I’ve decided to give the old familiar roast a try in the crockpot. There’s just one thing I’m not so sure about: How much water do you put in a slow cooker for a roast?
Recipes vary, but the amount of liquid in a slow cooker should never cover more than half of the roast. The liquid in a crockpot doesn’t evaporate, and other ingredients like vegetables create even more liquid. Some recipes only add a few tablespoons of water.
My favorite slow cooker cookbook The Complete Slow Cooker (from Amazon) has a whole section on cooking roasts which is well worth a read for its great tips.
So, you’ve got all your ingredients ready for a delicious roast in the slow cooker, but what should go in first, and should you brown the roast before adding it? Let’s find out.
Should A Roast Be Covered With Liquid In A Slow Cooker?
You do not have to cover a roast with liquid in a slow cooker. No matter the size of the roast you want to cook in the slow cooker, the amount of liquid should never cover more than half of the roast. A rule sometimes followed is to use half the amount of liquid used in the traditional recipe.
A well-sized slow cooker is helpful for roasts and the liquid, like this 7-Quart CrockPot which can do up to a 7lb roast.
Slow cookers are forgiving and can be used with little or lots of liquid, as long as the bottom doesn’t dry up and burn. If you completely cover a pot roast you are technically making a stew – so usually less liquid is used.
The liquid in a slow cooker doesn’t evaporate due to the lower cooking temperatures and the lid. Therefore, unless you are preparing soup or stew, you shouldn’t add too much liquid.
The liquid that you do add to your roast doesn’t necessarily have to be water. Alternatives like broth, tomato juice, beer, or wine will give your dish extra intensity and flavor.
Martha-Stewart, an American author of many different cookbooks, believes in adding only a few teaspoons of liquid to a slow cooker. Here is a delicious pot roast recipe with the only liquid being two tablespoons of cold water and a drizzle of Worcestershire.
Do You Have To Brown A Roast Before Putting It In The Crockpot?
Strictly speaking, meat doesn’t have to be browned before going into the slow cooker. But browning adds flavor from the “Maillard reaction” due to caramelization and so is recommended for the depth of flavor it adds. It is a short extra step for a special piece of meat.
With searing, the natural sugars in the roast caramelize, and the brown crust on the surface of the roast further deepens and enhances a deep and delicious flavor to your dish. Here are a few searing tips:
- Ensure that the roast is at room temperature;
- Season the meat as the seasoning will aid in creating a seared crust full of flavor;
- Make sure that the pan is flaming hot so that your roast doesn’t stick to the surface;
- Sear the whole roast. Sear the ends by holding up the roast with tongs or other utensils. Remember, you also want the seared crust on both ends of the roast.
Another great tip is to cover the roast in seasoned flour before searing it. The flour will help thicken up the sauce in which your roast and vegetables are slowly cooking to perfection.
Finally, by searing the roast, you will ensure that the dish is less fatty and greasy as a significant amount of natural fat disappears during the searing process.
Should Meat Or Vegetables Go In Crockpot First?
The timing of when to add vegetables to your crockpot depends on the type of vegetable you choose to add. Vegetables that require more cooking, such as root vegetables, can go in with the meat. Softer vegetables that require less cooking should be added towards the end of cooking.
Root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and onions are vegetables that take longer to cook so can be added with the meat. Sometimes they are placed at the bottom of the crockpot in recipes, with the meat placed on top, but this can make mushy carrots so opt for putting them less submerged. Although it’s very easy to just add everything, set it, and forget it. If they are coming out hard, see my post on hard carrots and potatoes in the slow cooker.
Be sure to add more delicate vegetables like mushrooms, peas, and zucchini only during the last hour of cooking as they can easily overcook and become mushy.
Life sometimes gets away from us, and the only vegetables you might find to add to your slow cooker might be a frozen packet of mixed veggies or green beans. Fear not, as you can also add frozen veggies to your pot roast recipe. Remember that they will add more liquid, and you should only add these vegetables about 30 to 45 minutes before your roast is finished.
Don’t forget to add some dark green leafy vegetables as they contain many nutrients and antioxidants. Fresh herbs and leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, and watercress should only be added to the slow cooker during the last hour of cooking.
How To Thicken The Leftover Liquid In Your Slow Cooker
As mentioned earlier, the liquid in a slow cooker never evaporates. You will always end up with some amount of liquid at the bottom of your crockpot.
To further enhance your delicious roast meat and vegetable dish, you can quickly transform the liquid into a thick, velvety gravy. I’ve got more tips in my post how to prevent too much liquid in a slow cooker.
Simply transfer the juices to a large saucepan and follow one of these guidelines:
- Mix together equal parts of hot water and flour. Then, add two tablespoons of your water and flour mixture for each cup of liquid in your slow cooker.
- If you want a less milky-looking gravy, simply use cornstarch instead of flour. Mix one part cornstarch with two parts cold water. Add three tablespoons of your cornstarch and water mixture to each cup of liquid in your slow cooker.
- With a fork, mix equal parts of flour and butter in a small bowl. It should form a buttery paste. If the mixture is too thick, simply add more melted butter. Whisk this buttery paste into the liquid until it starts to thicken.
Tips For Cooking A Slow Cooker Roast
- Cook on low rather than high for extra tender meat
- Cook your vegetables separately, or add later to avoid soft mushy veggies
- Use tougher, cheaper cuts of meat to cook slowly and become tender
- You might not need as much liquid as you think – meat and vegetables release liquid when cooking
- Thicken the sauce in a pan to make a gravy
- Thickening with flour creates a cloudy gravy, while cornstarch makes a clear gravy
Hopefully, I’ve now answered your questions on how much water goes into a slow cooker for a roast. Once you’ve decided to make a roast in the slow cooker, there are so many delicious recipes to choose from. The crockpot is an economical, easy, and time-saving method of cooking. All you need is your piece of roast and a few hearty vegetables. Just remember not to drown your roast in liquid!