5 Super Helpful Slow Cooker Hacks

Wake up to caramel made in the slow cooker to put on top of your morning coffee. (Photo: GracePhotos/Shutterstock)

The slow cooker can be the workhorse of the kitchen. It can cook entire meals, caramelize onions, make amazing applesauce, and so much more. But even if you think you're getting a lot out of your slow cooker, there's probably more it can do for you.

These tips and tricks can make your slow cooker even more useful than it is already.

Cook at night, reheat after work

Cooking stew overnight in the slow cooker may result in better flavors in the long run. (Photo: Robyn Mackenzie/Shutterstock)

Slow cookers are great for people who want dinner ready when they walk through the door after a long day, but sometimes those days are longer than the cooking time and foods can get overcooked. To fix this, cook your slow cooker dish overnight, allowing it to cool a bit before you put in the refrigerator, and reheat it when you get home.

Dinner may not be ready the moment you walk through the door, but it's close: just heat it up and dinner is served. Some slow cooker favorites — like stews, soups and chilis — will taste better the longer they sit, so this tip is especially handy for these types of dishes.

Line with all-vegetable parchment paper for easy cleanup

parchment paper
Parchment paper is your time-saving friend. (Photo: Mattie Hagedorn/Flickr)

There are plastic liners that you can purchase for your slow cooker, but a more environmentally friendly — and probably less expensive — way to line your slow cooker is with unbleached, all-vegetable parchment paper. Many parchment papers are made with silicone, so search specifically for the all-vegetable kind. Use the paper to line the slow cooker all the way up the sides, and when you're done cooking, cleanup will be a breeze.

Cook 2 dips at once

So not all the tips are for getting dinner on the table during the week. What if you want to keep two hot dips hot for the duration of a party? A slow cooker is a great way to do it. But, what if you have only one slow cooker? No problem. Build an aluminum foil divider and cook both dips at once. The Delish video above shows you how.

Melt chocolate (and keep it melted)

melted chocolate
Using the slow cooker makes using melted chocolate foolproof. (Photo: GooDween123/Shutterstock)

Melting chocolate can be a messy process, and once you take it off the heat source, it cools quickly. The slow cooker makes melting chocolate simple and it keeps the chocolate melted for as long as you need it. The Yummy Life explains how to use the slow cooker to melt chocolate using water and oven-safe bowls or glass jars that fit inside the crock. Fill the bowls or glass jars with the chocolate to be melted, fill the slow cooker with some water that reaches halfway up whatever containers the chocolate is in, and cook on high for about a half hour.

You can melt as many different types of chocolate as containers as you want; your only limitation is the number and shape of containers you can fit into the crock. The chocolate will stay warm and usable in the hot water bath of the slow cooker. Extra bonus: The crock stays clean the entire time unless you make a spill.

Make caramel from sweetened condensed milk

One can of sweetened condensed milk and one slow cooker can create the easiest caramel sauce ever. (Photo: Liliia Bielopolska/Shutterstock)

One of the easiest slow cooker hacks is making one-ingredient caramel sauce. If you put a can of sweetened condensed milk in the slow cooker with some water, turn the cooker on low, and eight hours later, the milk will have turned to caramel. You can do this by simply peeling off the label on the can, but Living Well Spending Less blog has a safer idea that takes the can liner out of the equation: take the sweetened condensed milk out of the can and pour it into a Mason jar. This extra step also provides an opportunity to add some salt to make salted caramel. Word of caution, though, even though the Mason jars will be in water, it's not the same as canning in a hot water bath. Your finished caramel must be stored in the refrigerator.