Does a slow cooker need water in the base?

The short and sweet answer to the question “Does a slow cooker need water in the base?” is NO. It can even damage or destroy the whole machine, so be careful to not put it in the space between the base and vessel, even by mistake.

So the question is answered, and you can go, right? Well, I would suggest not going, since the answer without reason is like no answer at all.

Few quick rules to follow:

1. You don’t have to put water in your slow cooker base since it is heated up by coils hidden in its core and not by hot water.

2. Read the recipe carefully every time, so you don’t make an unnecessary mistake and pour water in the base of your slow cooker. Which would lead to damaging the slow cooker.

3. Most recipes call for water to be added to other ingredients to gain volume and/or cook easier - soups, sauces, reductions, and so on.

How about we take a quick look at the reason, what do you think? Sounds good? Ok, so let’s go.

How slow cooker works?

You might know that I have already written quite a comprehensive article on how does a slow cooker work, but let me do a quick reminder.

You have three major parts:

Heating base – mainly for providing and regulating the heat that is delivered via metal coils

Cooking pot or vessel – houses the through the entire cooking process and is sometimes used for storing

A lid – you need a way to cover that bad boy and keep the heat and taste in the pot.

Metal coils are powered, create heat, and it’s being transferred to the closed cooking pot.

Below you can find an almost exact drawing of the process.

Slow cooking process

I know, I know, I have mad painting skills 😀

Besides the heating coils, there are also the electronic parts of the slow cooker, which are essential for it to work correctly.

Now imagine that you pour the water into the space between the base and cooking pot. What would happen? 

Well, a couple of things that depend on the state of base. If turned on, you would get tons and tons of smoke and most likely short-circuit in your slow cooker. 

If you would have the slow cooker turned off at the beginning, then nothing at first. But as soon as it would be turned on, you would most likely get a short-circuit maybe even fry yourself a bit with electricity.

So beware and be careful!

So does a slow cooker need some water?

Yes it does, but in its pot only.

Every slow cooker needs some water to work properly. The reason is that ingredients are in direct contact with the pot which is heated up by the coils in the base. If you don’t put any water in the pot of the slow cooker the ingredients will at least end up chared, but most likely they will be burnt.

The recipes will in most cases either tell you to add some water, broth or similar kind of liquid.

For example when you are making a soup, then you need quite a lot of water as a base ingredient (not in the base of a slow cooker itself!) for the recipe to have a body of sorts.

As I have said, in most cases. Not all of them. If the recipe seems strange follow your instinct, think about the result and add water if you feel like there should be some.

The reason is that sometimes you might find a recipe that is using custom homemade slow cooker solutions. These are made in the style of Baine Marie (water bath) and actually need water under the pot, but then again we are talking about a totally different beast.

What happens when you put water in the base of your slow cooker?

As soon as water touches the heating coils it starts vaporizing. It depends on the amount of water, but most likely you are immediately covered in a huge cloud of hot vapor.

This extremely hot vapor can do some serious damage. I am talking about burns on your hands and face, also if you are not wearing glasses your eyes are in huge danger.

The situation is similar to the lifting lid on a slow cooker. Believe me, I can tell you from experience that this is something you do not want to experience.

So we got a hot cloud of danger, anything else?

Yep, in most cases, you also have quite a few sparks. You are pouring liquid on a hot heating coil with electrical wiring.

It is easy for water to get to the slow cooker and overload the system. Best case scenario, you only damage the slow cooker, burn its wiring, blow the fuse and that will be it.

Worst case scenario?

Well, fire. Yes, it is more than likely that in the worst scenario the whole slow cooker would catch on fire. My suggestion is to try to avoid putting water in a slow cooker base.

So to recap:

You don’t have to put water in your slow cooker base since it is heated up by coils hidden in its core and not by hot water.

And that’s it.

Also that you had enjoyed your time here and I am looking forward to meeting you in my other articles.

Have a great day and happy cooking.

Vojta Vevera

Combining a love for cooking and using all kinds of technological gizmos helps Vojta to bring the experiences and excitement to all his articles. He is always doing his best to serve you with great information. Mixing over 15 years of cooking experience with his analytical mind and love for all technological things.

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