off.
Another tip is to freeze the pot and then scrape the liner off.
9. Extra cost
When you use slow cooker liners, there is an extra cost for cooking that meal.
The non-reusability of these means there’s an extra cost to every meal you make with the slow cooker.
10. Another shopping list item
Using and being dependent upon slow cooker liners, to some people, means worrying about another item to have to replenish and store. If you’re someone who likes to simplify your life and have fewer demands, this has relevance.
Recommended product related to this article
Reynolds Kitchens slow cooker liners
Available at Amazon
They also come in packs of four or more. A 50-piece pack would last six months, based on two slow-cooked meals a week. The typical type fits 3- to 6-quart slow cookers of either round or oval shape.
Where to buy
You can get these from quite a few stores. Buy Reynold’s slow cooker liners from…
Alternatives to slow cooker bags
If you’re thinking, what can you use instead of slow cooker bags, here are some options…
A reusable silicone slow cooker insert
Mrs V‘s brand of silicone slow cooker liner is a reusable insert you place inside the crock pot before adding ingredients. The idea means you save on buying single-use plastic.
While the design helps with the cleanup, unlike the Reynolds nylon blend liners, it’s not for storing or freezing meals made in the crock pot.
Update: this option of the silicone slow cooker insert by Mrs V seems to be no longer available.
Choose a pot that’s easy to clean
A ceramic inner pot is easier to clean than one with an aluminum inner. Ceramic inner pots are 100% natural with a tough lead-free glaze, which helps make cleaning the pot a breeze. I share a method in below.
A slow cooker with a nonstick inner pot is also very easy to clean. The downside is that the nonstick coating wears away with use and exposes an aluminum base, which is not such a breeze to clean, nor a healthy option.
I wrote about the different inserts in my article on the best slow cookers.
Put it in the dishwasher
If the inner pot is dishwasher safe, you can put it in the dishwasher, which makes cleaning the cookware a ‘set and forget’ approach.
The ceramic inner pots are typically dishwasher safe.
I don’t recommend putting a nonstick inner pot in an automatic dishwasher. I cover the best way to clean this type in my guide on how to care and use nonstick cookware.
DIY crock pot liner
Line the inner pot in a DIY crock pot liner style: Options include lining the inner pot with baking paper or aluminum foil. The liquid would leak through into the pot but lining the pot this way should at least prevent the burned-on rim that forms around the top of the meal and which is generally the most stubborn to clean.
Oil the inner pot
Try spraying or wiping the sides and bottom of your slow cooker with some cooking oil. Some people find that this works.
I can see why people enjoy using slow cooker liners. They benefit them by way of convenience and comfort.
If you are environmentally conscious in the kitchen, you might consider using these occasionally, not regularly.
Personally, I don’t use slow cooker liners. I have a slow cooker with a ceramic bowl, which I find easy enough to clean using this method…
- Soak your pot straight away after you’ve removed the contents. Add enough warm water into your pot to fill it to just above the mark of the food residue. Add some dishwashing liquid. Let this sit for half an hour or so, and then wallah! The residue should easily come away with a soft sponge. Follow this with a rinse and a dry, and you’re done!
I love using my slow cooker because it means I only have one pot to clean and for me it’s great for home-cooked meals.