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I am cooking French dip, using a chuck roast. And I ended up having to substitute a recipe (I didn't have a can of soup so I improvised). It took a bit longer than I thought and now dinner won't be done til around 9 to 10. Is there any way I can turn the heat up do it cooks faster without it ruining my dinner?

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Does your slow cooker have a "low" and a "high" setting? The results on "high" usually aren't as good, but its quicker! –  derobert Oct 15 '12 at 17:13
    
It has low, high, and warm. But if I do it on high wont I have to cut the time in half completely? If I do that, can I leave it on warm til we are ready to eat? –  Savannah Martin Oct 15 '12 at 17:22
    
Hopefully your recipe has some guidance on how much less time it'll take on high (and of course, if you only turn it up partway through cooking, it'll be something between the low and high time). You can leave it on keep warm for a bit, but probably best not to leave it for more than an hour or two. –  derobert Oct 15 '12 at 17:30
    
It does not. Sadly. But if I were to turn it up partway through... When would you suggest doing so? The recipe says it takes 8-10 on low... And to shred the meat at 8. –  Savannah Martin Oct 15 '12 at 17:32
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2 Answers

Ok, from the clarification in the comments:

I'd say that roughly speaking, "high" cooks twice as fast as "low". This is a very rough estimate, and also depends on the slow cooker a lot (they vary in temperature...). So, each hour you spend on high is like spending two hours on low. You can use that to figure when to turn your slow cooker up so its ready on time.

Example: You have 7 hours until dinner. Recipe says 9 on low. So you do 2 hours on high and 5 hours on low. The 2 hours on high count for 4 hours of cooking on low, so you have the 9 hours the recipe called for. And 5 and 2 are the 7 actual hours you have until dinner.

Given how approximate the conversion is, you should probably plan to have it ready a bit before time, and then turn it down to "keep warm". Note that cooking will continue on "keep warm", especially as it'll take a while for the food to cool. Keep warm should be around 150°F, which will keep the food safe to eat (its out of the danger zone), but will actually continue cooking, just very slowly.

Also, you should check on when its done by visual clues (as much as possible), and (as quickly as possible) check the texture. You want to keep the lid closed as much as possible, opening it will slow it down a lot. Check no more than once per hour.

If you have a thermometer you can leave in the meat, you could use its internal temperature. My newest slow cooker has a temperature probe, but most don't, so that's probably not an option. Though depending, you may be able to stick a probe thermometer through one of the vent holes in the lid.

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So I should cook it on high for 2 hours then turn it down to low for 5? I already have it on low. So I would keep it going til 5 hours is up, then turn it up for 2? –  Savannah Martin Oct 15 '12 at 18:22
    
Thanks by the way :) very helpful :) –  Savannah Martin Oct 15 '12 at 18:36
    
@SavannahMartin : yes, turn it up ... go by when it's ready to shred, not by the timer, as you'll often get different cooking times even by something as simple as using a different sized crock pot than the author used. –  Joe Oct 15 '12 at 19:39
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I have a couple slow cookers, just some fairly cheap generic brand, and they both have Low, High, and High-then-Low settings. I've seen similar settings on other slow cookers.

The one manual I can find for my cookers says:

  • High is supposed to cook things in 1/2 the time of low
  • the High-then-Low setting starts on High for about 2 hours, then switches to low
  • the result of the High-then-Low setting is that cooking time is shortened by about 2 hours overall.
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