The Easy Way to Adapt Recipes to the Size of Your Slow Cooker

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Christine Han)

There’s one big assumption you’ll find in almost any slow cooker recipe: the actual size of the slow cooker. This handy appliance can range in size from about one quart to eight quarts, but most recipes are written for slow cookers that land somewhere in the middle.

If you’re working with a larger or smaller slow cooker than is used in a recipe, don’t let it deter you. With a few simple tweaks, it’s easy to adapt almost any recipe to suit the size of your slow cooker.

The Two Rules You Should Know

No matter what size slow cooker you’re using, there’s one general guideline to always use: the level of fill in the bowl. One of the most basic indicators for slow-cooker success is simply how full it is. And there’s a certain level that works best.

Slow cookers are at their best when they’re two-thirds to three-quarters of the way full. Most recipes are written with this in mind. When the bowl isn’t full enough, food will cook faster and may burn, but if it’s too full, the cook time may need to be extended beyond what’s suggested in the recipe to account for the additional volume.

It’s also important to maintain the ratio of liquid to solid ingredients as directed in a recipe. This will ensure food cooks properly and maintains the right consistency.

Keeping these two rules in mind, most slow-cooker recipes can simply be scaled up or down accordingly to meet the size of your slow cooker.

Making a Really Small Recipe in a Really Big Slow Cooker

But what happens when you only have a huge slow cooker and want to make a small recipe? If you’re working with a big slow cooker and prefer not to scale a recipe up, an oven-safe baking dish provides an easy work-around. Add the recipe ingredients to the baking dish, sized so it’s two-third to three-quarters full, then place the dish inside the bowl of the slow cooker. Cover with the lid and cook as directed.