365 Days of Slow Cooking: Kitchen Tip Tuesday: Cooking in the slow cooker if you're going to be gone all day
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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Kitchen Tip Tuesday: Cooking in the slow cooker if you're going to be gone all day

Tips for cooking in the slow cooker/crockpot if you're going to be gone all day.
What happens if you're gone from your house for 10+ hours at a time...
can you still cook in your slow cooker?

Hoisin Shredded Pork Sliders (6-10 hours in the crockpot)
Today we are answering a question from Amy.
She writes:

"Help! I'm a busy working professional and leave the house at 7am each morning. I'm not home until 6pm each evening. I LOVE the idea of slow cooker recipes and meals that are ready for me after a long day, but have NO CLUE how I could ever make this work, seeing as I'm away from the house for 11 hours each day. Do you have any suggestions/ tips for me? Are there ANY recipes that could work for this time frame?"

No Fail BBQ Beef (6-10 hours)
Thanks for your question, Amy. It's the predicament of many women!

My first suggestion is to invest in a slow cooker that has a timer on it. One that will automatically switch to warm after the time that you set it for. For example, I own this slow cooker and it works great for that purpose. I like it because you can set it for 30 minute increments. I also suggest this slow cooker because it is the one that America's Test Kitchen suggests. And I trust them. Only ever cook on LOW and have it switch to warm after suggested cooking time is up.

Cuban-style Black Bean Soup (about 8 hours)
Second, make food that is best suited for longer cook periods. Like a pork or beef roast, dried beans, soups. Here is a list of my recipes that need more than 6 hours to cook.
Mexican Pulled Pork (7-9 hours)
Third, if possible use frozen meats (or partially frozen) in the slow cooker. This will extend your cooking time by a couple of hours. I've heard that you aren't supposed to do this (because of food poisoning risk) but I do it all the time. So if you feel comfortable with it, then do it. If not, that is fine too.
Beef and Barley Soup (6-8 hours)
Fourth, you could possibly think about using my recipes in a pressure cooker. Put all the ingredients together before work. Then when you get home you'll have a few minutes and dinner will be ready. Go here for good ideas on pressure cooking.  

Anyone else have any suggestions??  

You will definitely be limited on what you can make when you are gone that long but at least one or two days a week you could have something in the slow cooker ready when you get home!


  1. Great tips and great crockpots!

  2. For years I would use a lamp timer (you know, the ones that you can set to turn your lamp on or off at a certain time). I'd put my food in the crock pot in the morning (usually frozen meat) and my crock pot would turn on when I needed it to so that it would be ready when I got home from work. Worked great for me!

  3. Great tips. Just linked this post on my Tips page on Slow Cooker from Scratch.

  4. Anonymous6/11/12 09:48

    I have the same issue so I do freezer crock pot meals (chop up/prep, bag, and freeze everything beforehand), then I put them in the slow cooker overnight while I sleep. It's ready in the morning and I have lunch and dinner for the day.

  5. I was having problems with soggy vegetables and over cooked meat so I just ordered a timer like the one described above, from Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005MMSTNG/ref=oh_details_o01_s02_i02. It won't go to warm like the crock pots you talked about will, but I can time it to start say at noon and be ready when I get home instead of me worrying that it is over cooking my dinner and being disappointed with the quality of the dinner or trusting that someone would be home to unplug it and have to reheat the food when I get off. I will be able to use my crock pot a lot more if it works for me.

  6. This might not work for everyone but I have a big fridge at work so depending on the recipe I throw it all in the crock pot the night before or in the morning and take it to work with me. Then I can start it when I need to have it ready to take home and have a hot dinner with no work.

  7. Any concerns about frozen meat in the crock pot? I saw this online and now I have concerns about this (though I have definitely done this in the past...). Thoughts? http://busycooks.about.com/od/slowcookerrecipes/a/crockpot101.htm Go down to the first point where it says "Experts recommend..."

  8. yeah, Amy I've read that before. But since my family isn't a high risk group either, I don't worry about it. We haven't gotten food poisoning (that I know about anyhow) yet! It's up to each, I guess.

  9. Even if you don't put the whole insert in the fridge the night before, you can use those cooking bags and put all the ingredients in there and then stick the bag inside the crockpot in the morning. That is another good tip.

    Thanks for the article. I think I am going to have to order a new crockpot so that I can control those options more with time and temperature. Mine tends to burn everything if it cooks all day.

    1. Cooking bags? I have heard of over bags. Thanks

    2. They have slow cooker liners or oven bags that are next to the foil and plastic bags at the grocery store.

  10. Marcia, good idea with the cooking bags! I love those things.

  11. My meats are almost always overcooked and dry and the edges of dishes often burnt. I think it is my make/model of crockpot. I tried to see your two recommendations but the links aren't active. What do you recommend?

    1. Hi Jen,
      Here is a link to my amazon store. I write about each slow cooker that I personally own and why I like it. Hopefully this will be helpful to you! http://astore.amazon.com/365dayofsloco-20