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

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

  1. Hi, I accidentally set my Crock-Pot on warm instead of high .I have a 3lb beef bottom round roast with a button that pops up .at 5 hours I noticed my error.The button had not popped up.I turned it on high for 3more hours .The meat was looking cooked. My question is after three more hours do you think it is safe to eat?

  2. Hi Annette, your roast should be fine; traditionally, a bottom round roast prepared in a crock pot is cooked on low for at least 8 hours.

  3. In several slow cookers the single line means low, the double line means high and the squiggly line or the slow cooker symbol after means warm. Checking your owners manual will ensure that those symbols are consistent with your slow cooker.

  4. Hi, the estimated time would be between 4 and 5 hours; much depends upon your slow cooker. In general, one can convert cooking time by using a ratio of 2 hours of cooking on low as being equal to 1 hour of cooking on high. We recommend using the high setting to start to get the food up to temperature faster so that it doesn’t sit in the danger zone for too long. Using your thermometer to check the temperature is a very good practice!

  5. I have a 51/2 # porkroast picnic bone in. Would 7 hours on high in slow cooker be enough for pulled pork?

  6. Hi Sue. According to the chart in this article it would not take that long to cook. We always recommend that the first 45 minutes are on high, then if you turn it to low it should be done in approximately 6-7 hours. It will be done when you stick a fork in it and twist. The meat should be very tender and start to fall apart.
    Meat Cut Meat Weight Low cook time High cook time
    Large pork roast 6-7 lbs 9 ½ hours 7 1/3 hours

  7. This article really helped a lot, thanks! Can you slow cook rice?

    Also, I’m not surprised to find this info is on a college website =b

  8. Hi Dan, I am glad you found the blog helpful. It is possible to cook rice successfully in a slow cooker. The ratio of rice to water is 1 to 2. Cook on high for about 2 hrs. Actual timing will depend on the slow cooker and amount cooked so figure 1.5-2.5 hrs.

  9. I planed to cook oxtails. I have a small cooker. I cook some in it before and turn out great but it was one pack which they all were able to fix at the bottom pot. I am having people over this time so plan to cook two packs which mean there will be another layer on top. Do you think they will cook ok that way without being flat on the bottom?

  10. Hi Rener, It will take about 8-10 hrs on low to cook ox tails. The time is about the same for 1 or 2 packages even though I have no idea from your message what the weight of a package is.

  11. Hi, ordinarily it takes about 6-8 hrs depending upon how much liquid and/or other ingredients are also being prepared with the roast on low.

  12. Cooking for ONE? Small joints of meat. How long does it take per Lbs on slow cooking in its own juices or a little oil added,
    Beef 1 to 2 lbs medium to rare more rare than medium.
    Ham 1 to 2 lbs well cooked soft and tasty.
    Pork as Ham.
    Lamb and lamb shanks.
    Chicken well cooked but juicy.

    Vegetables on its own.

  13. Hi Reg, There is no hard and fast rule for slow cookers. Slow cooker cooking times are ALWAYS a basic guideline, not a rule. All slow cookers cook differently. Some will cook hot and fast, others will cook unevenly and others will cook slower. Always watch a new-to-you recipe closely in your slow cooker the first time you cook it regardless of whether or not you change serving amounts and make notes of the results, etc. Adjust cook times based on how full the slow cooker is, not on halving/doubling or whatever the amounts. Slow cookers are designed to be about 3/4 full at least, and most recipes are based on that, if they’re less full than that, you need to reduce the cooking time. Perhaps this website [] will provide some guidance based on the size of your pot as well as the quantities that you wish to cook. In general, if you use a high setting, it is about half of a slow setting.

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