slow cooker

Crock Pot / Slow Cooker High vs Low: Which Should You Use?

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A slow cooker is one of those appliances that you simply need to have in your kitchen, especially if you don’t have time to stand over a stove cooking all day.

From soups to casseroles, stews, and more, there are so many things you can make with your slow cooker, you just need to know how to use it properly!

Is it better to cook on high or low with a slow cooker?

You might have found yourself in a pickle: “Slow cooker high vs low temperature?”.

It is definitely best to cook on low with a slow cooker, as this is what it was designed for, and it is the best way to allow flavors to develop and to soften meat and vegetables. However, there are some times when using high is fine, such as cooking lean meats or vegetables on their own.

Most slow cookers come with various settings, with low and high being two of the most common, and knowing how to use these, and when to use these, is important to get the most from your slow cooker. Read on to find out more!

What Is the Difference Between High and Low on a Slow Cooker?

Before determining what is better to use on a slow cooker, it helps to understand the differences between high and low settings on a slow cooker.

The main difference between high and low on a slow cooker is how long it takes for the food to reach a simmer, as the temperature is different. On low, the slow cooker takes longer to reach a simmer, and it takes quicker when the slow cooker is on high.

On low, the food will cook for longer at a lower temperature, and the temperature stabilizes once the slow cooker reaches a simmer. On high, the food cooks at a higher temperature for a shorter period of time.

An easier way to think of it other than varying temperatures is the time that the slow cooker is on for. High requires less cooking time, whereas low requires a longer cooking time.

Food is therefore cooked quicker when on high, but this doesn’t allow the food the same amount of time to develop a deeper flavor and for meat to soften more.

What Other Settings Are on a Slow Cooker?

Depending on the brand and the model, the slow cooker will likely have other settings, not just low and high.

Most come with an automatic setting, which begins by cooking the food on high, and once it has reached a simmer, after around an hour, the slow cooker then turns down to low and leaves the food to cook slowly.

Most slow cookers also come with a keep-warm setting, where the slow cooker will stay at a very low temperature, which keeps the food warm once it is cooked fully, but does not cook it too much further.

More modern slow cookers might have various buttons and settings for specific types of food, such as stew, soup, and more.

What Are The Benefits of Cooking on Low?

A slow cooker is meant to cook food slowly and at a low temperature, so you should always opt for the low setting where possible.

slow cooker high vs low

There are a few reasons why cooking on low is a good idea:

Softens Meat

One of the best benefits of cooking on low on the slow cooker is that it softens meat beautifully. Fattier cuts of meat, such as chuck and shin, can often be tough if they are not cooked properly. In a slow cooker on low, these can be cooked for hours and allowed to soften to be so tender.

When you do not have the time to spend hours over a stovetop cooking the meat, you can pop it into the slow cooker with other ingredients, set it to low, and leave it to tenderize during the day.

Deeper Flavor

Left to cook for longer on low temperatures, the meal you are cooking will have enough time to develop deep, beautiful flavors. The ingredients will blend and soak together, and you will be left with a delicious meal. The longer it is left to cook, the better the flavor will be.

Energy Saving

It is more energy efficient to cook meals for longer in a slow cooker, rather than cooking them for longer on a gas stove or in an oven, so not only are you getting a delicious meal, but it is better for your wallet too.

When Should You Cook on High?

As mentioned above, a slow cooker was meant to be used on low, and slow, but there are some times when using a slow cooker on high is okay.

Cooking on high does have some benefits, such as the food cooking quicker, in 3 or 4 hours compared to the longer cooking time required on low.

slow cooker cooking on high

However, you do need to be sure that you do not overcook food in a high setting, as it is at a higher temperature, and there is a risk of the food cooking too much.

Here are some of the foods that do well when cooked on high in a slow cooker:

Lean Meat

Lean meat tends to cook better on high in a slow cooker, as it can easily dry out and become chewy if it is left to cook for too long. Cooking it on high for a shorter time means that the lean meat will not be overdone.


Chicken can also be cooked on high, otherwise, it can become dry and overcooked. Cooked for too long, chicken can be unappetizing. At high heat for a short time, chicken can be cooked perfectly and be soft.


Potato dishes do well when cooked on high, and even whole potatoes only need to be cooked for 4 hours in the slow cooker. Potato meals do not need to be cooked for any longer than this, so high is a good setting to use.

Slow Cooker Cooking Times

If you need a little help on how long to cook something in a slow cooker, on both low and high, here is a chart that covers the basic meals you would cook in a slow cooker, and how long they need to be cooked for.

Type Of MeatWeightLow SettingHigh Setting
Beef Stew Cuts – Chuck, Shoulder, Roast3 Pounds6 Hours5 Hours
Beef Roast – Chuck, Brisket, Round4 Pounds8 Hours6 Hours
Pork Loin4 Pounds6 Hours5 Hours
Pork Roast – Butt, Shoulder6 Pounds9 Hours7 Hours
Chicken6 Pounds6 Hours4 Hours
Fish3 Pounds3 Hours1 Hour

Should You Layer Food in Your Slow Cooker?

If you are making a soup, stew, or casserole, it is a good idea to layer your food in the slow cooker. It won’t be an absolute disaster if you don’t, but the food at the bottom of the pot will be closer to the heating element and therefore need to be able to handle the heat more.

Putting the ingredients in a specific order will have some effect on how they are cooked.

slow cooker high vs low

Ideally, you would want harder root vegetables, such as potatoes, parsnips, and carrots at the bottom, as well as meats.

The next layer will consist of grains if you are adding any into the slow cooker. After that, you will place the vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and other delicate vegetables, and lastly, the liquid that you would pour over all of the ingredients.

Can I Cook on High for Half the Time as Cooking on Low?

You might think that you can cut cooking time down, and cook on high for 4 hours, when a recipe calls for the food to be cooked on low for 8 hours.

This might work sometimes, but it won’t give you the same flavor development and soft meat that you would get from cooking on low for longer. You will still get a delicious meal, but it will definitely not be the same as cooking on low for double the hours.

Crock Pot/Slow Cooker High vs Low

In most cases, you should definitely cook on low when using a slow cooker, as this is what a slow cooker was made for, and what it is best at doing.

A meal will have a more developed flavor if left to cook on low for longer, and it allows fattier cuts of meat to soften beautifully.

However, there are some meals that can be cooked on high, such as meals with potatoes, lean meat, and chicken.

Hopefully, the above guide will help you know when to use the low or high setting on your slow cooker!

Related Questions

Can I Switch the Slow Cooker from High to Low?

You can start the slow cooker on high to kickstart the simmering, and then switch it down to low to cook for a good few hours.

Does a Slow Cooker Use a Lot of Energy?

Slow cookers do not use much energy and are one of the most energy-efficient appliances you can use in the kitchen.

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