Do You Have To Put Water In a Slow Cooker/Crockpot?

When it comes to the question of whether or not water is necessary in a slow cooker/crockpot, opinions are divided and debates can get heated. However, slow cookers are an excellent time-saving method for preparing delicious meals. To settle this question, I conducted research on the topic and here’s what I found.

Is it necessary to add water to a slow cooker?

While it is not necessary to add water in a slow cooker, it is recommended to include some form of liquid to avoid scorching and dehydration of the food. Nevertheless, if the ingredients have sufficient natural water content, they can be cooked without any additional liquid as they will release their own juices when heated. In such cases, even a small quantity of liquid can generate enough steam.

However, it is necessary to add some water or other liquid while using a slow cooker. Keep reading to understand the reasons behind this and the appropriate amount of liquid required.

How a Crockpot/Slow Cooker Uses Liquids

Slow cookers are designed to be used with their lids on during the cooking process, as this traps the steam produced and allows it to condense and drip back into the food, which is a recommended practice by both manufacturers and food bloggers.

Do you need to add water when using a slow cooker/Crockpot? The answer is yes, as the steam created between the lid and vessel is trapped, causing liquid to drip back into the pot. This process helps keep food moist and succulent. According to Hamilton Beach, this is why dishes cooked in a slow cooker come out so juicy.

How Much Liquid Should You Add To a Slow Cooker?

Whether or not you need to add water to your slow cooker depends on the specific recipe, but typically only a small amount is required as liquids are essential for creating steam.

Unless you are preparing soups or stews, it is advisable to restrict the amount of liquid you add to the slow cooker. In case you are experimenting with a new recipe or uncertain about the required quantity of water, it is better to use a minimal amount of liquids.

It is advisable to add water to a slow cooker as it is a sealed environment with no evaporation, which may result in tasteless and mushy food. Therefore, topping up the water as the food cooks is recommended.

According to the article, slow cooker recipes usually require less liquid compared to cooking on a stove. This may involve getting rid of canned tomato juice or using a reduced amount of broth for soups and stews.

Jack Bishop, editorial director America’s Test Kitchen

According to Sarah DiGregorio, who wrote Adventures in Slow Cooking: 120 Slow-Cooker Recipes for People Who Love Food, there is significantly less evaporation in a slow cooker compared to the oven or stovetop.

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Can You Slow Cook Without A Slow Cooker?

Should Food Be Covered With Liquid In a Slow Cooker?

Although there is a never-ending debate on the matter, most professionals advise against adding liquid to your food in a slow cooker/crockpot unless you are preparing soups or stews.

When cooking meat and certain vegetables in a slow cooker/crockpot, they tend to release juices which increase the volume when combined with the added liquid. It is undesirable to have a dish that is floating in liquid or lacks flavor.

Water is not the only way to meet the minimum halfway requirement for a slow cooker; instead, you can utilize your ingredients to fulfill this condition.

Typically, I prefer to have one-third of the food submerged in broth or water while relying on the ingredients to provide the remaining liquid, resulting in a well-cooked and flavorful meal.

Admittedly, it may require a few attempts to determine the appropriate amount of water, but with persistence, you will eventually succeed.

Using a slow cooker that is too big for the amount of food you are cooking can result in excess soup or leftovers, which is a common issue.

To ensure that your slow cooker/crockpot works efficiently, select the appropriate size or opt for larger portions of meat or a whole chicken that can fit in a bigger slow cooker, and any remaining food can be stored in the freezer or taken for lunch the next day.

Another option is to purchase an oven-safe container and place it inside the slow cooker for preparing smaller portions, which will result in a reduced cooking vessel size while maintaining the flavor.

It is necessary to include a cup of water in the slow cooker to generate the required steam for cooking the food. The most suitable oven-safe containers are:

  • CorningWare bake set
  • Pyrex 2-quart glass dish
  • The casserole dish from Libbey

As you modify your slow cooker, there are some factors to consider:

  • It is important to utilize a bowl that can be safely used in the oven.
  • To cook using a slow cooker, it is recommended to keep the lid on and refrain from opening it unnecessarily.
  • Make sure to fill the slow cooker bowl up to three-quarters of its capacity, as cooking with less water may result in faster cooking and burning, while filling it to the brim may require longer cooking time than suggested.
See also
How Long Can You Slow Cook Chicken?

