How Long Do Slow Cooker Meals Last in the Fridge?

After making a slow-cooked meal, you may have some leftovers for storage. Leftovers are a great way to have something for later, but you may be wondering how long do slow cooker meals last in the fridge? Is it safe to put in the fridge? Well, there are several things to keep in mind when doing so.

Food in a slow cooker can be safely stored in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. If you use the slow cooker pot as a storage container, it can be placed directly into the fridge after completely cooling off. 

If you’d like to store your leftovers for longer than 3 days, then they need to be placed in an airtight container and placed in the freezer. Slow cooker pots shouldn’t be placed in the freezer as they can crack. In this article, we’ll discuss food safety, avoiding food poisoning, and a few tips for using the slow cooker.

Chicken Casserole

Safely Storing Slow Cooker Meals in the Fridge

Storing a slow cooker with leftovers in it in the fridge can be done directly. You should let the slow cooker cool down completely before storing the food. The rapid temperature change can cause the ceramic pot to crack. 

You can’t reheat your leftovers in the slow cooker. It takes too long for the slow cooker to reach safe temperature levels when reheating. It is a better idea to either reheat in the oven or microwave in a separate container.

How Can a Slow Cooker Cause Food Poisoning?

It’s quite easy to get food poisoning from a slow cooker. When foods are placed inside that are frozen, they can make the slow cooker insert cooler. The lower temperatures put the food into a danger zone where bacteria can grow. 

These bacteria, Salmonella, E. Coli, Listeria, and Clostridium Perfringens, can breed inside frozen meats, and since they won’t be at higher temperatures for long periods can cause food poisoning.

Safety Tips for a Slow Cooker

Let’s start with a few steps you can take to prevent food poisoning. These are general safety tips to keep your food fresh and free of bacteria. 

Plan Out Your Meal

Know what you’re making and make sure you have all the ingredients. Pull all frozen ingredients out and thaw them the night before. To make your meal quickly have all the ingredients prepped and ready the night before.  

Clean-up Your Prep Area

Wherever you’re prepping your ingredients should be clean and ready to use when you need them. Have all your utensils cleaned and ready to prepare all your meal’s ingredients.   

The Fridge is Your Friend 

If your ingredients are kept at room temperature for too long they can begin to grow bacteria on them. Keep ingredients in your fridge until you’re ready to prep them or place them in the slow cooker. 

Meat and Vegetables Don’t Mix in Prep

Meats can contaminate your vegetables if you’re prepping them at the same time. Prep your vegetables first and remove them before prepping your meats. 

Cut Larger Ingredients Smaller for Even Cooking

Larger and thicker cuts of meat can have a harder time cooking evenly in the slow cooker. To help them cook more evenly they should be cut into smaller equal pieces. 

Leave Space in the Slow Cooker

Certain meats and hard vegetables can add more liquid through the cooking time, so there is a higher chance of spills if you’ve placed too much in the slow cooker. Slow cookers should only be filled ½ to ¾ of the way.  

The Lid

Opening your slow cooker to take a test taste can increase your cook time. By opening the lid, you drop the temperature inside the pot and it takes 30 minutes for the slow cooker to return to temperature. Leave the lid in place unless it’s necessary to remove the lid.  

High temperature

Keep a Food Safe Thermometer

Food-safe thermometers are a great tool for checking the internal temperature of your meats. They ensure you’re cooking things thoroughly and safely. Having one is great for checking your slow cooker if you think it’s malfunctioning. 

Ways a Slow Cooker Pot Can Crack 

One thing to consider when you think about slow cooker safety is how to keep the ceramic pot safe. Here are a few reasons that a slow cooker pot might crack, and some of them can be avoided with proper care and others can’t be avoided. 

Aging Slow Cooker

An aging slow cooker is more prone to hairline cracks throughout the pot. This is hard to avoid, but you can prolong the pot’s life by taking care of it. 

Factory Defect

Products that aren’t quite right do make it out on the market. Luckily companies know this and have a warranty inside the owner’s manual to fix this issue. If you get a slow cooker that is broken the second you use it, then crack open that owner’s manual and find who to contact. 

Placing the Slow Cooker in Different Temperatures Quickly  

You should let the slow cooker cool down completely before placing it in a different place. Rapidly placing it in a fridge or freezer can cause hairline cracks to form in the pot. Slow cooker pots are not designed to change temperatures quickly. 

No Liquid and Cooking

If left too long, a slow cooker can evaporate all the liquid inside it, and this can cause the contents to dry out. The overcooking food inside the pot can cause uneven temperatures in the pot and eventually, it will begin to break down.  

Rough Handling 

Being a bit rough with your insert can eventually cause it to crack. Slamming it down can cause hairline cracks to form, and eventually, those will become bigger and you may even snap the insert in half. Be gentle using your slow cooker and when storing it.  

