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.

More Posts - Website

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

  1. I have a 2 pound Bottom round roast beef how long in slow cooker for it to be tender thank you

  2. Hello. I am making thick boneless center cut pork chops in a Dazey slow cooker. The cooker was my mom’s and I have no instructions. The setting choices are by temperature. The lowest is setting is WARM. Next is 200 degrees labeled simmer. Then the temps go up by 50-degree increments, 250, 300, 350 then 375 and 400 are labeled as AUTO. Can you advise on the best temperature for this meat please? Also do you know what degree is considered LOW, MED and HIGH? Thank you.

  3. Hi Zarrla, to begin, the approximate temperature of a slow cooker low setting is 190/200F and 300 for high–those temperatures vary some by manufacturer. The Dazey units were designed to be a multi-purpose pot which also included deep fat frying, thus the higher temperatures. Dazey was purchased by Rival and Rival has since been purchased by another company. Here is a link to the manual for four different Daisey units: http://www.hungrybrowser.com/phaedrus/Dazey%20Chef's%20Pot.pdf There is also an instruction manual and recipe book for the DCP-6 DCP-800 DCP-801 models available on ebay.com.

    Pork chops cook relatively quickly in the crock pot. Cook thick cut boneless pork chops for 1 1/2 to 3 hours on the slow cooker’s low setting. Thin chops would likely take 1-1 1/2 hrs. Each slow cooker is different, however, depending upon the wattage. Be careful to not over-cook pork chops in the slow cooker or they may turn out dry. The best way to check if pork chops are done is to measure the internal temperature using an instant read thermometer. Pork chops should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145° F. I would suggest that you use the 200F setting.

  4. Hi Carol, a bottom round roast should be cooked on the low setting. It will take 8-10 hrs to be tender. The time is approximate as all slow cookers are not the same and time also depends upon the addition of other ingredients as well.

  5. Hi Cathy, it will take 8-12 hrs to slow cook a blade roast of that size. Cooking time can be shortened some by searing the meat prior to slow cooking (will also enhance the flavor) and by cutting the large piece into 3-4 smaller pieces. Cooking time is also dependent upon your unit and other ingredients cooked with the meat.

  6. Hi Jessica, it is always hard to predict the time needed in a crock pot as there are so many variables that influence the time. Likely it wiill take 2 – 4 hours on LOW until the loin registers between 145- and 150-degrees F (63 and 65 degrees C) at the thickest part of the loin. At this point, the pork will be juicy and slightly pink in the middle. Start checking the pork early with a meet thermometer to prevent overcooking.

  7. I have a recipe that says to slow cook for four hours on the medium setting but my slow cooker just has low and high. How long should I cook it for on low?

  8. Veronica, I do not know what you are cooking so my reply is universal. Medium is non standard and due to the variation in slow cookers, it is difficult to determine. Depending upon the age of your slow cooker, medium may be much the same as high, especially on an older model. High on some of the newer ones is a bit hotter. Since there are so many unknowns, I suggest that you cook it on high, but be available so that you know when it is done; if serving time is still to come, turn it down to low until you’re ready for it.

  9. I am planning to make chicken noodle soup in a crock pot for an early afternoon group luncheon. I have already made chicken broth which is now refrigerated. My question is about the timing for the soup. I assume that leaving the broth out of the fridge overnight to get to room temp would be risky because of possible bacteria growth. If I put the broth in the crock pot right from the fridge, how much time do I need to add to cooking time? I would rather not get up in the middle of the night to start the soup if there is another option. Would appreciate any suggestions.

  10. Hi Jackie, I don’t know that I can give you a specific answer as you don’t say how much soup you are preparing. Regardless of amount, the broth should not be left out over night. If you are concerned about temperature, you could heat the broth for a few minutes to room temperature prior to putting into the crock pot.

  11. Given the US represent about 5-6% of humanity as a whole, would it be appropriate to include centigrade temperatures for the remaining 95-94%? These not very small details; would help the world to see Iowa State University as including itself in the global world rather than being small-minded and parochial?. for the rest of the planet, the temperatures offered above in Fahrenheit being, low 190 degrees F and High setting = 300 degrees F. equate approximately to 90 to 150°C, it is to be hoped that Iowa State University has what it takes; to take a deep breath and realise just how small-minded and parochial these seemingly minuscule details serve to reinforce the notion of a parochial United States? My personal belief is that excluding the rest of the planet from your publications comes at a great price. Very best wishes to all – John – Perth – Western Australia.

  12. Thank you for the suggestion. You might note that some of the blogs due include Celsius.

  13. I followed a slow cooker recipe for a 3 lb. roast that said to cook on low for 8-10 hours. But after 5 hours the roast’s temperature was already 212 degrees. So my questions is should a roast be taken out when it reaches the correct internal temperature? Or will cooking it for the full 8 hours make it more tender? Or perhaps overcooked and dry?

  14. I have a recipe that says cook on medium setting for 3 1/2 hours. I only have low and high on my All Clad slow cooker. Should I cook it on the low setting. I’m confused.

  15. Hi Janis, the medium setting is confusing. I suggest you use the low setting and extend the cooking time–likely cooking for about 5 or so hours.

