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

  1. Hi Margaret, start the pork shoulder on high for the first 2 hours and then continue to cook for an additional 4-5 hours. Be sure to include some liquid in the pot with the pork so that the meat will cook efficiently.

  2. my recipe calls for 6-8 hours on medium for beef barley soup. I only have low/high on my slow cooker.
    what would be the equivalent?

  3. I have a 1.5 lbs pork shoulder that I want to make pulled pork with. How long should I cook it in the crockpot?

  4. My wife is slow cooking for the first time. I am a Food Science graduate from Nottingham University, when Adam was a boy! Should slow cooker contents always be covered in liquid to aid heat transfer, please?
    NB I do not understand what I am supposed to write in your ‘Website’ box.


  5. I just bought a 7 lb pork shoulder that I’m cooking in my crockpot for pulled pork. How long to cook on high?

  6. Hi, we always start on high for the first hour or two. After that, it can be turned down to low for an additional 6-8 hours for the pork to become tender.

  7. Good morning Paul, yes the food should be covered with liquid to ensure proper heat transfer during cooking. Otherwise heat transfer will be very slow and inefficient. Sorry, I don’t know what box you refer to in the comment area.

  8. Hi, start it on high for the first hour or two and then cook an additional 4 hours. Be sure to include some liquid inside the pot for efficient cooking.

  9. I have a 10 pound Boston butt. What is an idea of how long and what temp to cook it in my slow cooker? It’s bigger than the ones I get usually. Hope it fits in slow cooker. I appreciate any help.

  10. Hi, start on high for the first 2 hours and then cook for an additional 6-8 hours on low. Be sure to add liquid for the pot to work most efficiently.

  11. I seared a sirloin tip roast in cast iron on the stove first, added sliced onion and put it in the oven at 325 for an hour while I cleaned the carrots and potatoes. I then transferred the roast into my crock pot and set it on low. At the end of 6 hours, I added the potatoes and carrots. 2 hours later I checked the temperature of the roast with my meat thermometer and it only read 160. The temperature guide says the temp should be at 180 for pot roasts. It’s not fork tender yet, so I turned it up to high. Was that a mistake? ‘Should I just ‘suck it up’ and wait for another hour or two? I’m making it for dinner for tomorrow (because I started it too late today…). I won’t get my answer tonight (or this morning as it’s 2:18 a.m), I know, but I’m wondering if I reheat it tomorrow, will it continue cooking to that desired fork tender pot roast I’m hoping for? Or, did I blow it?! Or should I say, maybe it’s time to get an Instant Pot??? Thank you in advance!

  12. Hi Liz. Well, I lucked out! I checked it out after an hour on high again and my roast came up to 180 and is fork tender! The best I’ve ever made! YAY!

  13. Glad to hear it turned out well. Did you add liquid to the pot? It makes the cooking much more efficient. Also, vegetables take longer to cook than the meat in a crock pot. For that reason, they advise you to place the vegetables at the bottom of the crock pot.

  14. I have a small Nesco roaster that allows me to set the temperature. Above the degrees it says things like”slow cook”, “roast”, “bake”, etc depending on the associated temperature. My experience has been that Hamilton Beach slow cookers cook hotter than Crock Pot brand, and have over cooked things on me. What temp would be closest to Crock Pot low?

  15. My question and my guess: How long do I slow cook a 2lb. beef roast? (just an average cut of meat) In reading your responses, I am detecting a clear pattern of veggies on the bottom, liquid in the pot (at least 2/3 full) and cooking on high for at least the first hour. Since I have yet to see my exact scenario in the posts, I’ve done a little math and I’d like to find out if my conversion skills are accurate. If not, please guide me. I am figuring I need about 5hrs (min) to 6hrs (max) of total cooking time, with the 1st hour on high, and the remaining time on low. Is that about right? Lastly, I just want to say that I have found so much value in the information you provide and I appreciate it greatly. Thanks for being there… and keeping us safe from ourselves!
    P.S. Perhaps you already do this, but will you please also reply to my email address in case I don’t catch your reply here? Thank you!

  16. Hi, I am only cooking for 2 people and so always have very small weights of meat. on average 1.5 – 2 lbs but I cant find times for them? Is there a table for smaller pieces? for example tomorrow I would like to do 1.75lb pork cushion picnic for a pulled pork recipe but every recipe and times I find is for 3-4lbs minimun. Any help would be greatly appreciated. (I already over cooked a beef roast trying to figure it out myself)

  17. I have a 3.27lb bf roast. Adding carrots, potatoes, 1 can soup + 1 can water & diced onion. Will this fit in a 3 qt oval crock without boiling over or should I use the oven?

