If you're struggling to get your slow cooker to behave, one of the following tips may help.
My slow cooker overcooks things or dries them out.
This is the most common problem my friends and readers mention. In most cases, it turns out they have a large slow cooker, i.e. 6Litre/Quart. Most recipes (including mine) are for 4.5 Litre/Quart cookers unless stated. Since slow cookers work best when they are 2/3 - 3/4 full, your slow cooker is under capacity and its extra power dries out your food. You have a few options:
1. Scale up the recipe by 50% and keep the times the same. Your more powerful slow cooker will cope with the bigger amount just fine. This works well for things like chillies and stews.
2. Reduce the cooking time. This takes a bit of trial and error but start with reducing time by half and checking periodically from then on.
3. You can use a smaller cooking container inside your slow cooker, such as a pyrex dish or standard casserole dish. I do this anyway for things like baked custards, meatloaves and some desserts.
If your 4.5 Litre/Quart cooker is drying food out, check and see if it has a steam vent. It shouldn't have but some do (including my smaller slow cooker). I solved this by using an elastoplast (band aid) which I replace periodically. Other people have used wadded up tin foil etc. You can be creative but that steam shouldn't be escaping. This, by the way is why slow cooker recipes start with less liquid in them as they don't allow for any condensation.
I can't get my slow cooker clean.
I have had many a battle with the residue of a caked-on lasagne or a, worse still, the baked-on caramel from something like candied parsnips. The key thing you need to avoid is removing the smooth surface from your slow cooker's insides. This just makes it harder and harder to clean. I soak the pot (some use a dryer sheet in the water overnight and say it works wonders - I sometimes use bicarbonate of soda) and then attack with a plastic scourer designed for non-stick pans. Don't use a brillo pad.
I get a white residue on my slow cooker, especially after I cook things like beans, and can't clean it off.
This happens a lot around here as we have hard water. I also like to cook beans a lot and they leave a similar residue. It really doesn't matter as long as you have carefully washed the slow cooker with soap and water and there is no other food residue. If it really bothere you then vinegar will remove it or you can cook something acidic such as a tomato sauce to get rid of it.