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 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 hearty meal without the fuss. Coming home to a meal done in the slow cooker is convenient and the smell is amazing. But after you’ve enjoyed that meal, there’s the cleanup.
That’s where slow cooker liners make life simpler.
What is a slow cooker liner?
A slow cooker liner is a plastic bag designed to keep food from contacting and sticking to the pot of your cooker. It makes for easy cleanup. You simply discard the bag after use. But there are other advantages and some downsides with these. Read on…
Some folk call them slow cooker bags others call them crock pot bags or liners. They mean the same.
What are slow cooker liners made of
There are different brands of crock pot liners available but most involve a type of nylon blend. Reynolds is one such brand among the best slow cooker liners on the market that use a nylon blend.
Click to see these at Amazon
Nylon is actually a trade name. It’s a type of plastic, known as polyamide. Slow cooker liners involve a nylon blend designed to resist high-heat and abrasion so they don’t break when in use.
Using slow cooker liners
How to use crockpot liners looks easy…
It is easy. Here are the directions in 4 steps…
Step 1. Line the pot
Open the liner in the pot, evening it out vertically and horizontally. Tip: Avoid tucking the liner into the cavity between the crock and the outer-shell of the slow cooker. This avoids contact with a surface that 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.
How about a video:
If you’re still not sure about using them, check out this video on how to use Reynolds slow cooker liners…
Now let’s get to the nitty gritty…
Like everything, there is a for and an against to using slow cooker liners.
First up, the liner quality… I’d expect a standard that withstands the highest heat of the crockpot. No one wants tearing or breaking when you’re about to transfer a bag full of food from the cooker.
Pros of using crockpot liners
There are obvious advantages of using a cooking liner inside your pot. Some you may not have yet realised.
Quick and easy clean up
Cleanup 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.
Water savings – no soaking
Less water needed in the cleanup — You won’t need to soak your slow cooker and this means you will use less water.
Dishwasher not overloaded
There’s more room in the dishwasher for other items, as there’s no need for this intensity of cleaning.
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.
Reynolds Kitchen tell us that “… the slow cooker liner…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.
Makes easy transporting of meals
For many people, the liners mean less stress in preparing meals that they wish to take elsewhere. The food can stay in the slow cooker liner, placed within a suitable container for transfer.
But, according to Reynolds Kitchen “At no time should the liner be lifted from the bowl with food inside.”
They want to avoid the possibility of the bag busting and the hot contents spilling on you.
The liners help lighten the load. They are an aid for people who find the lifting and cleaning of crockpots difficult. This may be because of arthritis or other mobility problems.
Stress-free meal preparation
You can prep food the night before and put all ingredients in the liner for cool storage. Storing it this way in the refrigerator is more convenient than having food in a bulky crockpot.
It’s a simple matter of taking the food out of the refrigerator in the morning, placing the food with the liner in the slow cooker, and turning on the appliance.
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.
Cook more than one meal at once
By using two or more liners side by side, you can cook more than one item in the same pot. This is great news for someone within the family who requires a special diet or prefered foods.
It’s also useful when entertaining or wanting to save time or energy costs.
Many uses in cooking
Slow cooker liners are useful in many ways.
Are crock pot liners safe to use in other appliances? Yes. Most brands of these liners can be used in the oven with bakeware or a roaster pan. They can also go in pots on the cooktop to steam vegetables or the like. People use them in rice cookers and toaster ovens.
Manufacturers claim they are cooker safe up to temperatures of 400 ºF (204 ºC).
They are safe to use with Instant Pots in slow cooker mode, but NOT when the Instant Pot is in pressure cooker mode.
Slow cooker liners are not for use with any type of pressure cooker
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…
Not recyclable or reuseable
The liners are a problem in being single-use plastic bags. The plastic liners are neither recyclable nor reuseable.
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.
Slow cooker liners are typically made of heat resistant nylon, which is made from coal.
The manufacture of nylon produces the greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide, and uses large amounts of water (for cooling) and energy. This is a downside for those wanting to reduce their environmental footprint.
Are crockpot liners safe from chemical residues
Some folk might be wondering are slow cooker liners bad for you.
Most slow cooker liners on the market are, at least, free of BPA, a weak synthetic estrogen that’s best avoided according to breastcancer.org.
Yet, a 2011 study detected quantities of other chemicals similar to natural estrogen leaching from even 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 follow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements where sold in the US.
Are crock pot liners safe heat-wise
Plastics have a softening point. But, with normal use of typical slow cooker liners, you have no problems with this occurring.
Slow cooker liners made of heat resistant nylon up to 400 ºF (check the maker’s claims), are viable way beyond the maximum heat of a typical slow cooker.
You’ll find slow cooker liners melt if placed on or near heating elements. The plastic will stick and create a clean-up problem…a frustrating mess. Examples are on or near stovetop burners and in using the slow cooker liners in the oven.
Puncturing: Rips 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.
Moisture forming in the crockpot bag
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.
Not all brands are the same. Be aware that some liner brands need water added to the pot before placing 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 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.
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.
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 slow cooker liners
Available at Amazon
These crock pot plastic liners 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 liners, it’s not for storing or freezing meals made in the crock pot.
Update: While, you can get various silicone liners for air fryers (at Amazon), 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
If you are still wondering what can I line my slow cooker with…
A DIY crock pot liner you can use is draping the inner pot with baking paper or aluminum foil.
The liquid might leak through into the pot. But this approach should prevent that burned-on rim at the extent of the food. This is generally the most stubborn to clean.
Oil the inner pot
For a slow cooker liner substitute…try spraying or wiping the sides and bottom of your slow cooker with some cooking oil. Some people find this works to make cleanup that bit easier.
I can see why people enjoy using slow cooker liners. They benefit them by convenience and comfort.
If you are environmentally conscious in the kitchen, you might consider these for occasional rather than regular use.
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.
Click here for great examples of automatic crockpots!.. a way to add more convenience.