  18. Hi, I’m sorry to have missed your deadline. If you have enough liquid in the cooker, you should not have an issue with overcooking the pork. It will fall apart on it’s own if cooked longer than optimum. You should plan to cook the roast for 4 hours, beginning on high for the first hour and then lowering to low for the rest of the cook time.

  19. Hi Liz, I am concerned about the safety of eating ~2 lbs. boneless chicken thighs that I prepared in the slow cooker setting of my Instant Pot Lux 60 last night. Here’s why: I pull the chicken out of the freezer and put it still inside the freezer bag in a metal bowl in the fridge on the 1st night, intending to cook it the next evening. The next morning, it was still partially frozen, so I transferred it to a plate and put it back in the fridge. I didn’t cook it that 2nd evening, but it had thawed by that time. It stayed refrigerated the whole next day, and that 3rd evening I put the chicken in a large bowl, well-immersed in a marinade of soy sauce, brown sugar, and sherry, because I was worried about it going bad. It spent that night and the next day like that. Then the 4th evening, I put it in the Instant Pot multicooker on Slow Cook for 8.5 hours, (which went into the stay warm setting). I had tossed the marinade and covered the chicken with fresh water for the slow cooking. Looking at the temperatures for these Instant Pot machines, it seems that it should have been fully cooked. It has absolutely fallen apart. I am still afraid, though, because of the length of time I postponed cooking. Do you think I have taken sufficient steps to ensure that the chicken is safe? Thank you for your help.

  20. HI, I have a recipe that called for a 4lb beef chuck roast, and said to cook for 8 hours. I have a 2.67 lb beef chuck roast ( both due to size of crockpot and price of roast). How long should I cook for or how do I adjust for size difference of the meat? Thanks so much!

  21. We recommend that thawed chicken be in your refrigerator for no more than 2 days. If you think it was thawed for longer than that it wouldn’t be worth the risk to eat it. Many time it will start to get slippery or slimy and those are definitely signs of bacteria and if this was the cast I would not recommend eating it.

  22. Hi Amy. It will probably take 6-7 hours for your smaller roast to cook in the crock pot. Most roasts taht are 3-4 pounds do take around 8 hours.

  23. Hi there I’m cooking a 3.5lb pork loin in the slow cooker for the first time ive had it on high for a little over 2 hrs do u know how much longer it would take if i turned it to low I’m concerned about over doing it and have no experience to draw on

  24. I noticed an error in the post: High setting can’t result in 300°F, pretty sure it’s supposed to be 200°F.

  25. Dennis, the temperatures given in the blog are correct. A slow cooker on low should be about 190-200 degrees; while the high setting should be 300 degrees. If yours is not reaching these temperatures, you’ll want to test it to ensure it meets the current safety standards to keep your food safe and ensure your meals cook properly.

  26. Patricia, generally a 3-5 lb chuck roast requires about 8 hrs of slow cooking time. At 7 lbs, I would estimate an additional 1-2 hrs. If you want to speed it up a little, you can use high heat for the first two hours and then low heat until done.

  27. How long should I cook 1.5 lbs of boneless beef stew in the crockpot? Also would you recommend adding anything extra besides seasonings, Cream of mushroom, and beef stock? I threw some mushrooms in there because I plan on cooking rice on the side to go with it.
    Thanks in advance for your advice.

  28. Victoria, generally beef stew meat cooked in a crockpot on low takes about 7 hrs. On high, the time can be cut in half, 3-4 hrs. Besides the mushroom soup, mushrooms, and beef stock, you could also add onion, garlic, and brown gravy mix (all suggestions, not necessarily must dos). Sounds like a delicious meal coming soon!

  29. Hi I have a 2/4 pound round beef roast that I want to cook in my crock pot. The directions say to cook for 60 min. In even. I would like to cook on low but depends how M long of time. So all together I’m cooking a round beef roast with red potatoes baby carrots and onions with onion soup mix in the Crock-Pot how long do you recommend thank you

  30. Kimberlyn, Round roast usually take 8 hours on low. Because round roast is a tougher cut, I would not encourage speeding the time up by going to high for 4 hours as this cut really requires low temperatures and slow cooking to breakdown the muscle. Brown your roast and then place it, vegetables, seasonings,and liquid in crock pot. Some like to use red wine as part of their liquid as it helps to also tenderize the meat. Hope you enjoy!

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