May Views - Safely Using Slow Cookers
Since I work ½ time now, I have more options when it comes to cooking methods to use. But, like you, I have days when I leave early in the morning and get home late in the evening. On those nights, it’s nice to have supper ready in the slow cooker (crockpot) when we get home.
Did you ever wonder if cooking food a long time with low heat was actually safe? Well, our UNL Extension food safety specialists agree with the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service. They say a slow cooker generally cooks foods between 170 and 280 degrees F. The direct heat from the pot, lengthy cooking, and steam created within the tightly-covered container combine to destroy bacteria and make the slow cooker a safe process for cooking foods. However, food safety practices should be followed. The following tips were taken from the UNL web site food.unl.edu. Check it out for much more information.
- Begin with a clean cooker, clean utensils, and a clean work area.
- Wash hands before and during food preparation.
- Keep perishable foods refrigerated until preparation time.
- If you cut up meat and vegetables in advance, store them separately in the refrigerator.
- Always thaw meat or poultry before putting it into a slow cooker.
- Choose to make foods with a high moisture content such as chili, soup, or stew.
- Vegetables cook slower than meat and poultry in a slow cooker so if using them, put the vegetables in first.
- Large cuts of meat and poultry may be cooked safely in a slow cooker, however since slow cookers are available in several sizes, consult the instruction booklet for suggested sizes of meat and poultry to cook in your slow cooker. Add the meat and desired amount of liquid suggested.
- Keep the lid in place while cooking removing only to stir the food or check for doneness.
Most cookers have two or more settings. Foods take different times to cook depending upon the setting used. Certainly, foods will cook faster on high than on low. However, for all-day cooking or for less tender cuts, you may want to use the low setting. If possible, turn the cooker on the highest setting for the first hour of cooking time and then to low or the setting called for in your recipe. However, it’s safe to cook foods on low the entire time – if you’re leaving for work, for example.
While food is cooking and once it's done, food will stay safe as long as the cooker is operating.