Slow cooker safety – Make your dinner simple and safe!

Simple slow cooker safety reminders to make sure you are keeping your food safe.

With the cold winter months upon us, the slow cooker has become a popular fixture in my house to simplify the dinner routine. There are many sources to get slow cooker recipes – Facebook, Pinterest and countless recipe sites. The majority of these recipes are safe and delicious, but some utilize unsafe food practices that may turn your home cooked meal into an unsafe meal.

The slow cooker is a safe way to cook food as it combines the direct heat of the pot plus the steam in the container to cook the food. The slow cooker is an electrical appliance that cooks foods slowly at a low temperature, generally between 170 degrees Fahrenheit and 280 degrees Fahrenheit.

Slow cooker safety reminders:

  • Start with clean hands, surfaces and a clean slow cooker to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Always thaw meat or poultry in the refrigerator, microwave or under cold running water prior to placing in the slow cooker for cooking. If frozen meat is used, the meal won't reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit quickly enough which may cause foodborne illness.
  • Never use the slow cooker to reheat food. Reheat on the stove to a rolling boil and use the slow cooker to keep the food warm.
  • Use the amount of liquid, meat and vegetables the recipe recommends. Place the vegetables in the slow cooker first as they cook the slowest, and then add the meat and desired amount of liquid. The liquid is an essential part of the cooking process and creates the steam for cooking the food.
  • Keep the lid on the slow cooker. Lifting the lid lowers the internal temperature 10 to15 degrees and slows the cooking process by almost 30 minutes.

Michigan State University Extension recommends checking the internal temperature of the food using an instant read food thermometer to make sure the food has reached a safe temperature to destroy any bacteria. Roasts should be cooked until the instant read food thermometer reaches 145 degrees to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, poultry to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and soups to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Refrigerate all leftovers in shallow, covered containers within two hours after cooking.

Take advantage of the convenience of slow cooker cooking. Walking in after a long day of work to a home cooked meal ready to eat is a treat. When selecting recipes from social media or other recipe sites, make sure they don't utilize any of the unsafe practices listed above. Keeping these simple, safety tips in mind will make sure your meal is delicious and safe to eat!

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