I love my crockpot! Some people might call them slow cookers, but here in the Midwest, they are an indispensable kitchen tool. I wish you a lifetime of appliance happiness (whatever that is in appliance years) with your crockpot.
Who knew that there were so many crockpot/slowcooker lid questions? I happen to have quite a collection of crockpots and use them frequently. If you have questions I haven't answered, leave them in the comments below!
Other articles in this series:
Why does my crockpot/slow cooker have a hole in the lid?
Crockpot/slow cooker lids are made with steam-release holes in the cover; they prevent pressure from building up and keep internal pressure stabilized. Some holes are large enough to insert a temperature probe, providing a dual purpose. Some lids loosely fit, therefore expelling steam naturally and don't require a steam/vent hole.
It is important to stress that holes in lids do not affect cooking performance.
Think of a crockpot lid as similar to cooking on the stove. If you have a lid on the pot on the stove cooking pasta, chances are it will boil over. Some models of cooking pans also have the same type of steam-release/vent holes that prevent this.
Crockpots without rubber gaskets release the steam and the "bubbling over" activity via loosely fitting lids. Below are two examples of crockpots without rubber gasket lids - note there are no steam-release holes in the lids.
To provide further proof, the Hamilton Beach website answers the same question about holes in crockpot lids. According to Hamilton Beach, "Your slow cooker traps in steam during the cooking process (one of the reasons your food is so juicy), but letting off a little steam keeps the internal pressure stabilized."
Honestly, trying to shop for a crockpot with or without a hole is a bit of a crapshoot. Unless you are buying the crockpot in person, the crockpot description online might not really say what you are getting (sometimes the pictures are useless).
If you really want one with a probe (comes with its own probe) head on over to Amazon and look for "crockpot with probe." Most of the results are oval crockpots, which makes sense, because they fit the bigger cuts of meat better that could use thermometer checking.
Here are two crockpots in my collection without steam release holes in the lid. Neither of these models have rubber gasket seals; both are ceramic inserts. The cover on the left is plastic, the cover on the right is tempered, heat-resistant glass.
Yes, it's common to think that little hole is going to let out heat and moisture, affecting performance. That's not the case. Manufacturer's have found that it helps vent the food more safely. I also am taking a guess (nothing to back this up with) it helps to pull of the lid easier. The models with a gasket would be a bear to full off if the hole wasn't there.
This Hamilton Beach crockpot nicely labels the special hole on top of the crockpot. Note the label "Insert Probe" - no mistake what the hole is used for. I've never used a probe with my crockpots. The one in the picture was inherited, so who knows where the probe went to.
The steam release hole in this GE crockpot is too small to fit a temperature probe. No wonder everyone on the Internet is confused about the hole on top of crockpots and slow cookers! Some person swears up and down it's for a temperature probe, leaving the next person highly confused when they experience a probe not fitting.
A slow cooker lid rattles when the condensation builds up and steam is trying to escape. The rattle sound is made from the glass or metal lid vibrating against the enamel of the crock base (or teflon material).
This rattling sound can prove to very annoying. If you are able to monitor the slow cooker, just throw a towel over it. If you are away and fear a fire hazard with the towel, use aluminum foil. Put the foil over the opening of the slow cooker, and then put the lid back on.
This muffles the rattling, but may be all you need to let a little steam escape. Another idea is to drying the lid and rim of the crockpot to make sure there is not moisture that has broke the seal. If you're into hacks, spread a little vegetable oil along the inside rim or stick in a piece of paper towel to allow steam to escape.
One more note, plastic lids seem to have this problem more than other types of lids. Time to get a new slow cooker?
Why is my slow cooker spitting?
Slow cooker's make a spitting sound when steam is released. This is perfectly normal behavior of a slow cooker.
Should the lid on a slow cooker be sealed?
The lid on a slow cooker should not be sealed. Although some slow cooker models have the ability to lock the lid, that is for transportation purposes only. Slow cooker lids rely on a vent hole, or a loose-fitting lid for steam to escape.
Can you leave lid off slow cooker to thicken?
Slow cooker or crockpot lids can be left off to thicken the liquid contents. The amount of time to thicken can be unpredictable. Some chefs, instead, use a food thickener to speed the process up.
Leaving the lid off requires paying attention to what's cooking (sort of the opposite reason why you use a crockpot in the first place). Leaving the lid off to thicken may require 30 minutes or more. Alternatively, reducing the amount of water or liquid starting out will help with the end amount of liquid. Remember, roasts, chickens, etc., can fill a crockpot up with a surprising amount of liquid when the fat melts and rolls off.
Cornstarch or flour roux can nicely thicken liquid into a nice gravy to serve with the crockpot dish. Tapioca is a common ingredient added in at the beginning of a crockpot recipe that thickens the juice while cooking.
Personally, I don't like leaving the crockpot operating without the lid on - seems like I'm wasting electricity.
What to do if crockpot lid breaks
This is a great question! You are left with a working bottom and no top. I am sure you are wondering if the crockpot will still function the same.
If a crockpot lid breaks, a replacement lid can be purchased from the manufacturer. In the meantime, the crockpot base can be used with a temporary lid in the form of any cover that is oven-safe, including other lids or a flat cutting board placed over aluminum foil.
Can I use my crockpot without a lid?
A crockpot cannot be used without a lid. The lid creates a seal when steam is generated. The food in the crockpot will not reach the right temperature without a lid.
Even when a lid is present, keeping it on during the entire cooking process makes a huge difference in cooking time length. Just peeking at the contents can set back finish time by 20 minutes. This is because every time the lid is removed, steam is released. The steam is what the crockpot relies on to cook the food.
