So Your Slow Cooker Recipe Only Takes 4 Hours. Here’s How to Fix It.

updated May 1, 2019
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Slow Cooker Minestrone (Image credit: Guy Ambrosino)

One of a slow cooker’s best characteristics is its ability to cook a meal for you while you do a hundred other things. Dump the makings of a hearty chili into one, let it do its thing while you go about your day, and return home to a warm dinner ready and waiting. The only kicker is that some slow cooker recipes call for a shorter cook time than you want. If you’re out for eight hours, a recipe that takes just four hours just isn’t going to work. Luckily, those kinds of recipes don’t have to be left for weekends. Here’s how to add time onto short-cooking recipes and make them fit your schedule.

How to Extend Time on a Slow Cooker Recipe

While many of our favorite slow cooker recipes call for six to eight hours of cook time, many others don’t. According to the Crock-Pot brand of slow cookers, you can pretty easily adjust a recipe to fit your schedule. The only difference between the HIGH and LOW setting on a slow cooker is the amount of time it takes to reach the simmer point, or temperature at which the contents of the appliance are being cooked at. The LOW setting takes longer than the HIGH setting. Once that temperature is hit, the appliance stabilizes at that temperature to allow for the ingredients to be cooked.

This means most recipes can be cooked on either setting. If a recipe calls for cooking on the HIGH setting for three hours, you can cook it for seven hours on the LOW setting instead. Or if a recipe calls for eight hours on HIGH, it can be cooked for up to 12 hours on LOW.

Converting “High” Cook Time to “Low” Cook Time

3 hours on HIGH = 7 hours on LOW 4 hours on HIGH = 8 hours on LOW 5 hours on HIGH = 9 hours on LOW 6 hours on HIGH = 10 hours on LOW 7 hours on HIGH = 11 on LOW

8 hours on HIGH = 12 on LOW

It should be noted that recipes that call for under three hours of cook time on HIGH should be converted cautiously. It should technically take six hours on LOW to cook something that calls for two hours on HIGH, but that might not be enough time for all the ingredients to completely cook. If you have meat cooking, check its internal temperature to ensure it’s cooked through.

A Note on Those Short-Cooking Recipes

While extending the time on a short-cooking recipe is a valuable resource on busy weekdays, don’t forget those recipes happen to be perfectly fine for weekends or other moments you happen to be around the house. Toss together the ingredients for a four-hour recipe, like
mac and cheese, on Saturday morning and know that lunch is going to be great. Or assemble a slow cooker
apple crisp (which only takes a few hours) when you just start to think about what to make for dinner, and feel confident that at least you know what’s for dessert.

Do you have any tips for extending the time on a slow cooker recipe or when to use them?