You come home on a cold winter evening and are greeted by the inviting smells of beef stew or chicken noodle soup. Your slow cooker, better known as a crockpot, has dinner ready.
Is a crockpot safe? Yes, the 170 degrees F to 280 degrees F direct heat from the pot, lengthy cooking time combined with the steam created in the tightly covered pot destroy bacteria, making slow-cooking a safe process.
Always thaw meat or poultry before putting it into a crockpot. Cut meat and vegetables into chunks or smaller pieces to ensure thorough cooking. Vegetables cook slower than meat and poultry, so if using them, put the vegetables in first. See your instruction booklet for safety guidelines for the preparation of large cuts of thawed meat and poultry and do add broth, water or barbecue sauce as recommended.
Crockpots shine when preparing foods with high moisture content such as chili, soup, stew or spaghetti sauce. If possible, turn the cooker on the highest setting for the first hour of cooking time and then to low. However, it is safe to cook foods on low the entire time. To maintain the cooking temperature, only remove the lid to stir the food or check for doneness. Once the food is done, it will stay safe as long as the cooker is operating.
If using a commercially frozen crockpot meal, prepare according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Store leftovers in shallow covered containers and refrigerate within two hours after cooking is finished. Reheating leftovers in a crockpot is not recommended. Cooked food can be reheated on the stove, in a microwave, or in an oven until it reaches 165 degrees F as measured with a food thermometer, and then put into a preheated crockpot to keep hot for serving.
With a little planning, a crockpot can provide you a convenient and delicious meal any time of the year. In the summer, use this small appliance rather than the oven to use less electricity and keep your kitchen cool.