Slow Cooking Safe Meals

— Written By Emily Troutman and last updated by
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Who can resist coming home after a long day of work to dinner already cooked and only one pot to clean? Slow cookers are a fall and winter staple, and with proper use, they are a completely safe and energy efficient way to serve up your favorite meals. Follow these tips to ensure the food coming out of your slow cooker is delicious and safe:

  • Slow cooking is a great way to tenderize tougher, less expensive cuts of meat. Follow your slow cooker’s manufacturers guidelines and recipes to ensure food is reaching proper temperatures while cooking.
  • Start with clean hands, equipment, and utensils.
  • ALWAYS thaw any meat or poultry before putting it in a slow cooker. If frozen pieces are used, they may not reach a safe temperature quick enough and could possibly result in foodborne illness. There are only three safe ways of thawing food; in the refrigerator, under cold (70°F) running water, and in the microwave (if being cooked immediately).
  • Preheat your slow cooker and add hot liquids, if possible. Preheating or cooking on the highest setting for the first hour will ensure rapid heating of the food and may reduce time it spends in the Temperature Danger Zone (41°F – 135°F) where bacteria can grow at rapid rates.
  • Never use the warm setting to cook food. It is designed to keep food hot once it has finished cooking.
  • Avoid lifting the lid when cooking, if possible. Each time the lid is raised, internal temperature of the slow cooker drops 10-15 degrees and cook time is slowed by 30 minutes.
  • ALWAYS check the internal temperature of meat and poultry with a food thermometer before taking a bite. Minimum internal cooking temperatures – Roasts: 145°F; Poultry: 165°F, Soups, stews & sauces: 165°F.
  • Do not leave cooked food in the slow cooker to cool. Eat food immediately or separate into shallow containers and refrigerate within 2 hours.
  • Do not reheat leftovers in a slow cooker. Reheat in a microwave or stovetop (to internal temperature of 165°F) and keep warm (at 135°F or above) in slow cooker, if needed.