Using the Insert on the Stovetop

As we’ve discussed, rapid temperature changes can cause the insert to crack. Some slow cooker inserts claim they can be used on the stovetop to sear your meats, and this may be true. However, over time the insert will begin to break down because of the rapid heat of the stovetop.  

General Food Tips for Slow Cooking 

There are many things to consider when slow cooking. Certain foods can’t go in the slow cooker or need to be added later, so they don’t ruin the meal. Here are a few foods that you need to watch yourself around when slow cooking them. 

Cooking Lean Meat

Lean meats are more likely to dry up in a slow cooker. This is caused by not using enough liquid or cooking the meats for too long. This can happen from cooking the meat on too high of a heat as well. Try adding more liquid, cooking on low, and cooking for less time.  

Adding in Fresh Herbs

Slow cookers draw out the flavors of the ingredients placed in them. Fresh herbs can be strong and when cooked for long period only become stronger. This can overpower a meal and ruin it. Try adding these herbs near the end so it’s not so strong.  

Softer Vegetables 

Soft vegetables like leafy greens should be added near the end if you don’t want them to become mushy. Overcooking them makes them break down and they lose their structure. 

Cooking With Wine

Cooking wines add quite a bit of flavor to a meal, but that’s because they evaporate during the process. When it comes to slow cooking, however, the alcohol content has nowhere to evaporate.

Bacon-Wrapped Foods

Bacon is a delicious ingredient that adds extra flavor to a meal. In a slow cooker it can still add that flavor, but don’t expect crispy bacon. Slow cookers break down the fats inside meats, and because of this, it just makes bacon mushy. 

Is 1 Cup of Dried Pasta Enough for 2 People

Pasta and Rice

Overcooking pasta and rice can have a disastrous effect on your meal. They can become mushy and like porridge. They should either be added in near the end of the cooking time or cooked separately.   

Health Benefits of Slow Cookers

As we’ve discussed above, there are many advantages to using a slow cooker. One of those reasons is that the slow cooker retains more nutrients than other forms of cooking because the nutrients drip back to the food in the steam and broth. 

Slow cookers also make use of fresh ingredients, making them a healthy choice. By using fresh produce, you’re getting the most nutrients from your meal possible. By using a slow cooker, you’re also making the choice not to eat greasy take-out food. 

Reasons Not to Use a Slow Cooker 

Using a slow cooker isn’t the best option for every meal. They are a great appliance, but sometimes you want something quick. Here are a few reasons not to use a slow cooker.   

Slow Cookers Are Not Quick

Slow cookers are meant to cook foods slowly and break down meats to make them tender. This means that if you want a quick meal, a slow cooker option is not the best bet.  

Easily Overcooks

If you’re gone for longer than you meant to be, or you even forget your slow cooking your food can become overcooked. You can leave it on the wrong setting and it can overcook. If there’s not enough liquid, the food can overcook.  

Diluted Flavors  

Steam builds up condensation on the lid of the slow cooker. This can drip back down into the food and dilute the flavors. The condensation can also drip down into a meal you don’t want extra moisture in, like a dessert, and can make it soggy.   

Using Raw Beans 

Never put raw beans in your slow cooker! Beans, before they are cooked have a toxin in them that needs to be boiled out. If you’re slow cooking beans then you need to boil them on the stove for 10 to 15 minutes before slow cooking them for 8 to 9 hours.  

Overpowering Flavors 

If you mess up and add strong herbs and spices at the beginning of your cooking then these flavors can clash inside the slow cooker. It can be difficult to correct this mistake and you may be stuck with whatever was created.  

Not All Recipes Translate to Slow Cooker

If you have a favorite meal, it may not be a good match for the slow cooker. If it has ingredients that work well in the slow cooker, you should be fine, but if it consists of a lot of ingredients that don’t do well in the slow cooker, then it’s best to avoid using it in the slow cooker. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Can I Leave the Slow Cooker in the Fridge?

Most manufacturers recommend that the slow cooker only be left in the fridge for 1 to 2 days. It’s for the safety of the ceramic pot. Food can safely be stored for 3 to 4 days in a slow cooker pot, but to keep the pot safe, it’s recommended to keep fridge times short or store food in a different container. 

Slow cooker meals

Can I Leave Food in the Slow Cooker Overnight?

If you are cooking food overnight, it is recommended you leave the slow cooker on either low or warm. This will keep away any bacteria while the food sits overnight. Manufacturers recommend this method for overnight use. 

How Long Can Cooked Meat Stay in the Fridge

The USDA recommends that cooked meats should only be in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. The same goes with slow-cooked meals, after 3 to 4 days the food can start to grow unsafe bacteria that can cause food poisoning, so the food either needs to be eaten or stored in the freezer for later use.  

Final Thoughts

Slow-cooked foods can be stored safely in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. The lid needs to be on the slow cooker if you store the pot in the fridge. If you store the meal in a separate container, it will only last 3 to 4 days as well unless you place it in the freezer. Hopefully, this article helped you understand a little more about slow cooking and storage.

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