Consider also that crockpots come with glass lids. There's a reason for this - to give cooks a little idea what is going on inside of the crockpot... without peeking!
Can I replace my crockpot lid?
You should try calling or contacting the manufacturer of the crockpot or slow cooker to see if you can get a replacement lid. For the heck of it, I did an Internet search to see if I could get a replacement lid for GE 169200 Slow Cooker User Manual. I was surprised to learn that I cannot get replacement parts for slow cookers made exclusively for Walmart. I retrieved my GE slow cooker, flipped it over to read the bottom, and sure enough, it was manufactured by Walmart. I would say "bummer" but I still have a working crockpot.
Bottom line, you might be able to get a replacement crockpot or slow cooker lid. It will be dependent on the manufacturer. I also mention later other places to find crockpot replacement lids besides buying a new one.
What can I use instead of a lid?
So what are your choices? A substitute crockpot lid could be a glass cutting board, glass pie plate, or cover from another pot. Absolutely make sure that it is oven safe! A pie plate or round cover from another pot (or casserole/hot dish pot) can suffice for round crockpots. Something like an oblong baking dish such as what Pyrex® or CorningWare® makes can be ideal for oval crockpots (it really does have to cover the opening completely, it might be a long shot!).
Another important point is that your substitute lid will not fit perfectly, and may not have a handle for safe removal. It is imperative that you use oven mitts to remove the substitute lid from the base crockpot safely. Remember, steam and hot water droplets will roll out. Don't forget that handling an awkward substitute lid can contribute to an accident - so be careful!
Can I use foil as a lid for my crockpot?
Aluminum foil can be used as a crockpot lid for a temporary solution. It should not be relied on as real lids will perform better than foil due to their design.
Remember that some crockpot lid models don't perfectly seal; there is some forgiveness in the fit and it allows some steam to escape. Some people might say that the crockpot needs more insulation (think of the heavy glass covers on some crockpot models). For example, you could cover the foil with a cutting board, and put extra padding over that. I hesitate to say towels, because you could open yourself up to a fire hazard.
After looking at my little bitty Rival Crock-ette, it appears that the argument of needing a heavy lid isn't a strong one. This model does just fine with a thin, plastic lid. What foil lacks is the dome shape of a real lid. This shape allows the condensation to roll back into the pot, and not roll off onto human flesh when removing the lid.
Of course, the crockpot manufacturer is not going to recommend any of these solutions. Proceed at your own risk.
I looked up the owner's manual online of my small Rival Crock-ette Crockpot, model 3200, and it has the same recipes as you would expect to cook in a large crockpot.
This tells me that this crockpot performs just fine with a thin lid. Since it is so small, I only use it to heat vegetables so to have a complete meal for the guys on the farm for their lunch break. Note the absence of a steam hole.
Other crockpot lid substitutes
One novel idea is to go to a thrift store, and buy a cheap crockpot. Some thrift stores have boxes with just lids in, they expect customers looking to replace broken lids. If you're out of luck, you might have to buy the whole crockpot - it's still cheaper than trying to replace your lid.
I don't even know if thrift stores allow resale of used appliances like crockpots. It's sort of "buyer beware." I'm just saying that you know the age and background of your crockpot and you trust it, you just need a lid.
If you're lucky, a friend or neighbor can provide a spare lid in a pinch.
Why do slow cooker lids shatters
Having a crockpot lid shatter is pretty scary. I've never had it happen to me, but I've had an old Pyrex® casserole dish explode in the microwave. I bought it from a garage sale - since then I avoid "old" purchases.
Crockpot lids shatter either due to a manufacturing defect, extreme temperature changes, a fatigue point in the handle connection weakens the glass, or through accidental mishandling.
If your slow cooker or crockpot is new, reach out to the maker of the crockpot/slow cooker immediately to replace the lid free under warranty.
Sometimes the lid will break or shatter only a few years into owning it. Likely, you are outside of the warranty period. The slow cooker/crockpot might not even be in use at the time, it just breaks! I suspect that the handle on top of the glass has a fatigue point at where the handle is attached.
Keep these points in mind if your slow cooker/crockpot lid suddenly shatters:
- If the lid shatters over the food, all of the food must be discarded to avoid accidental ingestion of glass shards.
- Allow the slow cooker/crockpot to cool before handling.
Proper care of slow cooker/crockpot lids
Surprisingly, there are a lot of things you can do to break crockpot lid glass. I'm not even counting dropping it on a cement floor or other mishap. From the misuse below, you may not see immediate problems, but every poor choice can weaken a lid.
There is some common sense involve, but honestly, you can't completely rely on the owner's manual. I looked up one of the manuals for my crockpot, and hardly anything was said about proper care and handling of lids. The Hamilton Beach model presented very responsible safety information. I'm sure the lack of details in one was a reflection on the age of the crockpot.
Here are great crockpot lid safety rules to prolong the life of your crockpot lid:
- Manufacturers recommend avoiding taking a hot crockpot and putting it into an extreme temperature difference, such a refrigerator.
- Avoid sudden temperature changes, such as adding refrigerated foods into a heated slow cooker/crockpot or placing a hot crock or glass lid into cold water or onto a wet surface.
- Do not use crock and glass lid if chipped, cracked, or severely scratched.
- Never heat the crock when empty.
- Do not place the glass lid in a microwave oven, conventional oven, or on the stovetop.
Friends, I hope your slow cooker/crockpot lid situation is only temporary. May you replace your lid quickly and enjoy the next delicious meal with it!