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.

More Posts - Website

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

  1. I want to cook Barbque Boneless pork ribs in the crock pot. The recipe says 8 hours on low. If I double the batch do I need to cook it longer?

  2. I have a slow cooker/pressure cooker. It does not have a setting for low or high, just buttons to set cooking time. Should I assume that setting a cooking time of 4 hours or less is considered high and greater than 4 hours is a low setting? Thank you for suggestions.

  3. That sounds about right. Some cookers control temperature independently from the time setting. You may want to double check your book that came with the cooker.

  4. I need to cook 3 beef chuck roasts at once in the crock pot. So it’s about 9-10 lbs of meat. How long should I cook them and at what temp?

  5. So, I am assuming that each roast weighs approximately 3#? Cook as if you were cooking only one roast–the cooking time would not need to be tripled. Plan to cook for 2 hours on high and an additional 6-7 hours on low.

  6. I need to cook a beef roast that is a little over 7lbs.. if it is the only thing in the crock pot besides the seasonings and butter how long do I cook it for?

  7. Hi, I would cook it starting on high for the first 2 hours and then cook for an additional 6 to 8 hours. Be sure to include some liquid in the cooker as that is how heat is transferred when you use a slow cooker.

  8. I have a 6 lb chuck roast in the crockpot and nothing else but liquid and seasoning. How long should I cook if only using the low setting

  9. Cooking for 2, so I have a roast that is 2.12 lbs. I have looked everywhere for a time per pound instructions and I can’t seem to find it. Last thing I want to do, is to dry it out.
    Can you help me?????

  10. Yes, I can help. It is difficult to dry a roast out using the Crock Pot as it is required to have liquid in the pot and leave the lid on for the entire cooking time. I would think that you roast could cook 1 hour on high and turn it to low for an additional 3-4 hours.

  11. Hi Lloyd, I’m sorry that this answer will come too late for the roast. We always like to start things in the crock pot on high for the first hour or two. That allows the pot to come to temperature more quickly and keeps the food safer as it spends a shorter period of time in the danger zone. Temperatures between 40 degrees and 140 degrees are where bacterial growth is the fastest. The six pound roast should have cooked for an additional 6-8 hours after a 1 hour time on high. Thanks

  12. Cooking a 4lb corned beef in crockpot. Plan to start on high for 2hrs, then reduce to Low, but crockpot doesn’t have words like Hi or Low, just numbers 1-5. Should I turn it down to 1 after 2 hrs and cook another 4hrs on Low? Thanks for help.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

AnswerLine

Subscribe to AnswerLine Blog

Enter your email address:

Connect with us!

AnswerLine's Facebook page AnswerLine's Twitter account AnswerLine's Pinterest page
Email: answer@iastate.edu
Phone: (Monday-Friday, 9 am-noon; 1-4 pm)
 1-800-262-3804 (in Iowa)
 1-800-854-1678 (in Minnesota)

Archives

Categories