Using a slow cooker safely

Dinner in a slow cooker can be a great way to save time, but make sure to be food safe.

July 22, 2018 - Author: Karen Fifield, Karen Fifield, Michigan State University Extension

When days are long and hectic it is a wonderful feeling to come home and know that dinner is done and waiting for you in a slow cooker. According to Michigan State University Extension when using a slow cooker there are some precautions you should take in order to keep your dinner safe.

A slow cooker is an electrical appliance that slowly cooks foods at temperatures of 170 degrees Fahrenheit to about 280 degrees Fahrenheit. When food is cooked in a closed container at these temperatures, bacteria is killed. This makes a slow cooker, if working properly, a safe appliance to use.

First, it is important to have a clean work area and clean hands whenever you are preparing food. Make sure any meats or poultry you are preparing are properly thawed before using them in a slow cooker. This will ensure that food like soups or stews are healthy and simple foods to prepare. Using a slow cooker properly can also help maintain moisture when food is cooked all day. If you are using pre-packaged slow cooker meals, read and follow all manufacturers’ instructions.

It is safe to prepare large cuts of meat or poultry in a slow cooker, but it is recommended to first check the instruction manual of the appliance. This will state the proper size of meat or poultry your appliance is capable of safely cooking.

Check to make sure the slow cooker is plugged in and set at the proper temperature for the foods you plan to cook. If a power outage occurs while using the slow cooker, immediately transfer the food to a gas oven, outdoor grill or to a location with electricity to finish the cooking process. If the food is finished cooking at the time of the power outage, the food should be safe to leave in the slow cooker for two hours.

Divide leftovers in small, shallow containers. Be sure to properly label and date all items placed in the refrigerator. It is important to refrigerate leftovers within two hours after the food is completely cooked. It is not safe to reheat foods in a slow cooker, so using a stove, microwave or conventional oven is recommended. Reheated foods must reach 165 degrees before they are safe to eat. After food has been properly reheated, it can be placed for hot holding in a preheated slow cooker for no more than two hours.

Slow cookers can benefit us with the time they save as long as food safety is maintained. Enjoy using your slow cooker safely!

Tags: msu extension, safe food & water


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