If you ever wondered what the recommended fill-level is for slow cookers and crockpots you wouldn't be alone. The fill level changes for each recipe, so there may not be a specific fill-level to follow. You will have to adjust the food level through trial and error or by always keeping a safe 1.5-inch clearance from the brim of the pot.
If you fill a crockpot or slow cooker right to the top edge of the pot, during the bubbling or simmering process, a vacuum will form which will cause some of the crockpot liquid to be siphoned out of the cooker. It will drip down the side of the pot and onto your counter. To avoid messes, do not fill your slow cooker right to the top. Leaving some room at the top edge of the pot will allow ample room for the foods to simmer during cooking. This practice will reduce food waste and avoid a messy cleanup.
Avoid Foods Sticking Inside the Slow Cooker
Slow cookers are designed with a glossy interior finish to help keep foods from sticking and make cleanup easier. Over time the finish will eventually wear off and foods will start sticking to the walls of the cooker. This will be very noticeable and certain foods, like acidic pasta sauces, can wear off the finish quicker than other foods.
If you spray or grease the interior of your slow cooker with a cooking oil spray before placing the food in it, the finish will last a little longer and foods will be less likely to stick to the interior. Though this is only a temporary solution, it can help to extend the cooker's usable life. Avoid cleaning your slow cooker with harsh cleaners and very abrasive cleaners like steel wool. These can damage the inside of the slow cooker and cause the non-stick surface to wear away much faster. If your non-stick surface inside the slow cooker is very worn, it's best to buy a new slow cooker.
Slow Cooker Bags Make Cleanup a Breeze
There is another product on the market to save on slow cooker clean-up: slow cooker cooking bags. These are mostly designed to fit large crockpots or slow cookers in the 5 and 6-quart range. They are very simple to use, affordable and a few brands are available in varying pack sizes.
Two popular brands are Debbie Myer Slowcooking Liners and Reynolds Slowcooker Bags. All of these are similar in construction and size, contain the mess, and should be discarded after each use. They are time savers and quite useful. The only drawback is if you use your slow cooker to brown meat first, it can be tricky to use the liner for that since the surface of the slow cooker with the liner is not the same. For an alternate option, brown the meat in a pan and then follow the slow cooker recipe, using the liner.