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How Much Water Do You Put In A Slow Cooker For A Roast?

Using a slow cooker is one of the easiest and most convenient ways to cook a delicious roast. The low, slow cooking tenderizes even the toughest cuts of meat. However, one question that often comes up is exactly how much water you need to add to the slow cooker. Get this right, and your roast will turn out juicy and flavorful. Add too much or too little liquid, and you may end up with a dry, overcooked meal.

Should A Roast Be Covered With Liquid In A Slow Cooker?

When cooking a roast in a slow cooker, the liquid should never fully cover the meat. Ideally, the liquid should come about halfway up the sides of the roast. Slow cookers can be used with very little liquid or a lot of liquid, they are quite forgiving. However, you don’t want the bottom of the slow cooker to dry out and burn.

One key thing to remember is that liquid does not evaporate in a slow cooker. The low temperature and the sealed lid prevent evaporation. If you completely submerge the roast, it will end up boiling in too much liquid. This will make the meat mushy and diluted.

Instead of plain water, you can use broth, tomato juice, beer, or wine to add great flavor. As an example, a recipe may call for just 2 tablespoons of cold water and a dash of Worcestershire sauce as the liquid.

Do You Have To Brown A Roast Before Putting It In The Crockpot?

Searing or browning a roast before slow cooking is highly recommended. Browning adds a tremendous amount of flavor through caramelization and the Maillard reaction. It also gives the exterior of the meat a nice crust.

To properly brown the roast:

  • Allow the roast to come to room temperature before searing.
  • Season the meat generously with salt and pepper before searing.
  • Use a very hot skillet, pan or pot to brown the meat.
  • Sear all sides of the roast evenly, including the ends.
  • For extra browning, dredge the roast in flour seasoned with salt and pepper before searing.

Browning provides several benefits:

  • It deepens and enhances the flavor of the meat.
  • It reduces the amount of fat and grease in the finished dish.
  • It adds texture to the exterior of the roast.
  • It adds delicious fond to the bottom of the pan for making gravy.

Should Meat Or Vegetables Go In Crockpot First?

When layering ingredients in a slow cooker roast recipe, the order will depend on the vegetables used. Sturdy root vegetables like potatoes, carrots and parsnips can go right in with the roast at the beginning.

For the most even cooking, place root vegetables at the bottom of the slow cooker, then add the seasoned and browned roast on top. This prevents the veggies from overcooking and becoming mushy.

More delicate vegetables like mushrooms, peas, zucchini or greens should be added towards the end of the cooking time, usually in the last 1-2 hours. This prevents them from becoming overcooked and mushy.

You can also add frozen vegetables straight to the slow cooker, about 30-45 minutes before the roast is done. They will defrost and cook perfectly.

For fresh greens like kale, spinach or watercress, add them during the last hour of cooking to wilt them and retain nutrients. They add great flavor and nutrients!

How To Thicken The Leftover Liquid In Your Slow Cooker

One thing about slow cookers is that liquid does not reduce or evaporate. You may be left with a lot of thin, watery juices at the end. Luckily, there are easy ways to thicken the leftover liquid into a nice gravy or sauce.

To thicken the liquid:

  • Use a spoon to remove any excess fat from the surface.
  • Transfer the cooking juices to a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  • To thicken with flour: Whisk 1-2 tablespoons of flour with an equal amount of water until smooth. Slowly whisk this into the boiling juices until desired thickness is reached.
  • To thicken with cornstarch: Whisk 1-2 tablespoons cornstarch with 2 tablespoons cold water. Whisk this slurry into the boiling juices until thickened.
  • To thicken into a gravy: Melt 1-2 tablespoons butter in a pan. Whisk in 1-2 tablespoons flour and cook 1-2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the cooking juices and simmer until thickened.

Tips For Cooking A Slow Cooker Roast

Follow these tips for tender, juicy slow cooker roast success:

  • Cook on low – Slow cooking on low yields the most tender, fall-apart meat.
  • Cook veggies separately – If worried about mushiness, cook veggies in a foil packet or sauté them later.
  • Use tough cuts – Choose cuts like chuck roast, brisket or pork shoulder which get tender when slow cooked.
  • Account for liquid released – Meat and veggies will release liquid as they cook, so you won’t need much added liquid.
  • Thicken the sauce – For delicious gravy, thicken the leftover juices on the stovetop after cooking.


Learning how much liquid to use is an important step in slow cooker roast success. As a rule of thumb, the liquid should come about halfway up the sides of the meat. Completely submerging the roast can make it mushy. Browning the meat first enhances flavor tremendously. When layering ingredients, place root veggies on the bottom then meat on top. More delicate veggies can be added later in the cooking process. The low slow cooking does not reduce liquid, so expect thin juices that can be easily turned into gravy. Follow these tips and your slow cooker roast will come out perfect every time. Have fun experimenting with this hands-off way to put a nourishing homecooked meal on the table!

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