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TEXARKANA, Ark. –
Imagine opening your front door and being greeted by the inviting aromas of beef stew
or chicken noodle soup wafting from a slow cooker (crock pot). This can be a dream
come true for a busy cook. A slow cooker can make life a little more convenient because,
by planning ahead, you save time later. Additionally, it takes less electricity to
operate a slow cooker than it does an oven.
Many question the safety of slow cookers. The slow cooker, a counter top appliance,
cooks foods slowly at a low temperature generally between 170 and 280 degrees F. The
low heat helps less expensive, leaner cuts of meat become tender and shrinks less.
The direct heat from the cooker, lengthy cooking and steam created within the tightly-covered
container combine to destroy bacteria and make the slow cooker a safe process for
Choose to make foods with a high moisture content such as chili, soup, stew or spaghetti
Cut food into chunks or small pieces to ensure thorough cooking. Do not use the slow
cooker for large pieces like a roast or whole chicken because the food will cook so
slowly it could remain in the bacterial danger zone too long.
Using the right amount of food is crucial to a quality end product.
Fill the cooker no less than half full and no more than two-thirds full.
Vegetables cook slower than meat and poultry in a slow cooker so if using them put
vegetables in first, at the bottom and around side of the utensil.
Then add the meat and cover the food with liquid such as broth, water or barbecue
sauce. Keep the lid in place, 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 is safe to cook foods on low the entire time if you're leaving for work,
for example, and preparation time is limited.
While food is cooking and once it’s done, food will stay safe as long as the cooker
If you are not at home during the entire slow-cooking process and the power goes out,
throw away the food even if it looks done.
If you are at home, finish cooking the ingredients immediately by some other means:
on a gas stove, on the outdoor grill or at a house where the power is on.
When you are at home, and if the food was completely cooker before the power went
out, the food should remain safe up to two hours in the cooker with the power off
and lid kept closed.
Store leftovers in shallow covered containers and refrigerate within two hours after
cooking is finished. Reheating leftovers in a slow cooker is not recommended. However,
cooked food can be brought to steaming on the stove top or in a microwave oven and
then put into a preheated slow cooker to keep hot for serving.
For more information about food safety or food and nutrition, contact me at (870)
779-3609, e-mail Miller@uada.edu or visit room 319 in the Miller County Courthouse.
Dust off your slow cooker and try this recipe for Chicken Cacciatore. All that is
needed when you get home is cooked rice, a green vegetable and fruit salad.
DIRECTIONSHeat oil in skillet and brown chicken pieces. Place chicken in cooker, cover with
onion slices, then add all other ingredients. Cook on low 6-8 hours, or on high 3-4
hours. Yield: 4-6 servings.Tried & True Tip: Don’t open the lid of your crock pot while cooking. Every time the lid is lifted,
you have to add 2 hours to the total cooking time to recoup the lost heat.
By Carla Due M.S.County Extension AgentFamily & Consumer SciencesThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture