Slow Cookers – Times, Temperatures and Techniques

Crock Pot
Slow Cooker

Winter – long, cold, busy days demand easy,nutritious meals ready and waiting for us when we get home from work. This is the perfect time of the year to use our slow cooker. I have mine out almost on a weekly basis, not only enjoying the convenience of this great piece of equipment but also the delicious results of a long slow cooking method.  I have already made Beef Short Ribs in a Stout Sauce; Curried Pumpkin Chicken Soup and Steel Cut Oat Porridge with Dried Cherries, to mention just a few recipes used within the last month.

There are many different types of slow cookers on the market today, making it a good idea to read the instruction manual when you first get yours. The setting temperatures and times may vary according to manufacturer. 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.

In general, Low setting on a slow cooker = 190 degrees F and High setting = 300 degrees F.

When using a slow cooker, follow these guidelines.

  1. Start with fresh or thawed meat–not frozen.
  2. Use chunks rather than large cuts or roasts. Use pieces of poultry–not a whole chicken.
  3. Cook meat on high for 1 hour and then turn cooker to low–rather than cooking on low for the entire length of time.
  4. Only use recipes that include a liquid. Cooker should be ½ to ¾ full for best results.
  5. Check internal temperature to make sure food reaches 160°F.
  6. Do not delay starting time.
  7. Do not reheat foods in slow cooker.
  8. Keep the lid on.

We sometimes would like to turn one of our oven recipes into a recipe that will work in the slow cooker. A general conversion chart would be:

Oven Times                           Slow Cooker Times and Settings

15-30 minutes                      1 ½ – 2 ½ hours on High or 4 – 8 hours on Low

35-45 minutes                      3 – 4 hours on High or 6 – 10 hours on Low

50 minutes – 3 hours          4 – 6 hours on High or 8 – 18 hours on Low

We sometimes have callers concerned about the safety of their slow cookers. To determine if a slow cooker will heat food to a safe temperature, fill the cooker with 2 quarts of water. Heat on Low for 8 hours or the 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° to 200°F. Temperatures above this would indicate that a product cooked for 8 hours without stirring would be overdone. Temperatures below this may indicate the cooker does not heat food high enough or fast enough to avoid potential food safety problems.

REF: Patricia Redlinger 1993; Pm-1523

Below is a conversion chart to illustrate comparative cook times for High and Low:

High Low
3 hours 7 hours
4 8
5 9
6 10
7 11
8 12

Typical slow cooker food loads and their respective cooking times:

Meat Cut Meat Weight Low cook time High cook time
Large pork roast 6-7 lbs 9 ½ hours 7 1/3 hours
Pork Loin 3-4 lbs 6 hours 5 hours
Poultry 6 lbs 7 1/2 hours 6 ¼ hours
Beef Roast 3-4 lbs 8 hours 5 ¾ hours
Stew meat 3 lbs 6 hours 4 ¾ hours
Fish 2 lbs 3 ½ hours 1 1/2 hours

All cook times are approximate. Appropriate cook time varies according to specific meat characteristics for fat content and connective tissue as well as other ingredients added to dish including liquid, size of meat cubes, type of vegetable, size of vegetable dice, how slow cooker is filled, etc.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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570 thoughts on “Slow Cookers – Times, Temperatures and Techniques

  1. Allison, the time it takes for anything to come to temperature in a slow cooker depends upon many things beginning with the manufacturer who sets the wattage that the cooker will draw at a high or low setting. Other factors are the size of the slow cooker, amount of food in the cooker, temperature of the food going into the cooker, portion/size of items in the cooker, and room temperature. Getting to know your appliance is key.

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  4. I have an “electric casserole”, it’s max temp temp is 400 degrees min 176 degrees. Could this be used in place of a slow cooker for preparing food?
    Thank you. Jan

  5. Janet, yes, the electric casseroles can be used like a slow cooker. I have one made by CrockPot and it works very well for ‘casserole’ type foods that could be made in a slow cooker but don’t present as well. Some of my favorite ways to use it–tater tot casserole, enchiladas, green bean casserole, egg breakfast casserole, scalloped potatoes, to name a few. It also makes great apple crisp.

