Can You Roast In A Slow Cooker Without Liquid? (And How)

When it comes to cooking a pot roast in a slow cooker, the usual method is to add some liquid to help keep the meat moist while it’s cooking. But what happens if you slow cook a roast without adding any liquid at all?

You can “dry roast” meat in a slow cooker provided you select one with plenty of fat or marbling. This will provide enough juices from the meat itself to help keep it from drying out and provide moisture for the crockpot to work properly.

In this guide, I explore this concept a little more deeply to find out how to cook a liquid-less roast and what the pitfalls might be.

Keep reading to find out what the best cuts of meat are to use for slow cooker dry roasting and what happens if the pot runs dry.

Can You Dry Roast In A Slow Cooker?

It is possible to make a roast in a slow cooker without adding any additional liquid if you follow some simple rules:

  • Select a suitable cut of meat
  • Only cook on low, not on high
  • Ensure a tight-fitting lid.

Essentially, the meat will release liquid as it cooks, and as the lid is closed, this liquid will stay there. This means the meat will braise in its own juices in the slow cooker.

If you use leaner meat, less meat juices are released. You need to pick a cut with plenty of fat and connective tissue which will melt to a liquid. These include chuck roast, brisket, and pork shoulder.

Lean cuts are more likely to dry out so are not suitable for cooking dry in the slow cooker.

You need to set the slow cooker on low for at least 8 hours, using high may dry things out too quickly. It’s important to avoid lifting the lid during this time as you need to trap the moist heat.

Dry roasting a cut of meat in your crockpot may sound the complete opposite of what it’s designed for, but in fact, you can cook a roast without any liquid if you follow these tips.

How To Roast In A Slow Cooker Without Liquid (Steps)

Roasting meat in a slow cooker without any water or broth should be done on a low setting for at least 8 hours without lifting the lid during that time.

1. Consider adding a splash of liquid to get it started

As it takes a while for any liquid to release from the meat, consider adding a few tablespoons of water, Worcester sauce, soy sauce, etc. to just cover the base. This will ensure nothing catches on the bottom but won’t make the sauce watery.

2. Rub all over with seasoning

Applying a dry rub of your favorite seasoning adds a depth of flavor to your roast. As you’re dry roasting, the seasoning should form a tasty crust on the meat over the long cooking time. 

3. Place the meat on some vegetables

Vegetables add a nice flavor to the roast and also release additional liquid to the slow cooker. This helps build a sauce and prevent it from drying out in the early stages. Try onion, carrot, and/or potatoes.

4. Cook it on low

Avoid cooking it on high so that the meat has time to release liquid before browning the bottom, and for it to cook perfectly. Everything cooked on low is better in the slow cooker!

5. Ensure the lid fits well and avoid opening it

Cooking meat with very little water is possible because the liquid that is released is used in braising itself. So you need to keep this liquid from drying out by ensuring an enclosed environment in the slow cooker.

If you need a recipe to follow, try out this Slow Cooker Waterless Pot Roast.

The basic recipe follows the standard steps for cooking a dry roast in a Crockpot but adds a few twists for an even tastier result, including adding some vegetables and onion soup seasoning.

Pros And Cons Of Adding Liquid To A Slow Cooker Roast

The usual method for slow cooking a pot roast is to add at least some liquid into the pot. But even this has its advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s take a closer look at what they are:


Prevents the meat drying out: Adding at least some liquid, no matter how small the amount, is the best way to avoid ending up with dry roasted meat, particularly lean cuts.

More liquid for gravy: The most delicious gravy or sauce is always made from the leftover meat juices. Adding some extra liquid at the beginning leaves you with plenty to get your gravy started.


Diluted flavors: By adding liquid to the pot you risk diluting the flavors of the meal, ending up with a bland, watery roast.

Soft meat: The increased moisture in the crockpot may mean you end up with a soft surface to your meat rather than the crustiness of a dry roast.

How Much Water Should You Add For A Slow Cooker Roast?

Add around  ½ to 1 full cup of water for a medium-sized roast and never more liquid than what would come halfway up the side of the meat.

It’s all a balancing act when deciding to add some water, broth, or wine to your pot roast, as too much can dilute the overall taste of the finished product. Too little and your meat may end up somewhat dry, especially if it’s a very lean cut.

To get this right it’s often a case of trial and error as some models may do better with less water whereas others need more.

Try experimenting with different amounts to see what works best for you.

Will Anything Happen If The Slow Cooker Runs Dry?

When a slow cooker runs dry, it can lead to burnt food and an inedible meal. You may also find it very difficult to clean the crockpot afterward.

When using your slow cooker it’s always important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines just in case.

In general, slow cookers will not burn if left on low and are very safe to use, but if the meat is lean, it could end up tough without any liquid in the pot.

Always make sure there is going to be at least some moisture present in the slow cooker, whether it’s from the stock that you’ve added or the natural juices from a suitable cut of meat if you’re dry roasting.

If you’re not sure that there is going to be enough liquid in the recipe you’re cooking, then it would be a good idea to check the slow cooker every hour or so to make sure there is at least some moisture still in the pot.

You can always add a little water or broth if it needs it, but remember you will need to extend the cooking duration every time you open the lid.


I hope you’ve found this guide on cooking a roast in a slow cooker without liquid useful and provided all the answers you’re looking for.

Dry roasting a slow cooker roast is certainly possible and there are many cooks who prefer to use very little liquid even when the recipe calls for more. 

It’s important to make sure you only use the low setting when using this method and to leave the roast undisturbed for at least 8 hours unless you believe there is a risk of burning the food.

Tom Hambly

Tom Hambly is the founder of Boss The Kitchen. With a background in cooking and building websites, he enjoys running this site to help other cooks improve. About Tom Hambly.

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