What If My Food Scorches?

If the slow cooker is filled halfway or three-quarters of the way, there will be sufficient heat circulation to braise or simmer your food, but if it’s filled differently, you may end up with burned or boiled food.

There are several methods to prevent food from burning in a slow cooker/crockpot:

  • Coat the inside of the slow cooker with cooking oil prior to cooking to prevent food from sticking.
  • Make tinfoil balls and put them in the bottom of the slow cooker. Afterwards, you can add the chicken and let it cook with a small amount of water or broth. Another option is to wrap the chicken in foil and place it on top of the rest of the ingredients.
  • Opt for FDA-approved, BPA-free plastic liners like Reynolds premium slow cooker liners, Crock-Pot slow cooker liners, and PanSaver EZ clean slow cooker liners to make cleaning up after your meal a breeze. These disposable liners are designed for one-time use only.

It is important to follow the recommended cooking time and temperature settings, especially if you will be away from home for a longer period than the suggested cooking time in the recipe.

It can be tempting to set the slow cooker for a 10-hour cooking time, assuming that the low temperature setting will prevent any issues. However, this can lead to overcooking and potentially burning the food.

It is recommended to let the slow cooker/crockpot cook for six hours and then switch it to warm mode for the rest of the time until you return home.

Start With The Easy Recipes First

Most slow cooker professionals suggest experimenting with uncomplicated recipes to get a sense of how the appliance operates. Since each slow cooker is unique, the more you comprehend yours, the simpler it will be to attempt intricate recipes.

Take a look at these uncomplicated yet tasty dishes that you can experiment with:

  • Deliciously heartwarming Chicken Noodle Soup from Damn Delicious.
  • Tori Avey’s Vegan chickpea chili, a flavorful dish with garbanzo beans, can be found here.
  • Tropical Island Beef by Cat Lady Cyndi from Allrecipes.
  • Cookies and Cups’ all-time favorite Mac and Cheese, which can be accessed by clicking here.
  • Delicious Pulled Pork dish from My Baking Addiction.

What Happens If You Overfill a Slow Cooker?

Attempting to get more food out of your slow cooker by overfilling it is ineffective. Slow cookers are designed for food to simmer, not steam, and many mothers have admitted to doing this and experiencing overflow as a result.

See also
Why Does My Slow Cooker Smell Like Burnt Plastic?

If you put too much food in your crockpot, it may not cook evenly or thoroughly, which could result in a longer cooking time and unappetizing-looking food.

Additionally, in case the food spills out of the slow cooker/crockpot, it can create a chaotic and unclean kitchen environment. Visualize yourself coming home after a tiring day to handle an incompletely cooked dish and an untidy surface. This is definitely not desirable.

Can You Cook Off Liquid In a Slow Cooker?

If you notice that your dish in the slow cooker/crockpot has an excessive amount of water, is it possible to evaporate the liquid during cooking?

If you want to reduce the liquid in your slow cooker/crockpot dish and thicken the sauce, you can take off the lid during the last 1-2 hours of cooking and switch the setting to high, which will cause some of the liquid to evaporate.

What should you do if you placed the slow cooker in the morning, returned home in the evening, and discovered your meal fully cooked and submerged in broth?

If you have leftover soup in your slow cooker/crockpot, instead of throwing it away, you can freeze it or turn it into a sauce by adding cornstarch or any other desired ingredient.

Can You Dry Cook in a Slow Cooker?

Yes, it is possible to cook without adding water in a slow cooker, and some experienced cooks even prefer this method. However, it is crucial to be selective with the type of meat used as tender cuts like chicken breasts, fillet steak, and pork fillet tend to become dry when cooked without liquid.

When using a slow cooker, it is recommended to choose tougher cuts of meat such as pork shoulder, beef shin, oxtail, lamb shank, and chicken thighs and drumsticks. Additionally, cover the slow cooker with root vegetables like onions and carrots, add some oil and then place the meat on top.


Liquids are not mandatory for slow cooking, but they can be used in moderation to improve the taste and provide enough moisture for the food.

If you have any inquiries or feedback, feel free to share them in the comments section provided below. We are eager to receive your thoughts.

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