How To Clean A Slow Cooker

No elbow grease required.

Crock Pot Frozen Chicken
Photo: Getty Images

We work our slow cookers into the ground for any and all occasions. During busy weeks, they give us warm, hearty dinners when we just don't have time to pull together a whole meal. Throughout the holiday season, they are our trusty sidekick with make-ahead sides. They even come through in a pinch in some unexpected ways. Slow cookers have a permanent spot on our kitchen counter. The worst part of having a slow cooker, as many home cooks can attest to, is having to clean off cooked-on gunk post-dinner.

But, as it turns out, there are several incredibly easy ways to get your slow cooker clean, most of which involve the cooker cleaning itself – i.e., little to no work on your part. Isn't this great news? Turn to a few key items in your pantry to battle tough stains, and you won't be up late scrubbing off baked-on cheese again.

How Often to Clean Your Slow Cooker

While some meals make a rinse of the slow cooker's ceramic bowl an easy task, others—like macaroni and cheese, barbecue pulled pork, or Rotel dip— result in a baked-on film that leaves you no choice but to soak overnight. Use this technique as often as needed.

Considerations Before Getting Started

The first important step to note, however, is that you should check your slow cooker's manual before diving in to make sure that you won't violate the terms of your warranty. Slow cookers can be made of many different materials, so what may work for a ceramic slow cooker may not be suitable for a metal one. Of course, always unplug and let your slow cooker cool before cleaning it.

This may sound counterintuitive, but yes—vinegar and baking soda team up in a very un-volcanic way to tackle messy slow cookers. Most manufacturers advise against using harsh cleaners on slow cookers, so this combination of natural ingredients is safe and effective.

What You Need:

* Water

* Vinegar

* Baking soda

* Dish soap

How to Clean a Slow Cooker with Baking Soda and Vinegar

  1. To tackle your baked-on food, start with water. Fill up your slow cooker with water just past where the leftover food hits the side of the dish. This will be the main soaking component of your Crock-Pot cleaning.
  2. Enter one of our favorite all-purpose cleaners! For a small slow cooker, you'll want to add 1/2 cup of distilled vinegar to the water. For a larger slow cooker (i.e., 6 quarts), opt for 1 cup of vinegar.
  3. Slowly add the same amount of baking soda as the vinegar to your slow cooker (1/2 cup for a small dish, 1 cup for a large), allowing any bubbles to disperse. Don't dump it in all at once, or you just may have a pantry explosion on your hands! Let it sit uncovered until the bubbles die down.
  4. With the water, vinegar, and baking soda mixture soaking in the base, now put the cover on and turn your slow cooker on low heat for about an hour. If you've got really tough stains, let the mixture cook a little longer. It'll loosen the bits on the side of the bowl.
  5. When it cools, wash the slow cooker in warm water with dish soap.

How to Get Stubborn Stains off Your Slow Cooker

If you have spots that still need touching up, try a paste of baking soda and water. Because your slow cooker is food-safe, this combination won't harm the material. It's also an easy, effective way to scrub. If needed, baking soda can polish the outside of your slow cooker from any streaks or food residue. If you have a dark slow cooker and cleaning out the bowl leaves a white residue on the surface, try wiping with a little white vinegar.

The combination of these simple pantry ingredients seems too good to be true, but you'll be surprised at how effective this non-abrasive solution to cleaning your favorite kitchen appliance really is. So, instead of leaving a pot to soak overnight and having to scrape off food residue the next day, put the heat of your cooker to good use and let the water-vinegar-baking soda mixture cut through the grease for you. Less mess and less work? Yes, please!

How to Keep Your Slow Cooker Cleaner Longer

To prevent stuck-on messes, you can try slow cooker liners or use a non-stick cooking spray.

Looking for more time-saving tricks for annoying cleaning tasks? Use this lemony shortcut to a fresh-smelling oven.

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