Does Slow Cooker Need Water, and WHERE to Pour it?

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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 not to 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:

You don’t have to put water in your slow cooker base since it is heated by coils hidden in its core and not by hot water.
Read the recipe carefully every time, so you don’t make an unnecessary mistake, and pour water into your slow cooker’s base, which would damage the slow cooker.
Most recipes call for water to be added to other ingredients to gain volume and/or cook easier and more even – 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 does a slow cooker works?

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

If you don’t have a slow cooker consider getting this one from Amazon.

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

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 turned on, you would most likely get a short-circuit, maybe even fry yourself a bit with electricity.

So beware and be careful!

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 massive cloud of hot vapor.

This extremely hot vapor can do some severe damage. I am talking about burns on your hands and face, also, if you are not wearing glasses, your eyes are in immense 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 a fuse, and that will be it.

Worst case scenario?

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

How much liquid do you need in a slow cooker?

Slow cookers are a great way to avoid the hassle and preparation needed for traditional cooking methods. With so many slow cooker recipes that call for liquids, it can be tricky to figure out how much liquid is needed.

Start with enough liquid in the pot itself – The amount of liquid required will vary depending on the recipe and the ingredients being used, but generally speaking, you’ll need at least half the amount of liquid in the recipe. This will show you how much water you are going to need approximately.

Maybe it sounds a bit strange, but my advice is based on the assumption that your slow cooker is not the same size as the one used in a recipe.

Water is essential for slow cookers. Without enough water, your food will not cook evenly and may become dry and/or burnt. When adding water to a slow cooker, be sure to add it incrementally so that the water does not overflow from the cooker.

Also, slowly pouring the liquid into the pot ensures you won’t dilute the mixture too much. This is a bigger problem than it might seem at first, as you don’t want to deal with thickening the sauce afterward.

On the other hand, if your aim is soup, pour your heart away up until is the pot of a slow cooker a two-thirds full.

My last suggestion would be NOT to overfill the slow cooker pot if possible. This can lead to all kinds of trouble like food burning on the bottom, the cooker not heating evenly, its contents spilling everywhere, or food not cooking through evenly.

Should food be covered with liquid in a slow cooker?

According to the University of Minnesota, the food should be covered if you cook meat or poultry. The critical part here is the meat factor.

As the slow cooker cooks under a simmering point and heats up slowly, there is little movement and shifting inside the pot. So covering the meat in liquid is essential here, as it provides even heating and ensures that the meat cooks evenly on all sides.

Now with the vegetables, it is an entirely different story. One of the great things about using a crock pot for vegetables is that you don’t need much water. Veggies are much lighter than pieces of meat, so they tend to ‘move’ around the pot of a slow cooker much more often. Their weight ensures they move and turn to provide even cooking from all sides.

To ensure I won’t leave you hanging, you should cut the vegetables into smaller pieces. You can imagine that the bigger the chunks are, the harder it is for them to ‘float’ in a crock pot.

So to recap:

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

And that’s it.

Also, you enjoyed your time here, and I look 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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