This is a very common problem—and a very frustrating one! Slow cookers are supposed to cook long and slow, right?
Here’s what I suggest you do. Cook the food for a shorter amount of time than the recipe calls for. (That’s obvious, I know!) You’ll have to experiment to find the right length of time, so I recommend doing that when you’re at home all day.
Maybe start by cooking the recipe for only half the amount of time suggested by the recipe. If you’re making meat, stick your quick-read meat thermometer into the center of the piece (don’t let the thermometer touch a bone). If the meat’s not done then, cook it for 30 minutes more or so (depending on how nearly done the thermometer has shown it to be), and then check it again. Continue checking it every 30 minutes or so until the food is done to your liking.
Remember to keep track of how long you’ve ended up cooking the food so you can write that on the recipe.
I’m forever writing in my cookbooks, because I don’t want to re-do my experiments. So I suggest that you write the name of the recipe on a nearly blank page right at the beginning of the cookbook and then write this note to yourself: “Go to page xx to see how long I cooked xxx.” Then you can estimate from that experience how long you should cook other recipes in your too-hot slow cooker and have them come out the way you want them.
Of course, if your test recipe was for a beef dish, and you’re now trying to figure out how long to cook a quick bread or a vegetable, you’ll have to do some trial and error again. Test the bread by sticking a toothpick into the center. If it comes out clean, the bread’s done. Otherwise, keep it cooking. Jag a vegetable in the center of the cooker with a sharp fork. Take a bite—carefully, so you don’t burn yourself. You’ll know when it’s done to your liking.
This is frustrating, but then many of us have ovens with personalities, too. You probably know if your oven cooks hot, and you’ve learned to adjust to it. You’ll have to get to know your slow cooker, just like you’ve had to learn to know your oven.
Good luck! And if you find a better solution, please tell the rest of us.
I’ve added a whole bunch of suggestions about how to get along with your slow cooker in my new cookbook, coming on October 1. Watch for > Fix-It and Forget-It NEW Cookbook —in full color, just 21 days from now!