  16. Hi Nancy, Since I do not know what kind of roast you are preparing in the slow cooker, my reply can only be “in general.” The object in slow cooking meat is to melt the collagen which begins at about 160F. Denaturation of the collagen molecule is a kinetic process and a function of both temperature and time. If it is tough cut, the slow cooker is perfect for this process without cause for overcooking or drying out. For a more tender cut, these concerns may be warranted. Most slow cooker recipes will give a range of cooking time because each slow cooker is unique–cooking slower or faster than another. It is all about knowing how your slow cooker operates and adjusting recipes accordingly. Further, the amount of liquid and other ingredients play a roll in cooking time.

  17. Hi Allison, as with all slow cooker questions, there is not a absolute answer as cooking time depends a lot of the individual slow cooker, other ingredients, etc. The best estimate is 8-12 hours.

  18. Hi, I put a 5-pound bone-in chuck roast in the slow cooker on high for 45 minutes. Before I left for errands, I called my husband to tell him to change the setting to low. He set it on warm instead – for about 2.5 hours. When I got home I turned it back to high for 30 minutes then just now turned it to low to cook for another 5 hours. The roast is in two long pieces that are about 2.5 to 3 inches thick. Is this meat going to be safe to eat? It’s a Mississippi roast, so I didn’t sear it beforehand.

  19. Hi Susan, I understand that your issue has been resolved by a phone call to AnswerLine. Thanks for reaching out to our team!

  20. I put a 2.75 lb bbq pork shoulder in the crockpot at 1pm on high. If I want it very tender for pulled pork, and I’d like it ready by 7, how should I do it? It’s been on high for less than half an hour so far.

  21. Hi Victoria, Since I have been away for a few days, a reply to your question is most untimely. Likely you have figured out for yourself what to do. Even if my reply had been timely, it is only a guesstimation as slow cookers vary a great deal. The object in slow cooking is to cook it long and slow to break down the collagen. Since you were giving yourself a shorter window of time, the best guess would have been to continue cooking it on high for about 4-5 hrs.

  22. How about Turkey breast? I will have two breasts at 4.5 lbs. The original recipe calls for 2.5 lbs for four hours on low. If I am increasing the amount of poultry will I need to cook longer? Thanks!

  23. Hi, I am not certain if you have two breasts at 4.5 lbs for a total of 9 lbs or two breasts that equal 4.5 lbs. In the first case it would take about 8 hrs on low. In the latter case, likely 6 hrs. It is very difficult to be exact as slow cookers vary a great deal.

  24. Hi there,
    Which one of the lights is the high setting? The light with two lines or the one with one line?
    Thanks

  25. Valerie, without knowing which slow cooker you have, my response is only a guess. The O is Off, the I (one line) is the Low setting, and the II (two lines) is the High setting. If you have a wavy line, it most likely is the Keep Warm setting. It would perhaps be better to consult your manual; if you no longer have it, many can be found online at http://kitchen.manualsonline.com/manuals/device/slow_cooker.html or https://www.crock-pot.ca/en_CA/service-and-support/product-support/instruction-manuals/instruction-manuals.html for the CrockPot brand.

  26. I cook for other people somewhat regularly. I have found that occasionally I have more orders than crock pots or meats too large to fit in my crockpot. Often it is a turkey or Boston butt. Will I get the same results if I use the oven at the temperatures of my crockpot, 190°F low and 300°F high.

  27. Hi Virginia. Cooking in a crock pot and cooking in the oven require different temperatures. We do not recommend cooking anything in the oven at temperatures below 325 degrees Farenheit. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/how-temperatures-affect-food. In a crock pot the crock is sitting on the heating source. In an oven there is not direct contact with the heat source. Air heats differently so the temperature must be higher in an oven, in order to maintain safety. https://extension.umn.edu/preserving-and-preparing/slow-cookers Turkey and roasts can both be excellent products when cooked in the oven using food safe methods.
    https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/poultry/lets-talk-turkey-roasting
    https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/cuts/collection

  28. If I cook my beef stew 8 hours on low have I hurt anything by not have it on high for the 1st hour?
    Thanks

  29. Hi Gia, The rational behind cooking meat on high for the first hour is to reduce the risk of food borne illness. Slow cookers and crockpots should heat food slowly, yet fast enough to keep food out of the danger zone –above 40◦F and below 140◦F. In the danger zone, bacteria grow rapidly and can
    cause foodborne illness. Since slow cookers vary so much, more research indicates the need to cook at high for an hour before cooking on low to reduce that chance.

  30. I noticed you are continually telling people to add water or other liquid to the crockpot. While some foods will dry out, my recipe for crockpot ribs requires that no water should be added. It roasts the ribs standing along the sides of the pot for about 4-5 hours with a quick finish, once brushed with sauce under the broiler. If one added water to the crockpot they’d never get the ribs out without them falling apart.

  31. Hi Elizabeth, Whether or not liquid is used in a slow cooker dependeds on the recipe. Some form of liquid is necessary for foods to cook properly in the slow cooker, but that does not necessary need to be added liquid. Sometimes the food releases enough of its own juices or fat to be sufficient for cooking; such is the case with your ribs. A good number of crockpot recipes do require that you use water or some form of liquid but the quantities you use are relative to what you are cooking.

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 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