Thanks to This Is Us, slow cooker safety has been on everyone’s mind since the Super Bowl. Will it catch on fire? Will it burn your house down? Will it implode?! Don’t worry, slow cookers are truly safe these days, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take extra precautions. If you follow our tips below, the only things you’ll have to worry about is which slow cooker to buy and which slow cooker recipe to make. Before we jump in, just remember a few things: Always place your slow cooker on a flat surface, preferably on a countertop. Don’t fill it more than two-thirds full, and make sure to add some liquid or plenty of water-filled veggies so the bottom of the slow cooker does not scorch. As for the nitty-gritty, see below.
Is it safe to cook frozen chicken/meat in a slow cooker? No, make sure you thaw all frozen meat before putting it in your slow cooker. Since these appliances are designed to cook meat slowly, it spends too much time in the food safety danger zone (40-140°F).
Can a slow cooker be left unattended in the house? Yes, but you should make sure you have read and followed the instructions for your particular model. Most will say exactly how long you can leave it on and plugged in.
Is it OK to leave a slow cooker on overnight? Yes! Breakfast can be a breeze by slow cooking overnight. Just make sure you’re not leaving it on longer than recommended for your specific model.
How long can a slow cooker remain on? It depends on your model, so make sure you read the directions. Some can be left on for up to 24 hours, but most recommend eight to 12 hours.
For exactly how many hours can food be left on warm in a slow cooker? Typically, it is safe to keep cooked food “warm” for one to four hours. The key is to make sure the temperature is in the safe zone, or 145°F or over. It’s a good idea to use a probe thermometer to test the temperature every hour or so.
How long does a slow cooker last? Contrary to what This Is Us made us believe, most vintage slow cookers are totally safe. However, if your hand-me-down slow cooker has a fabric-wrapped cord or isn’t consistent in its heating, it’s probably time to look for a new one.
Are those plastic slow cooker liners really designed to be put on a slow cooker? Yes! Just make sure you opt for options that are BPA-free and made of high temperature-safe materials. Lastly, be sure the size fits your slow cooker properly.
Can a slow cooker insert go in the microwave or oven? Most ceramic inserts are safe up to 400°F — just make sure you leave off the lid as most have a plastic handle or rubber liner.
What about the refrigerator or freezer? Refrigerator — yes. It’s okay to temporarily store your dish in the fridge before cooking. Freezer — no. The ceramic may crack, and it’s not safe to cook meat from a frozen state.
Is it dishwasher-safe? Most slow cooker inserts and lids are dishwasher-safe. Double check your instruction manual to be sure.
What temperature is low? High? Again, this depends on your slow cooker. Temperature settings on Crock-Pot slow cookers are based on how long it takes food to reach the simmer point of 209°F.
Does the lid need to be left on when cooking? Yes, unless the recipe you are making calls for the lid off. Keeping the lid on your slow cooker helps your meal from drying out and prevents burning. If you are leaving your slow cooker unattended, we recommend keeping the lid on.
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(Illustration via Marisa Kumtong / Brit + Co)