Paul has been passionate about preparing, cooking, and eating healthy food for over 30 years. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.
Employed in the right way, slow cookers can be a wonderful way to make tasty meals. They are particularly great at tenderizing meat and bringing out its flavor.
Slow cookers also often produce a tasty sauce from the meat juices, or other ingredients, which can be served with the meal.
However, slow cookers do have their downsides as well. The extensive cooking times can be frustrating and some foods just turn to mush.
This article lists and looks at five of the negatives.
5 Disadvantages of Slow Cookers
Here are five downsides of making meals using a slow cooker:
- Cooking times are long.
- You can't sear food.
- They always produce a soft texture.
- It's not possible to adjust as you go.
- Some foods don't work.
I examine each of the five negatives in more detail below.
1. Cooking Times Are Long
Perhaps the biggest single downside is that slow cookers take a long time to make meals. Even the shortest meals can take take three or four hours to make, and a moderately-sized piece of meat can easily require more than nine hours when cooked at a low setting.
This means that you always have to plan ahead when using slow cookers and set the cooking process going long before you wish to eat. If you work full time or have a busy life, then the long cooking times often means that there's zero opportunity to use them during the week, and you end up restricted to just weekends and holidays.
If you are looking for a faster option, then you may wish to consider buying a pressure cooker or Instant Pot.
2. You Can't Sear Food
Many foods benefit from searing, browning, or light frying before you begin the process of slow cooking them. Most slow cookers don't have a setting for sautéing, so you can end up having to use a separate pan for this purpose.
This rather ruins the one-pot meal concept. It can increase the preparation time and creates more mess.
Slow cookers are becoming increasingly versatile, though, and newer models can have more features, such as a sauté function.
3. The Unvaryingly Soft Consistency
While slow cookers are great for producing tasty food and are particularly good at tenderizing meat, the softened texture of the meals can become monotonous if eaten regularly.
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For sure, the slow cooking technique blends the flavors of the ingredients in interesting ways, but any crunch, flakiness, or real firmness tends to be lost, leading to a limited level of textural variety.
The only way around this problem that I've found is to add firmer and crunchier foods towards the very end of the cooking process. For example, I will add cashew nuts to a Chinese chicken dish 10 minutes before the finish, so that the nuts keep their crunchy texture and don't go soggy.
4. No Adjusting as You Go
Once the food is set going, then there is little capacity to adjust or radically alter the recipe or cooking process, you can only make fairly minor adjustments such as adding more seasoning. Slow cooker recipes are generally intended to be left alone to cook for hours, aside from perhaps an occasional stir.
This effectively means that there is little room for error. Once you've added all the ingredients and set your slow cooker going, you basically have to just hope for the best.
5. Some Foods Don't Work
While slow cookers are fairly versatile in many respects, there are some foods that simply don't work when cooked with them, usually because they break down and become mushy, or simply just disintegrate.
Examples of such foods are:
- Dairy products: These tend to separate and curdle. If you're going to add them, do it at the very end of the cooking process.
- Pasta and rice: These will turn into a mushy mess if you attempt to slow cook them. If you want to have pasta or rice with your meal, cook them separately.
- Most seafood: Most fish will just disintegrate. Oysters and clams need to be cooked quickly. Only tougher seafoods like octopus and quid tend to work well in a slow cooker.
- Certain vegetables: Firmer vegetables like potatoes, onions, and leeks can work fine in a slow cooker, but softer ones, such as peppers or peas, will tend to turn to mush.
It should be noted that even with foods that do work in a slow cooker, the cooking times can vary. This means that you often have to stagger the adding of individual ingredients so that nothing overcooks.
My Favorite Slow Cooker: The All-Clad SD700450 Programmable Oval-Shaped
The pros still outweigh the cons for slow cookers, in my opinion. If the downsides haven't put you off and you are looking to buy one of these devices, my suggestion would be to check out the All-Clad SD700450 Programmable Oval-Shaped.
I've used this slow cooker in my home kitchen for nearly three years and I rate it highly. It wasn't the cheapest appliance out there, but I do consider it to offer excellent value for money.
The programming settings are easy to use and give me every option that I need. I own the 6.5-quart version of the All-Clad, but there are smaller options for people with different requirements.
My All-Clad SD700450 Programmable Pros
- The ceramic insert is very easy to clean. It also allows me use metal utensils without worrying about causing scuffs or scratching.
- It's a high-end appliance, the overall design is excellent, both in regard to utility and attractiveness.
- The lid's handle is designed to stay cool and not burn your fingers.
- The heat settings on my All-Clad are very accurate. I've followed a variety of recipes over the last three years and the end results have all been superb.
- The heat settings with the low-end slow cookers can go wrong after you've had them for a while. That's one reason why I don't regret investing in a high-quality and more reliable product. It was worth paying more for an All-Clad.
- It's sturdily built and has been designed to last.
My All-Clad SD700450 Programmable Cons
- The insert is fairly heavy, as with virtually all slow cookers, making it unwieldy when you're washing it by hand. I generally just put it through the dishwasher, unless there's some particularly hard-to-remove stuck-on food. The insert is ceramic and dishwasher safe.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Paul Goodman