How does anyone live without a slow cooker — especially when there are so many crockpot ideas and hacks to enjoy? (And they don’t even all involve food.) If you’re one of the few who don’t think they need a slow cooker in their life, then get ready to have your mind changed right now.
I’ll show you how to hack your slow cooker so you can make more than dinner recipes and party dips (though I have tips on those too!). I’ll even show you how to clean it so it looks brand new again.
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1. Get rid of the white film in a slow cooker with baking soda and dish soap, then start using crockpot liners for a favorite crockpot ideas.
Have a stubborn white film in your crockpot that won’t come off with a regular washing?
Here’s a solution: add about three tablespoons of baking soda and a few drops of dish soap to your pot and fill it up with water. Turn your slow cooker on low for a few hours. Then, pour out the water and use a non-abrasive sponge and a bit more baking soda to scrub away the film. Rinse, and your slow cooker should look like new!
To keep more white film from forming, consider using crockpot liners every time you cook. They’ll cost you about $3 per 6-pack, or you can make your own (see the next tip), but they’ll save you the hassle of soaking and scrubbing.
2. Use foil to create a DIY crockpot liner for easy cleanup and even cooking.
There are a lot of easy slow cooker recipes for bread out there, but if you find that the food you cook in your slow cooker tends to be more crisp on the edges than you’d like, try lining the inside with foil if you don’t already have crockpot liners. The foil will help distribute heat evenly and make cleanup a breeze.
3. Create a divider with foil to use your slow cooker for two dips or recipes.
Slow cooker dips are the best! Why limit yourself to one crockpot recipe at a time? Use heavy-duty foil to create a crockpot divider across your slow cooker. Then use a slow cooker liner to keep two different dips separated. Or invest in a reusable, silicone liner that has two separate sections.
4. Convert any recipe to an easy slow cooker recipe.
Broaden your list of crockpot ideas by turning your regular recipes into slow cooker recipes. You may have to adjust the amount of liquid called for in the recipe (like adding 1/2 cup water or broth if no liquid is called for), but otherwise, converting a conventional cooking recipe to an easy slow cooker recipe is simple. Just use the guide above.
You may also be wondering what temperature is low on a slow cooker, and what temperature is high. The answer varies according to your model, but you can generally expect the low setting to heat your slow cooker to 170 – 190 degrees Fahrenheit over several hours. Setting your crockpot to high is the equivalent of 280 – 300 degrees.
5. Always keep the lid on your slow cooker while it’s in use.
Did you know that every time you take off the lid to stir or sniff what’s inside your slow cooker the temperature drops dramatically? It’s like opening the oven door. It can take up to half an hour to get the temp up again. Only open if you absolutely must.
6. Brown your crockpot roast on the stove beforehand for more flavor.
Although you can fully cook your crockpot roast in a slow cooker, searing meats first will give your dish a richer flavor. The seared pieces help hold in juices, and any extra fatty parts crisp up nicely.
Need more easy crockpot ideas and recipes? Check out some of these one-pot recipes!
7. Melt chocolate for dipping and baking.
Fill mason jars with chocolate chips and other candy melts. Then, fill your slow cooker halfway with hot water, leave it uncovered, and set it to high.
After about 30 minutes, give the chocolate a stir. If the chocolate is fully melted, set your slow cooker to low, and the chocolate should stay melted for a couple of hours.
Just make sure not to cover your slow cooker — any water or moisture that gets into the chocolate will cause it to seize.
8. Cook the main dish and sides at the same time by wrapping individual foods in foil.
Ever wondered how to use a slow cooker for multiple things at once? Like making a roast with a side of potatoes not soaked in the juices? Wrap the seasoned roast and potatoes individually in foil, and the flavors will stay separate.
9. Use your slow cooker to keep food (like mashed potatoes) warm on Thanksgiving.
Free up your burners with one of the easiest slow cooker hacks. Cook your mashed potatoes according to your favorite recipe. Transfer them to a slow cooker set to the “warm” or “low” setting.
Remember to stir your potatoes at least once every half hour to keep them from sticking. You can also add a bit of milk or cream to keep them creamy. Plus, check out more Thanksgiving slow cooker recipes.
And if you’re in charge of holiday cooking this year, then you need to check out these other brilliant Thanksgiving hacks.
10. Warm tortillas on top of your slow cooker.
Instead of a lid, place a glass baking tray on top of your slow cooker — preferably a slow cooker that’s filled with some chili con carne. Put your tortillas inside the glass dish a few minutes before serving and they’ll be ready along with your slow-cooker meal.
11. Melt wax and add wicks to make your own crockpot candles.
This is one of my favorite crockpot ideas. These crockpot candles are easy to create and the finished product is perfect for gift-giving.
