Opening the front door on a cold fall evening and being greeted by the inviting smells of beef stew, chili, or chicken noodle soup coming from a slow cooker can be a cooks dream come true. Slow cookers cook foods slowly at a temperature between 170 degrees and 280 degrees Fahrenheit. The direct heat from the
pot, long cooking time, and steam created within the tightly covered container combine to destroy bacteria and make a slow cooker a safe process for cooking
foods as long as correct procedures are followed.
- Always start with a clean cooker, clean utensils, a clean work area and clean hands.
- Never put frozen foods in your slow cooker. They take much too long to heat up and stay in the danger zone — between 40 degrees and
140 degrees too long.
- Fill your slow cooker no less than half full and no more than two-thirds full. Vegetables cook slower than meat and poultry in a slow cooker. Therefore, put vegetables in first at the bottom and around the sides. Then add the meat and cover with liquid such as broth, water, or barbecue sauce.
- Keep the lid on your slow cooker, removing it only to stir the food or check the temperature. Every time the lid is removed, heat escapes and that lowers the temperature of the food in the slow cooker.
Finally, always get the slow cooker started on high setting for the first hour and it can then be turned to low for continued cooking.
Enjoy the food in your slow cooker but keep it safe.
Author: Linnette Goard, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension