Does A Slow Cooker Need Water In The Base?

One thing that is almost ingrained in our brains is that you need water to cook. But this isn’t always true, especially with slow cookers. For example, most slow cooker recipes are better with less liquid than you’d use when making the same dish in a pot on the stove. So, “does a slow cooker need water in the base?”

This question causes heated debates. This article reveals the answer and guides you when you should and shouldn’t use water, as well as some tips to determine the right amount of water needed for slow cookers.

Does A Slow Cooker Need Water In The Base?

Yes, slow cookers need water in the base. However, the amount of water you need to add depends on the natural moisture and fat in the food you’re cooking. Some foods won’t require a large amount of extra serving because too much can make your dish look bland. But you’ll need to add more liquid when cooking drier foods. In addition, some unsuitable foods can ruin your slow cooker.

Conversely, you can cook dry in slow cookers. When dry cooking in slow cookers, you should use foods that already contain a significant amount of natural liquid, such as meats that are high in moisture and natural fats. That amount of liquid creates the steam needed to cook the food.

In general, you should limit the amount of water you add to your slow cooker. But, again, it all depends on the type of food you cook. So, the rest of this article answers some essential questions regarding adding water to the base of your slow cooker. Read on to find out!

Why Do You Need Water In Slow Cookers?

A slow cooker is an enclosed environment and is free of steam. So, water is needed to make steam, and a small amount is needed for everything to happen. You should put water in slow cookers to avoid burning and drying the food. However, a small amount of liquid may be enough to produce the necessary steam. Alternatively, you can slow cook without adding water if the ingredients already contain enough natural water. They release these juices when heated.

In addition, most nutritionists and manufacturers recommend keeping the lid on during cooking. There’s a reason why slow cookers have lids. The lid keeps all the steam generated during the cooking process. A vacuum buffer is created in the base and lid that traps all the steam as the food cooks. The steam condenses and slowly drips back into the vessel, where it continuously seeps into the contents of the food. That’s why the food cooked in slow cookers is so moist and delicious.

Even so, you should still add the minimum amount of liquid to it to create steam when cooking dry meat. It could be a little beer or wine, vinegar or marinade, or a small amount of broth.

How Much Water Should You Add To Slow Cookers?

Slow cookers need to be at least half-filled. However, you can use your ingredients and foods to achieve this, not just water. The ideal recipe is for one-third of your food to be covered in water. As a result, the food will be delicious and retain its flavor.

In general, you should add very little water to your slow cooker unless you are making soups or stews. Thus, limit the amount of water you put in slow cookers. If you’re unsure how much water you should use or try a new recipe, keep liquids to a minimum. Otherwise, you may end up with mushy and tasteless food.

Admittedly, it takes a few tries to see how much water is enough. Just a little practice, and you’ll understand it quickly. To help you better, we recommend the ideal water amount to slow cookers based on 3 popular types of food.

Soups or stews

If you’re making soups or stews, you’ll need to add a significant amount of water—ideal broth or stock. The amount of liquid should at least reach the 3/4 mark on the slow cooker when adding stews. Also, it depends on the consistency you want to stew.


Most meats also release liquid during cooking. Because of this extra natural substance, you can cook fatty meats like chicken wings and thighs, pork shoulder, shins, and lamb thighs without adding water.

However, lean meats like breast and chicken fillet won’t taste good if you cook them dry. If you want the lean meat to be extra tender, you should cover the lid during the slow cooking process.

If you’re stewing meat with bones for broth or stock, you’ll also need a lot of water in the pot. The ideal amount of water will cover the entire bone.


Beans will need a lot of water to cook in slow cookers. Especially if you’re not soaking beans overnight, you’ll have to lift the lid and frequently add water that’s lost at some point during the cooking process.

3 Quick Rules When Putting Water In Slow Cookers

  1. You don’t need to put water in the base of slow cookers because it’s heated by coils hidden in its core, not hot water.
  2. Read recipes carefully each time, so you don’t make the mistake of pouring water into the bottom of slow cookers. It can result in damage to your slow cooker.
  3. Most recipes call for adding water to other ingredients (soups, sauces, seasonings) to increase volume or make cooking easier.

5 Tips To Limit Water In Slow Cookers

If you put too much liquid in slow cookers, your food may taste bland or overcooked. Therefore, sometimes you need to limit the amount of liquid in the base of your slow cooker. Here are 5 ways for you to pre-dry without adding too much water.

1. Defrost food before cooking

Frozen food accumulates extra liquid, especially if you don’t cover it during storage. The amount of added liquid will increase the amount intended during cooking.

2. Put flour on vegetables and meat

You can dip vegetables or meat with a lot of liquid in the batter before putting them in slow cookers. It reduces the amount of liquid they release. Alternatively, you can add a little oil to give vegetables and meat a crunchy taste similar to pan-fried foods.

3. Open the pot lid

Suppose you happen to look through the glass lid and realize that your dish is cooked but still has too much water. How can you cook all the liquid?

You can open the lid for the last 1-2 hours of cooking and turn the high setting. It helps the liquid evaporate faster and even thickens the sauce.

4. Discharge the excess water

You can always dump the excess water away. But why waste that delicious and nutrient-rich soup?

Instead, you can strain excess water into a jar and freeze it for another day. Or you can put it on the stove and add some cornstarch to make the sauce.

5. Adjust the seasoning

Food that tastes bland may be people’s biggest complaint about slow cookers. If you’re afraid that the excess water might reduce the dish’s flavor, you can add a little seasoning to ensure the flavor.

Alternatively, you can thicken the liquid with Tapioca powder or cornstarch. However, the drawback is that thickening the liquid can lose some of the flavors.

Final Thoughts

In general, slow cookers need water in the base. However, it depends on what you’re cooking. Furthermore, the amount of liquid you add depends on the type of food. For example, soups and stews require a lot of water. In contrast, different meats require different amounts of water.

You can cook dry in your slow cooker. However, it only applies to foods with a large amount of natural moisture.

In addition, if you accidentally put too much water in slow cookers, you can follow the 5 tips in the article to prevent food from being bland or overcooked. Happy cooking!

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