The Perils of Slow Cooking

It’s easy right? Slow cooking I mean; Stick a load of stuff in a pot and set the switch to low. Walk away and come back 8 hours later to a delicious creation of tender meat and juicy loveliness.

Well no, not really. We acquired a genuine slow cooker recently. And I have never used a slow cooker. Its got a ceramic bowl that sits in an aluminium shell that warms up. There are three settings – low, high and auto.

How difficult can it be? Difficult. Painfully so. You see there are, I learned later on, some rules to cooking with a Slow Cooker. We’ll get to those later on. For now lets take a look at the cooker:


What could be easier? I decided to try a beef pot roast. Simple. The Ingredients included

  • Beef Brisket
  • Beef stock
  • Carrots
  • Onion
  • Mustard
  • Mushrooms
  • Red Wine
  • Bouquet Garni
  • Tomato Puree

I also made some dumplings. For that recipe look here.

It started off simple enough.


I browned the beef off and put in the cooker. Then I added the carrots and onions.


Poured in the stock and added some mustard and the bouguet garni and the wine. Then on went the lid and I put the setting to low. I guessed 8 hours so I basically left it alone all day:


Now after 8 hours it looked the same as it did after 8 minutes. So I stuck it on for another 8 hours. Seriously I did. And after another 8 hours? It still looked the same as it did after 8 minutes.

Not to be dissuaded I stuck the dumplings in (along with the mushrooms and tomato puree):


Then I took the ceramic pot out of the cooker and stuck it in the oven to get the thing boiling a bit. BIG mistake. I left the lid on and this happened:


I melted the lid handle. Oh yes. They don’t call slow cookers ‘slow cookers’ for nothing. Anyway I quickly removed the lid once I realised my mistake and left the pot in the oven to brown off the dumplings:


After a while I served up. This thing had been cooking for something like 3 days, on and off.


So I think a post-mortem is needed:

  1. Don’t try brisket beef in a slow cooker. I am reliably informed it doesn’t work very well. You need to cook it for so long it goes a bit funny (tastes a bit weird).
  2. Don’t add too much liquid – use a third of what you would normally use. I drowned my beef and it never really got cooking properly until…
  3. Don’t put your slow cooker in a real oven. The lid will melt and seeing how the designers never thought anyone would be stupid enough to put the slow cooker in an oven that is fair enough (I owe my wife’s grandmother a big, massive apology. And a slow cooker)

Nevertheless I’m not beaten. Oh no. I will try again, I’m just not sure what I will actually cook in this mysterious contraption….

56 thoughts on “The Perils of Slow Cooking

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever slow-cooked anything in my life. I’m too impatient for that sort of thing. I know you can just leave it there for hours at a time and not worry about it but I’m the type who will go and check it every half hour! So no, I prefer to roast it… 🙂

  2. I think you have a faulty slow cooker. I generally set mine on high for the first hour to really get things going but 8 hours on low should still be plenty of time for a pot roast even if all the ingredients go in cold, and it doesn’t look to me like you’ve used an excessive amount of liquid.

    • Well I’m glad to read this – I thought I was going mad – you know I thought maybe it was dodgy but then I thought, what can go wrong with a slow cooker!?

      • It could be a fault with the elements not heating up, or not reaching a high enough temperature. Did you feel the casing at all? It should get quite hot, the counter-top and the space around it should feel warm after a couple of hours. Of course now you’ve melted the lid you probably won’t be abel to return it…

  3. I’ve got to come to the defence of the slow cooker here. It is great, but it is a very different beast to an oven. I’ve done pulled pork in mine (nothing but a boneless shoulder, an onion and a bottle of beer, ginger beer or coke as all will work), and do the BBQ sauce after. Absolutely delicious! It’s also been great for stews, soups, chillis. Anything you think would benefit from long and slow. American websites with well tested ‘crockpot’ recipes is the way forward initially, although AWT in the UK has a right fancy book. I’ve never done a dessert in one, but I can see rice pudding would work. I”m going to try ‘overnight oatmeal’ in mine next. My top tip is – don’t take the lid off. Every time you do it adds another 20-30 minutes to the cooking time. So if your recipe says 8 hours on low and you take the lid off every hour you’re not going to be eating until midnight!

