Slow cooker liners do make clean-up easier, but personally, I don’t like using them. If you’re looking for some alternatives to slow cooker liners, to save money, avoid using plastic, or for some other reason, then you’re in the right place.
Here’s a quick summary of the different slow cooker liner substitutes:
Parchment paper and aluminum foil are two common substitutes for slow cooker liners that are found in most kitchens (although I do not recommend using aluminum foil). If you want to do away with the liners entirely, you can also coat your crock pot in oil to make it easier to clean later.
If you want to try something more experimental, there are also new(ish) products, like silicon inserts and pre-bagged meals, that you could consider trying. We’ll cover each one in more detail below, and I’ll also wrap things up, by telling you my favorite alternative to slow cooker liners.
Table of Contents
1. Baking / Parchment Paper
Parchment paper can be used to line a crock pot to make clean-up easier, and I believe it’s also cheaper than slow cooker liners (even if you have to use a couple of sheets of parchment paper for each meal).
This can be a good alternative to slow cooker liners, particularly if you are baking a casserole, cake, or something else bread-y in your crock pot.
The reason it works so well for these types of foods is because that is pretty close to what parchment paper was originally designed to do (line cookware for baking).
But, I don’t think I would try using parchment paper for something with a higher water content. For example, I wouldn’t try using parchment paper for stew, chili, pot roast, etc.
It is paper, after all, so I’d expect it to wear and dissolve in the pot, which is not what you want!
But, overall, parchment paper seems like a good substitute for slow cooker liners, as long as you use it with the right kind of recipes. Next up, aluminum foil.
2. Aluminum Foil
Lining a crock pot with aluminum foil can make the clean-up easier, and can also help the food cook more evenly.
I’ve seen people use this approach, and I’m sure some folks really like doing it this way. Seems like a win, right?
Eh – I’m not so sure.
Personally, I’m not a fan of using aluminum foil as a slow cooker liner. Let me explain. Research has shown that aluminum can leach into food in certain circumstances. High temperatures and acidic foods (which can both be involved when slow cooking) can increase leaching.
Based on what I’ve read, it sounds like it’s somewhat unclear how big of a health impact this has on people. But, I’d rather play it on the safe side and forego the aluminum foil lining. I’m not a doctor, that’s just the way I think about it for my own cooking.
With that said, I think there are a couple of interesting uses for aluminum foil with your crock pot that could still be useful. For example, I’ve heard of people using foil to make a lid (if theirs is broken) or to line around the lid (to hold in the heat and moisture).
3. Oiling the Pot
Okay, this one might seem a bit odd to you at first, but bear with me for a second.
Simply oiling the crock pot insert (e.g. the big ceramic pot where you put the food), can make it easier to clean, by helping things not to stick so much to the pot.
To oil the pot you can use some standard cooking spray on the bottom and sides of the pot. Or, you can put olive oil or vegetable oil on a clean cloth (or even your clean fingers) and rub it on the bottom and sides of the pot.
This will work better for some recipes vs. others. For example, I’m not sure oiling the pot will make much difference if you’re making chili.
But, if you’re making something with less water content (like a cobbler), then it should make cleaning easier. I don’t think this is a silver bullet, but it can be an improvement over a bare pot (for some recipes).
Overall, I think oiling the inside of a crock pot is a decent alternative to using slow cooker liners. It should help, but you’ll still have to clean the pot since it won’t keep it spotless like a liner will.
4. Reusable Silicon Insert
This next one is interesting, and also a bit odd (in my opinion).
There are now reusable slow cooker liners, that are made of thick silicon, and are meant to be used, removed, and then washed and reused.
This is another alternative, and I think the appeal of a product like this, is the fact that it is lighter and easier to clean than the crock pot itself.
Here’s a picture of this type of product from Amazon (note: I receive commissions from qualifying Amazon sales):
I do think that it’s an interesting idea, but I haven’t used this product myself.
I could be persuaded to try it, but at this point, I don’t feel like it’s worth it.
If I’m going to wash something anyway, I’ll save my money, and wash the crock pot insert.
You might disagree with me (feel free to let me know if you do), but that’s just my 2 cents about it. Overall, I think reusable silicon inserts are an interesting idea, but I don’t think I would use them personally.
5. Pre-bagged Slow Cooker Meals
Before I started writing this article, I had no idea these existed, but they seem cool!
You can buy pre-bagged slow cooker meals.
The idea is that you buy the bag, which is already filled with all the ingredients for a meal, you plop the bag into your crock pot, and then you just let it cook right in the bag.
It’s like a slow cooker liner, and a full meal, bundled and sold together.
Sounds pretty great, right? I think so.
These things are sold in some (but not all) of the major grocery chains, like Sam’s Club, The Fresh Market, and more. You can learn more about these and where they’re sold here. I’m not affiliated with them in any way, I just think it’s cool.
Overall, I think pre-bagged slow cooker meals are a really cool idea, but they would cost you more than buying regular liners.
6. My Favorite Liner Alternative
Alright, now for the grand finale. Are you ready?
My absolute favorite substitute / alternative to using slow cooker liners is, wait for it…….
NO LINER AT ALL!
That’s right. Crock pots were originally designed to work without liners.
By trying to line a slow cooker, I think that it just adds some unnecessary complexity and some potential health concerns.
But, I still want to help you solve the problem of hard clean-up. Here’s a quick tip on how to wash your crock pot much more easily:
Are slow cooker liners safe to use?
Slow cooker liners are generally considered to be safe for cooking, and the official Crock-Pot brand liners meet FDA requirements for cooking with temperatures of up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Slow cooker liners are made of heat resistant nylon, which does not contain BPA.
What temperature does a slow cooker cook at?
Slow cookers will generally heat up to about 190-210 degrees Fahrenheit (~87-99 degrees Celsius) on the Low setting and can go up to about 300 degrees Fahrenheit (~149 degrees Celsius) on the High setting. However, slow cooker temperatures will vary based on cook time, brand, model, etc.