What you’ll need
- Soy candle wax
- Mason jars
- Candle wicks (100 for $5, Amazon)
What you’ll do
- Fill mason jars with wax and place them in your slow cooker.
- Slowly pour boiling water around the jars until the mason jars are halfway submerged.
- Cover and turn your slow cooker on high.
- Depending on the size of the jars you use and the amount of wax, you should be able to stir the wax after about 45 minutes. You’ll notice your jars will only be halfway full now. Refill jars with more wax beads and cover your slow cooker for another 45 minutes to an hour or until all the wax has melted.
- Insert wicks, carefully remove the jars from your slow cooker, drop in essential oils if you wish (8 to 15 drops should do), and let them cool completely at room temperature.
Tip: Use a clothespin or even the clip on a pen or mechanical pencil to keep the wick centered while your candle wax solidifies.
12. Use broken crayons to make DIY crockpot crayons.
We especially love crockpot ideas that reuse and reduce waste. Melt down all those broken crayon bits in a slow cooker and have kids reuse them, or give them away as gifts. Use little Dixie cups, fun silicone baking shapes, or even empty toilet paper tubes as molds!
What you’ll need
- Broken crayons, with papers removed
- Silicone molds
What you’ll do
- Remove the paper wrapper from the broken crayon bits and place them in molds.
- Set your molds in an empty slow cooker and turn the heat on high.
- Depending on the size of your mold, check back every 20 minutes or so until all the crayon wax is melted.
- Turn your slow cooker off and allow the wax to harden a bit before carefully removing the molds.
- Cool the crayons completely before using them.
13. Catch unwanted condensation by placing a towel just under the lid.
14. Make your home smell good by using your slow cooker as a potpourri warmer.
This is one of our favorite crockpot ideas to use during the holidays! Boil cinnamon sticks, apple peels, orange rinds, whole cloves, cranberries, and other delicious-smelling ingredients in water. Cook it on high, uncovered, and check it every couple of hours. Add water as needed to keep everything from drying out or burning.
15. Make your own crockpot yogurt with just two ingredients.
You can make homemade, healthy yogurt in your slow cooker! This recipe is simple (you only need two cheap ingredients) and yields enough to freeze for smoothies.
It also makes a great slow-cooker dip for fruits! Just let the yogurt cool first.
What you’ll need
- 1 gallon milk (I use whole because the more fat in the milk, the thicker it will be).
- 8 ounces of plain yogurt (you can also use Greek) with live cultures — just look at the ingredient list.
What you’ll do
- Pour all the milk into a slow cooker, cover, and place on high.
- Keep the slow cooker on high for about four hours until the milk reaches 180 degrees (use a candy thermometer to check the temperature).
- Once the milk reaches 180 degrees, turn the slow cooker off, uncover slightly to let the heat escape, and let it cool to 120 degrees (this usually takes about 2 hours).
- While the dairy mixture cools, take your yogurt (called a “starter”) out of the fridge and let it get to room temperature.
- Once the temperature of the milk is 120 degrees, gently add your yogurt and swirl it around with a whisk until combined.
- Now, preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Once it’s preheated, turn the oven off (make sure you turn the oven off!), but leave the oven light on. This will keep the temperature optimal while the cultures are doing their thing and making yogurt magic.
- Place the covered pot in the oven and leave it alone, undisturbed, for 8 – 12 hours. The longer you leave it in the oven, the more tang the yogurt will have. I usually leave mine for 10 – 11 hours.
- After it’s done making magic in the oven, gently place the pot in the refrigerator to cool for a few hours.
Enjoy your homemade goodness!
16. Use a slow cooker as a makeshift humidifier.
One of our more hydrating crockpot ideas. Using multiple slow cookers as humidifiers throughout the house works like a charm when you’re feeling under the weather and don’t already have a humidifier.
Fill your slow cooker about three-quarters of the way up with water, cover, and turn the setting on high. After about an hour, let the moisture escape into the air. Make sure to refill the pot with room-temperature water as needed — and don’t let the pot run when there’s nothing in it.
17. Avoid overcooking with a Christmas light timer.
If your crockpot doesn’t have a built-in timer or auto-off function, you can use an appliance timer or Christmas lights timer in your outlet for an easy auto-off tool.
18. Clean the liner of your slow cooker with ammonia.
Despite our best efforts, the slow cooker itself (under the removable stoneware) can get pretty gross. It’s also not dishwasher safe. Solution? Fill a small baking dish with ammonia and set it in the liner of your slow cooker. Then simply pop the lid on and leave it overnight. You don’t even need to turn your slow cooker on. The ammonia fumes will loosen the gross stuff, and you can simply wipe it up in the morning.