Can Slow Cookers cause food poisoning?! Slow cookers are known for how easy they are to have a meal ready at the end of the day. However, if you underestimate their power they can cause problems and turn your home into a battlefield instead of a culinary haven.
Yes, it is possible to get food poisoning from your slow cooker if you use it incorrectly. If foods don’t reach over 140℉ they can grow bacteria that have been known to cause food poisoning. There are several steps you can take to avoid getting food poisoning, such as having a clean workspace and refrigerating your ingredients until use.
Getting food poisoning is not a fun experience, so we’ll take a look here at how you can avoid that when using a slow cooker. There are many ways that food poisoning can happen when it comes to slow cooking. One of the most common is placing frozen meats into the slow cooker.
Let’s look at some safety tips on how to use the slow cooker properly and have a delicious and nutritious meal.
How Can Slow Cookers 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.
If you plan on making a meat dish with your slow cooker make sure the meat is thawed out before cooking. Frozen meat cools the slow cooker and makes it more susceptible to bacteria growth.
Have a Clean Workspace
Make sure the space where the slow cooker will be is cleared of clutter and cleaned. Prep your ingredients on a clean surface as well. Use an antibacterial cleaner in your workspace for best results.
Keep Ingredients in the Fridge Until Ready to Use
Keeping your ingredients in the fridge will keep them from reaching room temperature. If they reach room temperature they become more likely to grow bacteria. Pull your ingredients out when you’re prepping them or adding them to the slow cooker.
Don’t Mix Ingredients While Prepping
If you’re prepping your meat and vegetables at the same time don’t mix them until they are in the slow cooker. Bacteria that may be on the meat can leach onto the vegetables during preparation.
Cut Larger Meats into Smaller Pieces
Larger thicker pieces of meat can take more time to cook and may not cook thoroughly. This can cause your meal not to be done when you need it to be. To avoid this, cut the large pieces into smaller, more manageable pieces that will cook evenly.
Don’t Overfill the Slow Cooker
Overfilling the ceramic pot can lead to two things: spillage from too much liquid, and uneven cooking. To make the best use of your slow cooker only fill it ½ way. Also remember that if you’re using a slice of fatty meat and hard vegetables like carrots they produce more liquid during the cooking process, so you may need less liquid than may be called for.
Leave the Lid On
Unless you’re adding softer ingredients like fresh herbs or pasta near the end of your meal cooking, the lid should remain on. Lifting the lid removed heat and condensation from the cooker. This can lead to dry meals and the possibility of the meal not reaching safe temperatures above 140℉.
Use a Food Safe Thermometer
Have a food-safe thermometer to check the inner temperature of the foods you’re cooking. This is the best way to see that your food has reached temperatures above the bacteria growing temperature of 140℉.
Storing the Leftovers
The ceramic insert of the slow cooker can be placed right into the fridge if you have room for it. Leave the lid on and put the whole pot into the fridge. If you don’t have space then placing the leftovers in an airtight container will work as well. Never place your ceramic insert in the freezer. The lower temperatures can crack and ruin the pot.
Leaving the Slow Cooker on Warm Overnight
There might be many reasons you want to leave your slow cooker on overnight. If you have a meal you’d like to keep warm until morning you can do that.
Check your model to see if it has an automatic shut-off after a certain amount of time. The warm setting on most slow cookers is 145℉, so you’re food will stay safe as long as the cooker is on.
Healthy Cooking with a Slow Cooker
Slow cookers rely heavily on the use of fresh ingredients to make meals. The low heat on slow cookers keeps the nutrients in the food, unlike higher heat cooking methods. They are a great method for having a meal ready when you need it and are too busy to make something, and they help prevent ordering other unhealthy options.
Retaining Vitamins with Slow Cooking
Low slow cooking actually holds in more nutrients than the high heat cooking methods. This is because you’re slowly adding heat to the ingredient instead of instantly heating it. The ingredients hold in their nutrients for longer periods than with high heat.
Stopping and Starting a Slow Cooker Again
This is not recommended. Stopping the slow cooker for extended periods can drop the temperature to the bacteria growing temperature. To keep your meal safe you should leave the cooker on until the meal inside has finished cooking.
Minced Meat Should be Browned before Slow Cooker Use
Browning your minced meats before adding them to the slow cooker prevents the meat from clumping. Browning the meat in a skillet also removes any excess grease the meat may have. This will help prevent excess liquid in the slow cooker.
