My Crock Pot is much older and doesn't have a timer on it. I'm not sure
why you would want one....I wouldn't want it to shut off, and me be away
at the time, and food would sit there for a few hours risking being in the
dangerous temperature range.
I've used mine, planning for it to be done after about 8 hours....and I slept
longer than I had intended, so the Crock Pot was running for 10-12 hours.
There is no way I would want it to shut off by itself.
I too have not ever added hot liquids to mine. I normally will add several
chopped tomatoes to the Crock Pot first (with it turned up on high), at the
same time, I will have the meat browning up on the griddle. When the meat
has some good color to it, I'll add it on top of the chopped tomatoes. If
you are adding some liquid, I would put it in at the same time as the
tomatoes. I add the meat next, so it will get the heat right away.
On top of the meat will be the Potatoes, Carrots, Onions,Celery,
Mushrooms, etc. Once everything is in the Pot, I turn it down to low,
and let it do its thing.
I no longer add any Flour to thicken up a stew; I
use Potato Flakes and/or Rolled Oats....I think this is a bit healthier,
and it adds more fiber too.