Using a slow cooker safely

Dinner in a slow cooker.

When days are long and hectic it is a wonderful feeling to come home and know that dinner is done and waiting for you in a slow cooker. However, there are some precautions you should take in order to keep your dinner safe while using this appliance, says Michigan State University Extension.

A slow cooker is an electrical appliance that slowly cooks foods at temperatures of 170 degrees Fahrenheit to about 280 degrees Fahrenheit. Foods cooked at these temperatures, in a closed container that retains steam for long periods of time kills bacteria. This makes a slow cooker, if working properly, a safe appliance to use.

First it is important to have a clean work area and your hands are washed whenever you are preparing food. Next make sure any meats or poultry you are preparing are properly thawed before using them in a slow cooker. This will assure that the foods like soups or stews are healthy and simple foods to prepare and maintain moisture when cooked all day. If you are using pre-packaged slow cooker meals, read and follow all manufacturers’ instructions.

It is safe to prepare large cuts of meat or poultry in a slow cooker but it is recommended to first check the instruction manual of the appliance. This will state what the proper size of meat or poultry your appliance is capable of safely cooking.

Check to make sure the slow cooker is plugged in and set at the proper temperature for the foods you plan to cook. If a power outage occurs while using the slow cooker, immediately transfer the food to a gas oven, outdoor grill or to a location with electricity to finish the cooking process. If the food is finished cooking at the time of the power outage, the food should be safe to leave in the slow cooker for two hours.

Left overs should be divided in small, shallow containers, labeled and dated and placed in a refrigerator within two hours after the food has been completely cooked. It is not safe to reheat foods in a slow cooker. When food is reheated it must reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit by method of stove, microwave, or a conventional oven. After food has been properly reheated it can be placed for hot holding in a preheated slow cooker for no more than two hours.

Enjoy the benefits of using a slow cooker safely.

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