  6. Betty, thank you for your inquiry. If I understand your question correctly, you are looking for a cooker that is automatic. I can find no information that supports that as a feature. The digital programmable units switch from high to low or vise versa via preprogramming by the user. They also switch to warm when the programed time is reached. Other units have a temperature probe that switches to warm when the desired temperature is reached. There are several online reviews of slow cookers which you may find of interest as you look for a new slow cooker.

  7. Greetings! as an herbalist I am interested in making herbal infusions that need to sit in oil only up to 100 degrees F…. Does anybody know of a brand of slow cooker whose lowest heat is around this temp? Thank you in advance !

  8. Judy, thank you for your inquiry. Unfortunately, we do not know of a slow cooker or any other appliance whose lowest temperature is 100 degrees F or slightly lower. On the slow cooker warm setting, the temperature range is 145 to 165 F which is not an exact temperature as it is more of an indication of wattage being drawn. Yogurt makers commonly run with a temperature of 110-115 F. Lukewarm temperatures provide the perfect climate for microorganisms to grow so would be an undesirable appliance feature where food is concerned.

  9. My oldest Crockpot has a mode that starts on high and switches to low after about two hours. This feature was available for years, so you might find one at a garage sale or a thrift store. Mine must be 30 or 40 years old and it’s still cooking right along, as it is very simple and sturdy

  10. Hello Liz
    I’m cooking a 2.12 lb brisket in a slow cooker. How long should that stay in the cooker.
    Thank you

  11. Hi Ron, Liz has retired from AnswerLine but I will send along your greeting to her. Thanks for your inquiry. A brisket that size will likely take 6-7 hrs on the LOW setting. Enjoy!

  12. Judy, look for an Instant Pot that lets you control the temperature, like the Ultra model. I own a the 3 quart model and it lets me dial the temperature easily for the yogourt fermentation I choose (42 to 45 C), and 82 to:85 C for boiling the milk.

  13. I am panicking. I have a 14 lb bottom round roast and I know it should be slowly cooked. Can I cook it on low in a roaster and if so how long will I need to cook?

  14. Bobbi, I hope I am not too late to reply to your query. And to be completely honest I have no experience preparing a roast of that size nor can I find any specific information for that weight. I was hoping the Iowa Beef Council would be able to help out, but their website did not provide either. Therefore, the best I can find for roasting is to allow the roast to warm at room temperature for a short time. Preheat the oven to 325F. Place the roast in roasting pan. Insert meat thermometer into the center of the roast. Roast for about 20 minutes a pound or until the thermometer shows 125°F for rare meat or 160°F for well done or desired doneness. Remove from the roaster and cover with foil. Allow the roast to sit for about 15-20 minutes before slicing. Bear in mind, that while the roast sits to reabsorb liquid, the temperature will continue to climb too, so removing it from the oven slightly under temperature may be advisable. Thanks for contacting AnswerLine and I hope that this will procedure will work for you.

  15. Bobbi, some additional thoughts or specifics that I failed to mention in the first reply: use a Dutch oven method to help create a moisture roasting environment and choose a finished temperature of medium or less as the roast will be too tough if you cook it beyond medium.

  16. Hey. I have a 6lbs pot roast with veggies…how long do i cook it on low for? I’m planning to add the veggies 1 hour after starting the meat.

  17. Kathryn, thanks for contacting AnswerLine. It should take somewhere between 8 and 9 hrs on a low setting. Best!

  18. Hi & Shalom – If possible – please be as kind as to inform the temperature of the ‘Auto’ Dial on an old Kenwood CrocPot – Thank You Luci

  19. Hi Luci, thank you for contacting AnswerLine. Individual manufacturers determine the thermostat settings for their slow cooker appliances on wattage so while temperatures are a measure, they fluctuate by manufacturer. The auto function combines high and low settings for cooking with the purpose of minimal supervision for the consumer. I was not able to find any specs for the Kenwood slow cooker that revealed wattages being used for the various settings.

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