Slow cooker liners can be a timesaver and are gaining popularity with busy home cooks. They either considerably reduce the clean-up required after slow-cooking or eliminate cleaning altogether. The liners are affordable and you'll find a good variety of brands available. Reynolds Kitchens is among the best-known brands that produce crock pot liners and they're easy to find in stores. We put them to the test to see how well they work.
What Are Reynolds Slow Cooker Liners?
Reynolds is an old name in the kitchen, probably best known for making foil and plastic wrap. When developing the slow cooker liners, the company relied on that experience to use a nylon blended plastic that they claim has been used for three decades. The material is BPA-free and compliant with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines for such products, so they are safe to cook with. They are also certified Kosher.
The liners are sized to fit inside crock pots of any brand. When first released, they were only available for larger crock pots and slow-cookers, in the 4- to 6-quart capacities. Now you can find them for smaller 1- to 3-quart versions.
The concept behind them is that you can cook as normal, without adjusting recipes or cooking times, then simply dispose of the liner when you're done. They eliminate the need to soak or scrub the slow cooker to remove those hard-to-remove bits that are often the result of such long cooking times.
The liners are not intended to be food storage bags. They're also not suitable as oven cooking bags or for other electric cookers or pressure cookers like instant pots.
How the Liners Performed
Is this product too good (and easy) to be true? It's good to be a little skeptical about things promoted to make cooking easier. After all, you don't want to waste money on a product that doesn't perform as promised. The big questions on this particular product are whether they fit well in the slow cooker, can take the heat of extended cooking periods, and genuinely make clean-up easier.
Use is as simple as it can be. Place the liner in your slow cooker and fold it over the rim to the outside of the cooker, add recipe ingredients and apply the lid. Cook as usual—the liners affect neither temperature, performance, or anything else. That's pretty easy.
The regular-sized bags fit well in the largest slow cooker—a classic 5-quart oval-shaped cooker—with ample room left over. It's cumbersome and heavy to wash, so the promise of reducing cleanup is very much welcomed.
Checking often through the day, and especially when the slow cooker was on high, no hot plastic was detected. It takes the heat surprisingly well and doesn't stick or shrivel against the hot sides of the cooker. There is also excess liner to drape over the rim of the slow cooker so no fear of it sliding down inside during cooking. The lid should remain on at all times, the same as when you slow cook without a liner.
When it came to food removal, it was easy to gather the liner edges and slide/pour a stew right into a serving bowl. For other meal items such as a pot roast or pasta sauce, the food was scooped out as usual. Once the liner was empty, it was then discarded. Easy as pie.
On one occasion, it did leave some whitish residue pattern where the liner folded onto itself in the bottom of the slow cooker. A quick rinse removed it easily. That's still much simpler and quicker than having to presoak or scrub the slow cooker ceramic insert. These liners also seem to remove the dread that comes with cooking something you know will evidently result in a longer and messier cleanup.
The Reynolds Slow Cooker Liners do a great job of eliminating clean-up or drastically reducing it. This does depend on how messy you get when it comes to serving and dripping food down the sides of the slow cooker. Cleanup could not be simpler and that's a good time-saver for the busy cook.
Since it is BPA-free, that alleviated fears about using a plastic liner. As for cost, they generally work out to about $1 a liner when not on sale. That's a good deal if you consider your time valuable.
Considering that slow cooking is designed to cut down on time in the kitchen in the first place, these liners can definitely help that even more. If you decide to try them for yourself, keep the liner package stored in your slow cooker so you don't forget about them when it's time to slow cook.