To qualify as a safe slow cooker, the appliance must be able to cook slow enough for unattended cooking, yet fast enough to keep food above the danger zone.
To determine if a slow cooker will heat to a safe temperature:
- Fill cooker with 2 quarts of water.
- Heat on low for 8 hours or desired cooking time.
- Check the water temperature with an accurate thermometer (quickly because the temperature drops 10 to 15 degrees when the lid is removed).
- The temperature of the water should be 185°. Temperatures above this would indicate that a product cooked for 8 hours without stirring would be over-done. Temperatures below this may indicate the cooker does not heat food high enough or fast enough to avoid potential food safety problems.
When preparing food in a slow cooker, follow these guidelines:
- Start with fresh or thawed meat - not frozen.
- Use chunks rather than large cuts or roasts. Use pieces of poultry - not a whole chicken.
- Cook meat on high for 1 hour and then turn cooker to low.
- Only use recipes that include a liquid.
- Check internal temperature to make sure food reaches 160 degrees F.
- Do not delay starting time.
- Do not reheat foods in slow cooker.
- Keep the lid on.