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Beat the Heat with a Slow Cooker This Summer!

Posted in Our Blog on July 1, 2024

As the pages of calendar turn and the days heat up, you may be thinking of ways to cool down meal prep in the kitchen. Alternative cooking methods are great ways to do so. Especially, ones that don’t add extra heat to the room! A slow cooker or crock pot is a great appliance to have.

In addition to being a minimal heat-producing device, this convenience tool reduces your time in the kitchen. Leaving you free for other fun summer activities.

Cooking meat low and slow has its advantages, but also its risks.

Let’s talk slow cooker safety.

What is a Slow Cooker or Crock Pot?

A slow cooker is a countertop electrical appliance intended to cook food slowly. It uses a lower temperature, usually between 170° F and 280° F.

Using this low and slow method allows you to cook less expensive, leaner cuts of meat in a way that transforms them into tender bites. It also makes for less shrinkage – giving you more bang for your buck!

Designed with direct heat from a pot, combined with steam generated inside and contained within a tightly covered lid creates a safe process that destroys bacteria while cooking foods.

But it isn’t foolproof.

Keep these slow cooker safety tips in mind while you cool off the kitchen this summer.

Start Clean When Using a Slow Cooker

Great endings start with great beginnings. Cooking with a slow cooker is no exception.

Begin with a clean cooker. If you haven’t used it in a while, it may have been cross-contaminated. Or at the very least, a bit dusty.

Clean your slow cooker (if necessary), use clean utensils, and start with a clean work area. As always, be sure to wash your hands before you begin cooking. Wash them again as needed throughout the preparation process.

Mind Your Temperatures

Keep perishable foods refrigerated until you are ready to work with them.

Meal prepping is a great way to save time on a busy morning when you are wanting to run out the door. A great way to save time is to cut up meat and veggies in advance. This way all you have to do is dump them in the slow cooker, add seasonings, and flip a switch (or turn a dial, or press a button – they have gotten fancy lately).

Remember to store meat and veggies separately in the refrigerator. Combining them early may allow unnecessary cross-contamination. Keeping raw foods cold for as long as possible prevents those bad bugs from getting a “head start” during the first few hours of cooking. In addition to cooking slowly, it may take several hours for the temperature of food inside the slow cooker to reach a safe, bacteria-killing levels.

Don’t Cook Raw, Frozen Meats in the Slow Cooker

Always thaw meat and poultry before placing it in a slow cooker. Frozen foods do not evenly thaw in a slow cooker. This leaves the innermost part of the food frozen while the outside begins to cook. As it cooks, parts of the food may remain in unsafe temperature zones, leaving it vulnerable to bacterial growth.

Foods with a high moisture content heat up more rapidly. Think chili, soups, stews, or even spaghetti sauce.

Many food manufacturers put together meals meant for slow cookers. For these meals, prepare according to manufacturer instructions.

Consider Cooking Order in a Slow Cooker

Different foods cook faster than others. For example, some thick and hearty vegetables sweet potatoes, carrots, and turnips take a bit longer to cook. So put them on the bottom and start them early.

Hard squash, cauliflower and broccoli will cook about the same amount of time as meat, so those can go in at the same time.

Softer foods like cherry tomatoes or zucchini and greens have the shortest roasting time. Consider adding them when you get home, allowing them a shorter time to heat.

Pay Attention to Size of Meat Compared to Your Slow Cooker

Be mindful of the size of your slow cooker when selecting large cuts of meat and poultry. Overcrowding the slow cooker can affect cooking times and safe temperatures within the appliance.

Consult your slow cooker’s user manual for suggested sizes of meat and poultry for your model.

Low vs High Setting

Most slow cookers have at least two settings. Low and high. Your decision for low versus high should be determined by what foods you are cooking, and how quickly you want it cooked. Most recipes will have two options. A specific amount of time for cooking on low and a different time for cooking on high.

If possible, set the slow cooker to the highest setting for the first hour of cooking. This helps the appliance reach temperature faster and gets your food to a safe cooking temperature more quickly.

What Happens If the Power Goes Out?

If you have a slow cooking meal in progress and a power outage occurs while you are away, the food may be unsafe to eat. Throw it away – even if it appears to be cooked.

Deviations from acceptable temperature can lead to the growth of bacteria. Consuming it may make you and your family sick.

If you are home when the power outage occurs, you have a few options. Finish cooking the meal in some other way. If possible, use a gas stove, an outdoor grill, or at another location where there is still power.

If you are home to verify the power outage occurred after the recommended cooking time and food is fully cooked, you are in luck! Cooked food is safe for up to 2 hours in the cooker. Even with the power off.


Store leftovers in a shallow container and refrigerate them within two hours of turning off the slow cooker.

Reheating leftovers in a slow cooker is not recommended.

Opt for a stove, microwave, or conventional oven instead. Heat leftovers to a recommended 165° F internal temperature. Hot food may be placed in a preheated slow cooker to keep it hot for serving. Food should be consumed within two hours.

How Are You Coping with the Heat This Summer?

How are you coping with the heat this summer? Cold meals, alternative appliances, and quick cooking options are great ways to beat the summer heat and keep food safety in mind.

Stay in Touch with Make Food Safe!

If you’d like to know more about food safety topics in the news, like Beat the Heat with a Slow Cooker This Summer, check out the Make Food Safe Blog. We regularly update trending topics, foodborne infections in the news, recalls, and more! Stay tuned for quality information to help keep your family safe, while The Lange Law Firm, PLLC strives to Make Food Safe!

By: Heather Van Tassell (contributing writer, non-lawyer)