Do Crock Pots Need Water? Or Can They Cook Dry?

Do you need to add water to crock pot?

Today we’re going to cover one of the most common questions about cooking with a crock pot. Specifically: “Do I need to add water to a crock pot?”

You only need to add water to a crock pot, if the meal or recipe you’re slow cooking requires it. Some meals, like a ham, do not require any liquid to be added. Other recipes, like slow cooker bread or soup, do require water. And finally, some recipes will require added liquid (like broth), but not water.

I have some specific recipes that I’d like to share with you as examples. Some of them do require water, and some of them don’t. But first, let’s take a quick look at what the Crock Pot instruction manual says about adding liquid.

Do You Need to Add Water to Crock Pots?

Do you need to add water to a crock pot

As mentioned, adding liquid to a crock pot is only required if it’s necessary for the recipe you are cooking. And I’ll also note, that you only ever add water to the pot (as shown above) and NEVER to the heating base.

If you read the instruction manual that comes with Crock Pot brand slow cookers, it makes two points about liquid. Here’s the first one:

“For best results and to prevent food from drying or burning, always
ensure an adequate amount of liquid is used in the recipe.”

Notice that they say “adequate” here. In other words, they’re saying to use “enough” liquid. And of course, “enough” will vary from recipe to recipe.

So, in my opinion, the Crock Pot instruction manual agrees that liquid is dependent on the specific recipe that you plan to cook.

The second point about liquid that is made in the Crock Pot instruction manual, is as follows:

“Ensure the stoneware is always filled a minimum of ½ full and a
maximum of ¾ full, and conform to recommended cook times.”

I think this point is worth noting, and you may get different answers on this depending on who you ask. Given the context, it may appear that the Crock Pot should be filled 1/2 to 3/4 full with liquid.

And sure, that may be the case with some recipes. Like soups, for example.

However, I interpret this differently. I think it actually means that all ingredients should fill the Crock Pot 1/2 to 3/4 full. And I don’t think that liquid necessarily has to be a part of that volume.

One of the things to remember, is that if you’re cooking raw meats and vegetables, those ingredients contain moisture. So, as you cook them down, their moisture will be released. Essentially creating it’s own liquid.

I’ve personally cooked a really delicious pot roast in a slow cooker filled about 3/4 full, without adding any extra liquid. It turned out great! Just make sure all the ingredients (especially meats) are fully cooked, of course.

To further illustrate this point, let’s walk-through several example recipes that are designed for slow cookers. Some of them require water, some of them require no added liquid. And others require liquid (but not water).

Let’s get to it!

7 Recipe Examples

No Added Water – Recipe Examples

To start with, here are a couple of recipe examples that do not require any added water.

1. Whole chicken crock pot recipe – by

2. Ham crock pot recipe – by

As you can see, these are both large meat dishes. That’s the first type of meal that came to mind for me in this category, but you might have some other ideas that came to mind for you.

Add Liquid, Not Water – Recipe Examples

Next up, I wanted to give some examples where you do have to add liquid, but not water specifically.

3. Chili crock pot recipe – by

4. Slow cooker queso recipe – by

Dang it, now I want to stop writing, and get out my crock pot 🙂

Need to Add Water – Recipe Examples

Finally, here’s a couple of examples where you actually DO need to add water to the recipe.

5. Chicken noodle soup crock pot recipe – by

6. Slow cooker bread recipe –

7. Pot roast crock pot recipe –

Interestingly, recipe #7 (pot roast) only uses water towards the end of cooking, in order to create a thickening agent by mixing in water/corn starch.

Alright, now let’s talk more about cooking meat in a slow cooker.

Should Meat be Covered with Liquid in a Slow Cooker?

Meat only needs to be covered with liquid in a slow cooker if the recipe calls for it. In addition, to cover meat in liquid, you don’t necessarily have to add that liquid. For instance, if you are cooking a pot roast in a crock pot, the vegetable and meat will release liquid as they cook.

These juices from the ingredients alone can be enough to cover the meat.

With that said, it’s also important to note that liquid does transfer heat more effectively than air does. So, a piece of meat that is submerged will cook differently than a piece of meat that is not submerged.

In addition, if you are cooking a dish, and only part of the meat is submerged, then the submerged portion will cook differently than the exposed portion.

As a result, whichever approach you use, you might need to add or remove water so that the meat will be either fully submerged or fully exposed. That way the meat doesn’t cook unevenly.

Can You Put Raw Meat in a Slow Cooker?

You can put raw meat in a crock pot for dishes like pot roast, but if you are cooking a soup or chili, then you may need to cook the meat separately to avoid the risk of undercooking the meat. Check a recipe for guidance.

To further illustrate this point, my wife and I love to make chili in our crock pot, and we ALWAYS brown the ground beef in a frying pan on the stove before adding it to the crock pot.

This ensures that the meat is fully cooked, and I’ve also read that it can improve the flavor of the meat (and thus the flavor of the chili). So, in some cases, you’ll need to sear or brown your meat before adding it to the slow cooker.

On the other hand, if you’re cooking something that is more “meat-centric”, then you might not need to cook the meat at all before putting it in the crock pot.

The perfect example of this is a pot roast, which I cook ALL the time (okay, probably more like 2 times a month). When I make pot roast, I add the raw meat directly to the slow cooker without any prior cooking. Just make sure the meat is fully cooked before consuming it.

You should also ensure that meat is fully thawed before adding it to a crock pot.

Related Questions

Do You Need to Flip Meat in a Slow Cooker?

You usually do not need to flip meat in a slow cooker. For instance, it’s not necessary to flip a beef or venison pot roast in a slow cooker. If your recipe recommends flipping meat, then feel free to do so, but you should do it quickly in order to minimize the amount of time the lid is removed.

Can You Boil Water in a Crock Pot?

You can boil water in a crock pot, but it will take about 2 hours or longer on the High setting. The exact time will vary depending on the amount of water and model of slow cooker. In addition, the water inside a crock pot will likely stabilize at a simmering boil and may never reach a full rolling boil.

Can You Put Aluminum Foil in a Crock Pot?

You can use aluminum foil in your crock pot. Cooking with aluminum foil has been shown to increase the aluminum contents of food by as much as 378%. However, medical researchers generally consider aluminum foil to be safe to cook with, and the increased aluminum exposure has not been shown to cause health problems.

Matt & Heather

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