  4. Love the ‘warts and all’ post – I’ve had my fair share of disasters 😉 My Tarte ‘Crapin’ as it became known lived long in the memory. And the stomach.

    All duly noted as i was thinking about getting one.

  5. Oh I’m glad you shared your thoughts on slow cookers. I have a tiny kitchen and had been toying with the idea to buy one in the hopes that I could set and forget, but this sounds pretty involved. I got a dutch oven for my bday, and thats been a little charm, so looks like I’m sticking to it. Thanks for the insight, and sorry about your lid! Bummer ;(

  6. When I use my slow cooker one of the recipes I like to use is this:
    1kg chicken thigh, diced up
    1 onion diced
    2 carrots, peeled and diced/sliced

      • Ugh, sorry. I meant to type the ENTIRE recipe, but my computer had a bit of a moment and I wasn’t even sure anything posted!!!! Apologies. So.. to continue….

        When I use my slow cooker one of the recipes I like to use is this:

        1kg chicken thigh, diced up
        1 onion diced
        2 carrots, peeled and diced/sliced
        1 stick celery diced
        a bunch of mushrooms (washed with skin on – baby ones are great for this, otherwise just quarter them)
        1x chicken stock cube disolved in a very small amount of boiling water
        1x can of tinned diced/crushed tomatoes
        sprinkle of oregano, basil, herbs of your choice
        1/4 cup of barley
        salt and pepper (can adjust for taste later)

        Mix all this up together, pop the lid on and cook on low for about 7 hours. If it’s too gooey/thick, you can always add more water. If the sauce is like water, simply mix up a little corn flour with cold water and mix it through a bit at a time until deisred consistency is reached.


  7. Did you heat up the stock before adding it to the slow cooker?
    Another thing to remember is that carrots and beef require different temperatures to cook (unless you want the beef to be dry or the carrots to stay hard).
    Good luck with your next experiments 🙂

  8. oh no!!! 😦 😦 sorry I was lol….. never tried one of those slow cookers, better luck next time?

  9. Pulled pork is a great one to do in a slow cooker. Plenty of ketchup, brown sugar, oil and vinegar with a pork shoulder and a few hours later you’ve got tender, juicy loveliness. Although I might recommend cutting off most of the fat before you start as eating a big lump of mushy fat is not 100% appetizing!

    • My wife has wanted a slow cooker for a while, but when I sake what she would use it for, she has no answer !!
      Doing the pulled pork would be the only reason I would want it and for that I can use my outdoor grill just as well.

      • But they’re easier to clean than outdoor grills and probably cheaper to run if you consider the cost of gas to run a grill for hours rather than a little slow cooker on low. Us wives have got to stick together. Don’t know if it applies, but it is Mother’s Day next weekend. Hint, hint.

        • Cleaning?? What’s that?
          The difference between the cost of gas or electric would be minimal.
          I do like that you are the kind of lady that would appreciate an appliance for a gift !!

  10. Every year for our Halloween party I make beef brisket in my slow cooker. It cooks for 10-12hrs with a BBQ flavored sauce. It turns out great. I think there was something wrong with your slow cooker. It shouldn’t take 3 days to cook. Yes, you are right about the liquid. I think only 1/2 cup is sufficient for slow cooking any type of meat. Hopefully your slow cooking experience will be better next time.

  11. Talk about a very slow cooker…seems like it couldn’t have been turned but you can see that little red light there laughing at you. Maybe it was broken anyway so you didn’t really ruin it.
    I’m planning to do a test run myself of these baby back ribs that my daughter tried in her slow cooker & said they’re the best ever. I’ll see how it goes & post so you can add that to your list of new ideas to try.

  12. As soon as I saw this post I just had to read it. Sorry to say, but I quite enjoy hearing about your kitchen misadventures 😇 I use my slow cooker in winter months for stews and spaghetti sauces; can’t say I ever tried a brisket, and based on your experience, I won’t. Thanks for this act of public service!

  13. I will still stand by the premise that a man should not have to look up anything to make a machine work. We learn through experience and it’s good we get a pay packet for our learning experiences… 🙂

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