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

  1. I have a 3.5 chuck roast in the crockpot. I seared it, put vegetables on the bottom and added beef broth. I have it cooking on high. How long do I leave it on high and then how long on low? Thank you!

  2. I forgot to mention I do have it filled over 3/4 full. I didn’t have a larger pot and I hadn’t read this feed before I started.

  3. I’m sorry, I was out of the office yesterday and my co-worker did not notice the comment. You would have left it on low for 4-6 hours after starting it on high for the first two hours.

  4. I am in a time crunch and I started about 6-7 lbs of pork for Chile Verde at 10:30 this morning what is the absolute least amount of time it can cook on High?

  5. yogurt recipe called for 2 1/2 hours on low but milk did not reach 180 degrees in that time-next time should I program unit for 2 1/2 hours on medium?

  6. Do you cook a bone in pork roast longer than you would a boneless roast ? If so how much longer or higher temperature would you do?

  7. I want to slow cook at 2.65 lb. pork tenderloin roast.
    Would I cook it for about 6 hrs on high?
    Thank you!

  8. Hi there. I have a pork shoulder whole to slow cook. It’s over 6lbs (3kg). Can I cook it on high for 2 hours (4 hours on low equiv) and then let it go for 8 hours on low…? So total 12 hours on low … my recipe says 8 hours on low for a 2lb pork shoulder. The cut is whole … should I cut it into chunks? Its bone in.

  9. Yes, you can start on high for 2 hours and continue on for an additional 6-8 hours. Be sure to add liquid to the pot so that it will cook efficiently.

  10. My husband put 2 pork loins 4lbs each in the crock pot and cooked them on low for 8.5 hours? Do you think they are done? We decided not to chance it and put the whole thing in the fridge and decided to cook it longer in the crock pot today so he put the whole thing back on again for 6 more hours today? Was that over kill? Lol I personally want to throw the whole thing out but he thinks I’m crazy!! Plus it is 8 Lbs of meat! He was only suppose to put ONE on the crockpot but decided to just cook both! please help!! I really don’t want to have ANYONE get sick!!

  11. Yes Nicole, I think they were cooked after 8.5 hours. If liquid was added to the pot for cooking the tenderloins should be falling apart done.

  12. Lol ok thank you so much! I’m always so paranoid by something I read!! And reheating it in the crockpot was ok too?

  13. Hi, you will want to start the slow cooker on high for an hour and cook for 4-5 additional hours in the slow cooker. Remember to add some liquid to the cooker to make the cooking process more efficient.

  14. I have a 6 pound pot roast and need to eat no later than 1pm. What time should I start it?

  15. Plan on a total cook time of 6-8 hours. Start it on high for 2 hours (included as a part of the six hours) and then turn it to low for the remaining 4-6 hours. Be sure to add some liquid to the pot to help it cook efficiently. Thanks

  16. I am cooking 15 lbs. of pork butt. Each piece is 5 lbs.. My friend gave me her roaster that does slow cooking up to 18 lbs.. That way I don’t have to have three different slow cookers going. The recipe says to cook 5 lbs. (in my case 15lbs. because I tripled it) for 5-7 hrs. on low. There is liquid in the recipe. Then take out and shred the meat and then mix the sauce in and put back into the empty roaster for another hour. Since I am tripling the recipe, is 7 hrs, and then another hr. after shredding enough?

  17. I forgot to mention that there is no low and hi for the 18 lb. roaster pan but it does have 200 degrees and 250 degrees for the slow cooker setting. I read that to get the low setting I should set it dial on 200 degrees. Correct?

  18. I have a 9.5 lb boneless boston butt that I’m thawing to cook tomorrow. How long should I cook it if I cut it in half and cook both pieces in the crock pot at the same time? Should I cook it for 1 hr on high first, and then on low for whatever length of time you tell me? What do you suggest, and thanks so much!

  19. I have two 5lb chuck roast. Can I cook them in the same crockpot and would I need to double the cooking time to 16 hrs.

  20. Yes, having two pieces of meat in the same crock pot will not double the cooking time. Just be sure to have them separated a bit, or it will take longer for the cooking process. If they are jammed together, they will cook more like one larger piece of meat.

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