Crock Pot recipes for slow cooker

Welcome to our last day of Slow Cooker Week! We’ve been sharing all our favorite Crock Pot recipes, tips, tricks, and advice this week—and including the Instant Pot, of course, since it slow cooks too. Here, find out the ideal time and temperature for everything you might make in your Crock Pot—and how much wiggle room you have.

You ever get lost while inventorying your kitchen appliances, and start wondering about the ideal cooking times and temperatures for everything you can make in your slow cooker? Just me? Come on, I can’t be the only one!

Related Reading: Enter to Win a Wolf Gourmet Slow Cooker By March 9!

Seriously. When you consider a recipe for your slow cooker, do you ever wonder: “So, exactly how slowly should I cook this pulled pork?” or “Do I just, like, flip a coin to choose whether I’m gonna cook this chili on low or high, or what?”

Here’s the deal: Slow cooker cooking is pretty easy cooking. In some ways, it’s a set it and forget it undertaking. And because you’re cooking low and slow with some sort of moisture, you have a lot more flexibility than stove-top, oven, or grill cooking. While you have flexibility, that doesn’t mean there won’t be subtle differences, though, when cooking with low vs. high heat.

Crock Pot recipe ideas, tips, tricks, and accessories

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For example, I recently made two batches of cream of chicken and wild rice soup. I generally used the same recipe, but I tweaked the cooking times and temps for each. Sure enough, there were two fairly noticeable differences between the two assemblages. First, the onion flavor was stronger for the pot cooked on high for shorter. Second, the chicken breast became more finely shredded with the batch cooked on low for longer.

Now, the differences weren’t huge. But they were significant enough for folks to declare preferences, which got me thinking: Are there ideal times and temps for the things that I make for my slow cooker? Not hard and fast rules, but guidelines based on ingredients and dish type that take a meal from mediocre to fantastic. Well, according to the instruction manual for my slow cooker (which hasn’t been read until now!) there kind of are! Here’s what I learned:

What’s The Difference Between Low & High Heat?

Most simply put, you can cook a lot of dishes on either low or high heat. The manual recommends cooking everything lower and slower. Why not, right? If you’re reading the manual for a slow cooker, you’re going to be enticed to go all the way slow, I guess.

Of course, you’re likely to have a preference, but cooking something on either low or high heat will likely not ruin anything, as long as you have the time conversion down. According to the manual for my Crock-Pot 6-Quart Manual Slow Cooker, the conversion is somewhere between 3:2 or 2:1, low heat:high heat.

This means if a recipe calls for cooking on high, just multiply the proposed time by one-and-a-half (1.5) or two to get the cooking time on low. Alternatively, if your recipe gives you cooking times on low, divide the number by one-and-a-half (1.5) or two to get your cooking time on high. Of course, this is a general guideline. Your particular device or recipe might specify more precise cooking times. But according to my slow cooker manufacturer, using these conversions should work. And if math isn’t exactly your forté, I’ve seen some conversions that are even simpler: just add four hours to the cooking time on high to yield your low setting cooking time (e.g. If you cook on high for three hours, you could cook on low for seven hours).

Crock Pot recipe tips

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What’s The Deal with That Warm Setting?

You may notice your slow cooker has low, high, and warm settings. If that’s the case, whatever you do, don’t mistake the warm setting for a setting that will cook your meal. The warm setting will not cook your dish. It’s simply meant to keep your already cooked dish warm. If, after 4-8 hours, you come back to your slow cooker to realize you left your device on warm instead of high, or low, unfortunately, your meal should be thrown away. How do I know? Don’t worry about it, I just do, okay?

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of the warm setting, here’s a nice little manufacturer’s note: After cooking your dish on low or high, you can leave items in your slow cooker for serving on warm for up to four hours. Once it approaches four hours, it’s time to clear it.

Related Reading: How Long Can You Leave Food in the Slow Cooker?

General Tips

A few final general tips on timing:

Lean vs Fatty Meats

When you cook meat, you’re going to notice a pattern. Leaner meats will need less time than fattier ones. The same is true of boneless vs. bone-in cuts. A three to four pound beef roast will take about six hours on high, whereas a similarly sized pork loin will only take about five hours.

Easy Slow Cooker Beef Goulash recipe

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Slow Cooking Fish

Fish will cook relatively quickly. Sometimes this means adding your fish a little later in the cooking process. Three pounds of fish? That’ll likely only take an hour-and-a-half to two hours on high.

Root Veggies

Root vegetables, like carrots and potatoes will take longer to cook than other veggies. You can adjust your cooking strategy by adding “softer” veggies later in the cooking process. Similarly, you can layer your items to ensure the “harder” veggies rest on the bottom, while softer veggies are off the bottom (and, therefore, further from the heating element).

slow cooker root veggie stew recipe

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Fresh Herbs, Dairy, and Thickeners

Seasoning, fresh herbs, milk/cream, and thickening agents (like flour and cornstarch) are often best applied as a finishing touch with 15-30 minutes remaining.

Fresh vs Frozen Meat

I always like to cook with fresh meat (not frozen). However, if you find yourself needing to use frozen cuts, plan to add some warm liquid and an extra two hours on high (or four hours on low) to recommended cooking times.

OK, there you have it! When using a slow cooker, you have some flexibility, but there are few tips to keep in mind. Mainly, most dishes that can be cooked on low heat can also be cooked on high heat, as long as you remember the 3:2 (or even 2:1) conversion.

Time & Temperature Cheat Sheet

Specific times depend on a number of factors, including your particular slow cooker and the amount of food you’re making in it (and the particular thickness of your proteins too). But these are good general guidelines to follow if you’re riffing on a recipe. Start checking on the low end to make sure things don’t overcook, but if they’re not done…just let them keep going until they are.

Chicken Breast

Slow Cooker Chicken Taco recipe

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Chicken Thighs

Slow Cooker Chicken Adobo recipe

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Turkey Breast

Pork Shoulder

easy slow cooker pulled pork recipe

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Pork Chops

  • 4-6 hours on low
  • Not recommended on high; also note that lean, thin-cut pork chops won’t work well on low either.
  • Try this Slow Cooker Pork Chops recipe.
slow cooker pork chop recipe

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Pork Loin

  • 6-8 hours on low
  • 3-4 hours on high
  • Be sure to choose a roast with a good fat cap and internal marbling to keep it tender.
  • Try this Easy Slow Cooker Pork Loin recipe.

Baby Back Ribs

slow cooker ribs

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Pot Roast

Beef Brisket

Easy Slow Cooker BBQ Brisket recipe

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Short Ribs

easy slow cooker pasta recipe

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Chili (with ground meat)

slow cooker chili recipe

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Fish

Crock Pot salmon recipe

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Shrimp

  • Add these to the slow cooker at the very end of cooking time and check after 10 minutes; they shouldn’t take longer than 20 or 30 at most, but are easy to overcook.
  • Try this Slow Cooker Shrimp Gumbo recipe.
Easy Slow Cooker Shrimp Gumbo recipe

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Visit our Slow Cooker Week headquarters for everything else you need to know (and cook).

Header image courtesy of Richard Stonehouse / E+ / Getty Images

Greg is a Chicago guy who likes to cook, dine, and help others navigate their food choices. Why? Because food is an integral part of our lives, and he's the best version of himself when he's well fed. When he's not writing for Chowhound, he's writing about handling the domestic responsibilities of a husband and stay-at-home parent for his new online community. Visit philosophyofdad.com.
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