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How Does Slow Cooking Work?

Published by: Chef Matty Riedel • Updated: October 24, 2023

Slow cooking is not a modern invention. It’s been around for centuries!

Slow cooking requires you to cook certain kinds of food slowly, as the name suggests. This generally involves keeping specific settings, such as temperature, lower than you usually would so that you can cook the meat or vegetables as thoroughly as possible. 

What Is Slow Cooking? 

Slow cooking is a technique of cooking that involves keeping the temperatures low so that you can cook food for a more extended period of time. Essentially, you can place the food in a pot or container and place this container over low heat while waiting for it to cook. 

You can use this way of cooking in the oven, over the stove, for roasting, braising and more. The primary purpose of this kind of slow cooking is to tenderize the food, usually meat (especially if it’s tough and sinewy), while allowing the food to absorb as much flavour as possible. 

Depending on your requirements, you can include or exclude liquids in the slow cooking process. 

In more recent times, slow cooking tends to refer to the method of using a slow cooker to cook food. This countertop appliance is also referred to as a crock pot

The Beauty Of Slow Cooking 

a slow cooker on a busy kitchen bench

Slow cooking requires you to take care of certain things to get the process right. To figure out how slow cooking works and what it involves, you can go through the following sections to feel more confident about trying it out on your own. 


Slow cooking requires you to use a container or pot that you can safely place over the heat for long periods. When it comes to slow cookers, in particular, there is usually a base that comes with a control knob for the settings. This is the part that comes into direct contact with the heat. 

This base can either be separate from the cooking vessel, or it could simply surround it externally. 

On top of the base is the cooking vessel where you should place your food for cooking. This vessel is usually thick and sturdy to ensure even cooking. 

The lid comes on top of the vessel to prevent spilling and heat loss. The lid or the base (or both) can contain handles for managing the pot. 

Slow cooker chicken taco soup topped with fresh cilantro and avocado
Slow cooker chicken taco soup topped with fresh cilantro and avocado

Kinds Of Food 

You can cook several kinds of food using the slow cooking process. Some of these include the following. 

  • Meats are most commonly cooked, poached, roasted or braised through slow cooking. Tougher meats, in particular, can become nice and tender through slow cooking. 
  • Slow cooking can work exceptionally well for vegetables, although you will need to prepare them well and place them strategically so that they can cook thoroughly. 
  • You can prepare sauces and dips using the slow cooking process since this will help reduce them perfectly. 
  • Commonly, soups and stews that contain meat and vegetables and copious amounts of liquid can work well in slow cooking. 


The process of slow cooking relies on the base to get heated up first and foremost. Once the base heats up, the heat travels through the sides of the pot or cooker and then upwards into the food that is present in the cooking container or vessel. 

Due to the presence of the lid, there is minimal heat loss. This is because the lid allows the vessel to keep all the moisture inside, allowing the condensation to keep the lid firmly in place. 


How long the entire process will take depends on the settings and heat level as well as the contents of the vessel that you want to cook. You should, however, account for nearly double (and even more) the time that it would usually take you to cook the food using faster cooking methods. 

You should set aside several hours for your food to cook thoroughly. This could be anywhere between two to ten hours, sometimes even more. 


Usually, slow cooking involves lower settings as compared to your usual cooking methods. Even within this, however, appliances such as slow cookers can involve high and low settings, with the high settings providing more heat but still taking longer than faster cooking techniques. 

Low cookings rely on much lower heat throughout the process, which can be great for leaner cuts of meats or stews. 

You might also have a warm setting that will help you maintain the high temperatures of the food so that you do not need to reheat it when you have guests over. 


How much quantity of food you can cook using the slow cooking method depends on the container or pot that you are using or the size of your slow cooker. You can buy different sizes of slow cookers so that you are prepared in case you need to cook for plenty of people at once. 

Generally, you should avoid filling up the pot or cooker completely as this could cause liquids to overflow while also preventing an even distribution of heat. 

Make sure you fill the pot halfway through at a minimum so that the slow cooking method can work well. Do not fill the cooker beyond two-thirds of the pot. 

Our Favourite Slow Cookers

Advantages Of Slow Cooking 

There are several advantages of slow cooking that you can look into below. 


Slow cooking is highly convenient since you can simply prepare your ingredients and put them all in a single pot. During the cooking process, you do not need to keep checking on the food so you are essentially free to carry out your other tasks while the food cooks on its own. 

It can also help keep the food warm for a long time without needing to reheat it. 

Tough Meats 

You can buy and use tough and cheap cuts of meat while still being able to achieve a final result that is as tender, juicy and flavorful as already tenderized and high-quality meat. 

This can be a great way for you to cook great and healthy meals for yourself while also helping you save plenty of money when it comes to the meat that you buy. 


Slow cooking can be an extremely healthy choice to make since you can cook low-fat options using this method. Making stews, soups, poached or roasted meat and making good use of spices and liquids can be a lot healthier as compared to quickly frying the food or using quicker cooking methods. 

Since your food remains warmer for a longer period of time, it can also stay fresh for longer while preventing any bacteria from gathering over the food. 

Further, slow cooking can allow the meat and vegetables to absorb the flavours of the other ingredients and spices in a much fuller way. 


Slow cooking is quite an economical and affordable choice since this method uses very low power to function effectively. This is much better than having to run your other devices for long periods of time. 

This can help you save plenty of money when it comes to your power bills. 

Moreover, you can also get away with buying tougher meat as the slow cooking method will reliably cook the meat and make it tender. 

You can also indirectly end up saving on your water bills since you will only need to wash a single container as opposed to the multiple pots that regular cooking would involve. 


Slow cooking is quite efficient in terms of both energy and time. Since slow cooking uses low amounts of power or electricity, even if you keep it running for a long time, you will end up saving plenty of energy in your household. 

This is also a lot more sustainable for the environment, particularly if you add the amount of water that you will be saving in the cleaning process. Slow cooking also prevents heat and water loss to a considerable extent. 

You can also perform other tasks while you wait for your food to cook, helping you save more time. Cleaning is also much more efficient due to the single container. 

Tips And Safety 

The following tips are important for cooking and safety. 

  • Keep the lid shut at all times to prevent heat and moisture loss. 
  • If you want to store some of the food, remove it from the container after you cook it thoroughly for at least an hour. You can then remove it and reheat it, but avoid slow cooking for reheating. 
  • Do not let the base come into contact with liquids. 
  • Do not fill up the container completely. 
  • Check the temperature of the food using a thermometer to check if it is cooked fully. 
  • Check out our list of slow cooker accessories for even better results.

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Chef and Restaurant Owner Matty Riedel
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