Slow cookers are convenient appliances that allow you to prepare delicious dishes with minimal effort. You just prepare your ingredients beforehand, throw them in the pot, choose your preferred settings, and turn the bad boy on. However, despite all the hands-off conveniences that come with slow cookers, the burning question still remains: are slow cookers safe?
Generally, slow cookers are safe according to the USDA. They cook at safe temperatures low setting 170° and high setting 280°F. Slow cookers can safely be left unattended if manufacturers’ safe use precautions of electrical appliance instructions are followed.
That being said slow cookers are both safe as electrical devices and as cooking appliances. The risk of fire accidents when using slow cookers is low compared to other appliances, and the foods prepared by slow cookers are usually safe for consumption provided the right preparation steps are observed.
We will discuss all things concerning slow cooker safety in this article. If you’re ready, then let’s get right to business.
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Safety Tips When Using a Slow Cooker
Although cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the US, the USDA states that the risk of starting fires while using slow cookers is very slim. However, this doesn’t mean that you don’t need to take the required safety measures when handling slow cookers. Below are tips to observe to enhance your safety when using slow cookers.
1. Inspect the Cord Every Time Before Use
While this rule can apply to almost all electric appliances, the idea behind using slow cookers is to leave the food to cook on its own. Before using your slow cooker, confirm if the cords are in good shape. If you notice frayed or chewed wires, you should not use your slow cooker. In such situations, take your slow cooker to your local repair shop for a fix or consider getting a new unit.
2. Don’t Leave a Slow Cooker Close to Walls
Always ensure you leave your crockpot to cook in a safe place, which means a safe distance from walls, curtains, or any other items that could easily catch fire in the event of an incident.
If you plan to leave for several hours, you’ll also want to use the low heat settings. Slow cookers are generally safe appliances, but it’s always good to take precautions since you won’t be in the house during the entire cooking duration.
Related read Is It Safe to Leave Your Slow Cooker Unattended?
3. Go For Modern Slow Cookers
We’re not saying that vintage slow cookers won’t get the job done. In fact, there are some slow cooking enthusiasts who swear by using the older, ‘slower’ cookers. However, by using modern slow cookers, you get to benefit from a wide range of advanced features like auto shut-off, which can play a pivotal role in increasing overall safety.
4. Always Go Through the User Manual
Different brands create their units with different features. Although slow cookers function in the same way, it’s important to go through the safety tips stated by the manufacturer, which might give you useful information on how to properly maintain and store the slow cooker.
If your slow cooker is used, don’t hesitate to ask the owner about how it works and whether it has (had) any electrical faults.
5. Don’t Place Frozen Meats and Veggies in a Slow Cooker
All frozen meats and vegetables should be defrosted before being placed in slow cookers. Placing frozen food inside means it might struggle to reach the right internal temperature required to kill bacteria. Even placing a semi-frozen piece of meat is too risky when using slow cookers.
Related read Slow Cooker Mistakes: Prevention and Solutions
6. Don’t Overfill Your Slow Cooker
While filling a slow cooker to the brim might be a tempting prospect, you should leave some space, say, a third of the entire capacity. Overfilling a slow cooker might lead to spills and, even worse, potentially underprepared or undercooked food. Check the user’s manual to determine the maximum recommended capacity.
7. Try Cutting Your Meats Into Smaller, More Manageable Sections
Although a slow cooker can properly cook large meat pieces, cutting the meat into finer sections can reduce the overall cook time and ensure it’s properly cooked. Using small pieces of meat means you can easily fit in more ingredients and add to the meal’s overall flavor. But if your recipe requires large meat pieces, be sure to allow enough time and use the appropriate high or low settings to prepare it well.
8. Remove Ingredients From the Fridge Only When You’re About to Cook
Avoid removing ingredients from the fridge when you aren’t ready to start cooking the meal. Some ingredients can go bad real quick, so you need to handle them with utmost urgency. As a good rule of thumb, remove the ingredients only when you’re ready to either prepare them or place them in the slow cooker (if initially prepared).
9. React Fast in Case of Power Outages
In the event of a power outage, you’ll need to act fast to keep your food safe, or you’ll have to throw it out. If you came home and found your slow cooker off due to a power outage, then the safest thing is to throw away the food. Before doing so, however, you may want to see how long the power was out. Chances are, if it was only out for a few minutes and you were able to turn it back on, your food might be safe.
Granted, it might be tempting to eat the food, especially if it looks done, but you can never be sure if the internal temperatures got to the desired levels that kill bacteria.
However, if you are at home and the power goes out, the best course of action would be to transfer the food to a suitable cooking pot then cook it using the stovetop. You can choose to fry it or prepare it in the most suitable method depending on the recipe you’re working on.
And if the food was already done before the power outage, then it should be safe for consumption for up to two hours inside the pot, even without power. But you’ll need to eat the food and keep the rest in the refrigerator.
Related read How Long Can You Leave Food in a Slow Cooker?
10. Be Quick to Refrigerate Leftovers
Storing the leftover food in your refrigerator should be the first thing you do after consuming your meal. You ideally shouldn’t allow the food to stay too long inside the pot before refrigerating it. You’ll want to take the lid off and let it cool for a while, so you’re not putting super hot food into the fridge, as this could cause bacteria to grow.
Place the food in shallow, well-sealed containers and place them in your fridge. The food should be safe for consumption even days after cooking, provided you don’t waste too much time before refrigerating it.
11. Never Use a Slow Cooker to Reheat Leftovers
Reheating leftovers using slow cookers increases the risk of food poisoning, especially since the food might fail to reach the minimum required temperature of 165°F (74°C). Instead, use a stovetop, conventional oven, or even the microwave to warm the foods. Be sure to use a food thermometer to know whether the temperature has reached the required minimum.
Related read How Long Can You Leave Food in a Slow Cooker?
Is Food Prepared By Slow Cookers Safe for Consumption?
Although a slow cooker prepares food using low temperatures spread out over long periods, it does a good job of preparing safe-to-consume dishes. However, to ensure your food is safe for consumption, keep the tips discussed below in mind. Also, visit Food Safety.Gov for more in-depth information.
Can Slow Cookers Catch Fire or Cause Fires
No slow cookers generally will not catch fire or cause fires providing safe use practices are carried out, including checking the appliance for faults regularly, sitting the appliance on a stable surface away from flammable objects. Read the NFPA’s (National Fire Protection Association) official explanation about slow cookers and fires in the kitchen.
Winding Up – Are Slow Cookers Safe?
Slow cookers are safe cooking appliances that add a lot of efficiency to the meal preparation process and allow you to prepare meals without the need to supervise. This means you can go about your day’s businesses and come back to a ready meal.
However, when dealing with slow cookers, it is important to observe some of the recommendations we’ve highlighted throughout the article. Take the necessary safety precautions when handling the device, and ensure you observe the right steps when preparing meals.
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