As you have probably noticed, not every food or dish has the same cooking time in your slow cooker. Not everything is intended to cook all day, nor is everything finished in just a few hours. Here are some general guidelines for cooking times for your slow cooker.
1. Roasts and Meats
For large pieces of meat like brisket, pot roast, or pork shoulder, you can count on a cooking time that’s going to be pretty long. Most recipes call for 8 to 12 hours of cooking time.
For pieces of meat like stew meat cubes, sliced round steak, pork chops, or other smaller cuts and cut-up meat, you can expect cooking times of around 6 to 8 hours.
Vegetables vary quite a bit. For hearty vegetables like onions, all-day cooking on High will still allow them to keep their shape.
For baked potatoes, simply rub scrubbed, pierced potatoes with butter or oil and place in the slow cooker on High for 3 to 4 hours. Other potato dishes, like scalloped potatoes, can be cooked on High for about 4 hours.
Depending on how tender you like them, green beans take 6 to 8 hours on Low and 3 to 4 hours on High to be soft. Winter vegetables like squash can be cooked whole on High for 8 to 10 hours, while cubed squash takes only 3 hours or so on High.
3. Pasta and Grains
Pasta dishes are pretty fast if you use pre-cooked pasta – usually about 3 to 4 hours on Low. Whole grains like brown rice will take about 3 hours, while white rice takes about 2.
Fish cooks quickly in a slow cooker. Thawed fillets can be thoroughly cooked in as little as 1 hour on Low; if you place them in the cooker frozen, then it takes about 2 to 3 hours.
Sliced apples will take about 3 to 4 hours on High, while whole apples take anywhere from 3 to 6 hours to be tender. Some fruits are much quicker, like peaches and pears, which can be cooked in about 2 hours on Low.
A whole chicken will take 3 to 5 hours on High, and 8 to 10 hours on Low. Chicken breasts are much faster, taking about 4 hours on Low. Like fish, you can use frozen chicken breasts if you need to leave the slow cooker for longer – frozen pieces of chicken can cook 6 to 8 hours on Low.
For dried beans like lima, navy, black, and pinto beans, you’ll need to soak them overnight and expect 8 to 10 hours of cooking time on High once they’re drained and placed in the slow cooker with the other ingredients.
Dried red lentils are much faster, cooking thoroughly on High for 2 to 4 hours (brown or green lentils take a bit longer – 4 to 6 hours on High). Canned beans are much faster, with some bean dishes finishing on Low in 4 hours. Others may take longer depending on what else is in the dish.