Crockpot 101

Slow cookers, more commonly known to many as “crockpots,” are ideal for cooking meats, soups, chili, stews, casseroles, and other high-moisture dishes year-round, especially during the winter season.

Their usefulness lies in the fact that you can prepare ingredients ahead of time, place them in the crockpot to cook throughout the day, and have your dish ready to go by the time you come home from a busy day at school or work. How’s that for convenience, limited mess, and unattended cooking?

Before you get busy cooking, here are a few things you should know:

  • Older crockpots (five years or older) typically allow you to adjust only the temperature. Newer crockpots are made so that users can adjust both the temperature and cooking start time.
  • Reduce added liquids to half of the needed amount (except for rice, beans, pasta and recipes including other dry ingredients), as liquids don’t evaporate during cooking. You are often left with more liquid at the end than you originally started with.
  • Conventional cook time on recipe:
    • 15-30 minutes: cook for 4-6 hours on LOW, or 1 ½-2 hours on HIGH
    • 35-45 minutes: cook for 6-10 hours on LOW, or 3-4 hours on HIGH
    • 50 minutes to 3 hours: cook for 8-10 hours on LOW, or 4-6 hours on HIGH
  • The “LOW” setting generally indicates 200-240°F while the “HIGH” setting typically refers to cooking at a temperature between 300-340°F
  • Cut vegetables into similar size chunks to reduce cooking time. They will not over-cook if added at the same time other ingredients are added.

While slow cookers are extremely useful and allow for the creation of delicious recipes, be sure to follow these simple food safety tips before using your crockpot:

  • Wash the crockpot with hot soap and water before and after use to ensure cleanliness.
  • Make sure that the crockpot is plugged in and on at all times during cooking.
  • Remove the lid only to stir ingredients and check if the food is done.
  • Refrigerate perishable foods until you are ready to use them.
  • Thaw any frozen ingredients, especially meat and poultry, before placing in the crockpot.
  • Read the instruction manual for more information about cooking various sizes of meat and poultry thoroughly.
  • Do NOT re-heat food in a crockpot.
  • If you have leftovers, place in sealed, airtight containers within two hours after cooking. Refrigerate for up to four days or place in the freezer for later use.