Slow cookers are great kitchen appliances to have handy. However, a question that we occasionally get ask is around slow cooker safety. With that in mind, here are a few slow cooker safety tips to ensure you, your home and your food safety.
Anyone can cook an easy slow cooker recipe, and they are a great way of ensuring that you and your loved ones have a nice, fully cooked meal for when you come home, no matter what time that is.
Thanks to their all-day cooking feature, you can keep food cooking on a low setting, ensuring that it will be nice and tender and completely cooked for when you need it. I absolutely love my slow cooker and the freedom it gives me when I am running around to cross country meets, walking dogs and generally trying to get as much done in a day as possible. I love knowing that I have a healthy home-cooked meal ready for my family with minimum input.
That being said, since they are appliances that heat up, even at a low temperature, many of us are still not sure about how safe, slow cookers are to use, especially for lengthy cooking.
Are Slow Cookers Dangerous?
If well-maintained and properly used, slow cookers are in no way dangerous. In fact, they offer a fantastic way of cooking foods from shorter periods of time to several hours. You can cook food as you sleep, as you work, as you run your errands, with the slow cooker doing its job safely the entire time.
8 Slow Cooker Safety Tips / Guidelines
For the cooking process to go well, you will need to follow a few safety guidelines:
- Always inspect the plug and the cord before using the slow cooker. Before plugging your slow cooker in, always take the time to inspect the plug and the cord. If you do not use the slow cooker for long periods of time, then the end of the plug can begin to rust. This happens mostly if the slow cooker is kept in a damp area. Animals from house pets to indoor pests can also chew on the cords, thus making them unsafe to use.
- Always place the slow cooker on a clean, flat surface. In order to heat evenly and safely, the slow cooker needs to be on a dry, flat heatproof surface. If it is leaning on one side, even slightly, you can damage the mechanisms internally. Not only will your food cook unevenly, but it also may not even cook at all! If the slow cooker breaks down, the your food will not likely have finished cooking, and if you do not spot it in time, it may all become dangerous to eat.
- Ensure that nothing is touching the exterior of the slow cooker. Slow cookers can reach very high temperatures on the highest setting. This setting is usually used as a bacteria-killing temperature for meat (such as when cooking a whole chicken). In order for you and your loved ones to remain safe, ensure that nothing is touching the exterior of the slow cooker, which can also reach very high temperatures, as can the lid! Be careful not to burn yourself and keep it out of the reach of children.
- Never overfill the slow cooker! Those of us with big families or who like throwing dinner parties will naturally go for the bigger pots. The bigger the pot, the more food we can cook. That being said, in order for it to be safe to cook, you will need to ensure that you always only fill the slow cooker halfway, or two thirds full maximum. By overfilling it, you run the risk of compromising the food safety. The food on top will not finish cooking at the same time as the rest of it, and it will not likely reach a safe temperature.
- Always place the lid on properly. The lid plays an essential role in slow cooking food. Without the lid being placed correctly, the cooker will not reach a safe internal temperature, and therefore the food will not be cooked properly. Moreover, should the cooker constantly be trying to reach the desired temperature, it runs the risk of breaking quickly.
- Always defrost your food before putting it in the slow cooker. Your slow cooker is meant to cook or reheat food for you; it is not, however, meant to cook frozen food! Always ensure that your food is fully defrosted before putting it in the slow cooker. This is especially important for frozen meat. In order to the slow cooking to work well, always fully defrost meat in your fridge, then place it in the cooker. In order to avoid food poisoning, you will have to cook the meat on a safe temperature to destroy bacteria. Once the meat is cooked enough, you can place it on a low heat to tenderise and cook with the rest of the food.
- Make sure the slow cooker has cooled down before cleaning it. Once your slow cooker meal is ready, make sure that you wait until the pot is completely cooled down before washing it. As previously mentioned, it can get extremely hot, and carrying it hot means that you run the risk of dropping hit and/or burning yourself. The heavy pot being dropped could damage your stovetop, your floor, your sink, and more.
- Always read the manufacturer’s safety guidelines! No one will know better than your manufacturer about how to keep your slow cooker clean, safe, and always ready to use! Even though it may take some time, in order for you and your loved ones to remain safe, always check the safety manual before using it.
Is it Safe to Leave A Slow Cooker on Overnight?
Yes, it is safe to leave a slow cooker on overnight.
Suppose you need to cook food on a high heat for the first hour or so. In that case, it’s best to stay awake and wait for the initial cooking process to finish, then check your food thermometer to ensure that it is on a lower warm setting – then leaving the cooker for eight hours or so to do its thing.
Of course, by leaving overnight, your food should be fine; however, in the case of a power outage, the cooker may have lost its safe internal temperature, and thus the food may not be safe to eat.
This is a rare occurrence, however, and should not happen with a new slow cooker.
Can a Slow Cooker Catch Fire?
Slow cookers are meant to cook food at safe temperatures for long periods of time, and newer slow cookers, such as crock pot designs, are made with slow cooker safety in mind. Therefore, you can rest easy knowing that the food is being cooked safely and thoroughly.
That being said, these are appliances that use electricity to heat up, and that always comes with a risk, however minor it may seem.
For your cooker safety, always be sure that the food is at a safe temperature and that it is on a heat resistant surface, with no fire hazards around it.
If you are unfamiliar with your slow cooker, then it is always best to check on it during the first few cooking times, every one or two hours at least.
Slow cookers offer a great way of managing your cooking time, avoiding having to use the gas stove, and keeping your food on a direct heat for as long as you need. You can use it to make entire meals or even for reheating leftovers.
Of course, for complete safety, do ensure that you store leftovers (from cooked food) in a tightly covered container and keep any perishable foods refrigerated. As long as the cooking time may be, the slow cooker will not work miracles if your food is compromised.
Always use a clean cooker and/or pot, and ensure that your food reaches the right temperatures. You may need to check meat thoroughly before eating it, but when well done, it is worth it!
If you like this article you might like our Ultimate Guide to Slow Cooking