One of the most common questions asked by those cooking meat in a slow cooker for the first time is “well, how often do I turn it?”
The answer is, never. You don’t need to turn meat being cooked in a slow cooker due to the way in which it’s being cooked.
Slow cookers cook meat thoroughly and evenly by using heating the liquid (such as stock, water or wine). The amount of liquid will either cause the meat to be braised or simmered as a result.
The slow cooker recipe you are following will likely specify the preferred amount and type of liquid. That said, any good recipe will never ask you to fill your slow cooker to more than three-quarters.
This space is designed to allow hot air to circulate, contributing to the steady temperature which allows the meat to braise or simmer instead of boiling and burning.
If you are planning to follow a recipe to cook meat that isn’t specific to a slow cooker I recommend halving the amount of recommended liquid.
Slow cookers are designed to retain their moisture, it’s what helps them to cook meats and what contributes heavily to that lovely tender and great tasting meat.
You are going to lose a considerable amount of that moisture when opening the slow cooker lid to turn your meat.
That said, if you do choose to turn your meat it’s not a bad thing. Nothing will happen to you, or your meat. However, it’s not necessary and could in some cases add anything from 10 to 30 minutes onto your cooking time.
If you do choose to turn your meat then do so infrequently and quickly as this will minimize the amount of heat lost – and therefore the amount of time it takes for the slow cooker to reheat to the optimum temperature depending on the setting (high, medium or low).