Lead Content in Ceramic Slow Cooker Insert
Since learning about the dangers of lead poisoning many manufacturers have turned away from using any lead in their products. Every name brand of slow cooker does not have any lead in its glaze. If you are concerned that your slow cooker might have lead then the only way to find out is to test it yourself.
Using Jar Sauces Instead of Homemade Sauces
Nothing is stopping you from putting jar sauce into your slow cooker. Just remember not to overfill the slow cooker. Many recipes may call for one sauce or another, so jar sauces are perfect for the slow cooker.
What Can and Can’t Go in the Slow Cooker
When it comes to slow cookers you’d think they could cook anything, but that’s not true. Several things can’t go in the slow cooker or need to be added later or they’ll get mushy and gross.
Lean meats like chicken breasts can be placed in a slow cooker, but have to be cooked on low, in a liquid, and for short periods. If they are cooked longer like thick meats they tend to dry up.
Fresh herbs tend to have a strong flavor, and if you place those in right at the beginning you can overpower the meal you’re making. Try adding less or adding them near the end so they blend in perfectly.
These should also wait until near the end unless you want them to be mush by the end. When cooked for longer periods leafy greens begin to lose their nutrients and won’t add much to the meal.
Alcohol when used in foods is reduced and cooked down to get rid of the alcoholic traits of the liquid. It’s more the flavor that is needed in cooking. When placed in a slow cooker, however, the alcohol has nowhere to reduce because of condensation inside the cooker.
This one is sad because bacon is delicious on almost anything. When placed in the slow cooker it becomes mush. If you want bacon in your meal, cook it separately and then add it to get that crisp.
Pasta and Rice
Have you ever overcooked pasta? This is the same concept. Rice is the same way. When both are overcooked they become a mushy mess. Either cook them separately or add them near the end.
This is the one thing you should never ever put in your slow cooker. Dairy can easily become curdled in warm temperatures, so unless it’s mixed in with a sauce, don’t use it.
Slow Cookers Vs Oven and Food Poisoning
Which is better, the oven or the slow cooker? Both have their place in the kitchen, but what are the differences? For one, the oven cooks at higher temperatures, which cooks foods at a faster rate. Slow cookers are used for low-temperature cooking, and most of the time takes twice as long as the oven.
Can a Slow Cooker be Used as an Oven?
You can use your slow cooker as an oven. You will have to adjust times for certain recipes. Slow cookers work best as a baking tool. The Slow cooker also uses less energy than the oven, so taking up less power than an oven would. Slow cookers also don’t make your home warm by just being on, because they are low heat and contain all that in themselves.
Are Slow Cooker Pots Oven Safe?
Slow cooker ceramic pots are safe for temperatures up to 400℉, so they can be used in the oven. Keep the oven below 400℉ and the pot will be safe.
Can an Oven be Used as a Slow Cooker?
If you’re comfortable leaving your oven on all day then it can be used as a slow cooker. The oven will need to be turned down to temperatures around 200℉ to 250℉. You will need a container like the slow cooker for the oven. A Dutch oven is the best choice for using the oven this way.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Use a Slow Cooker Instead of a Casserole Dish?
A slow cooker is a perfect substitute for a casserole dish. You can place your casserole inside, turn on the slow cooker, and walk away until it is done.
How Long is Food Safe in a Slow Cooker?
If the slow cooker is turned off then food can stay safely in the cooker for about 2 to 4 hours. If the cooker is on warm it can stay safe for extended periods. The FDA states food left in a slow cooker on warm can stay safe indefinitely.
Are Slow Cookers Hygienic?
As long as you are regularly cleaning your slow cooker and using it properly then yes, the slow cooker will be hygienic. The bacteria begin to grow when the cooker isn’t being used correctly.
Is it Safe to Reheat Food in the Slow Cooker?
Do not reheat food in your slow cooker. It will take too long for the leftovers to reach a safe temperature level in the slow cooker. It is better to reheat food in an oven, microwave oven, or microwave. Slow cookers are too slow with their heat to be safe when reheating leftovers.
Final Thoughts about Slow Cookers causing Food Poisoning
Food poisoning is a serious issue when cooking meals for yourself. We have discussed many ways that you can get food poisoning from your slow cooker, and how to prevent it. Check your food with a food-safe thermometer to ensure it is above the bacteria growing temperature of 140℉. Equipped with this new knowledge about the slow cooker you can cook more confidently.