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

  1. Need idea for slow cooking pasta and cooking safe with chicken with viggies and other and in joy cooking with a slow cooker ,and sweet potatoes idea, peace cooking ideas and rice, just starred with slow cooker

  2. Thank you! I’m new to using the slow cooker. The cookbooks I’ve checked have recipes that offer a variety of flavor additions, but they’re lacking in basic information on how to produce safely cooked, tasty meals that contain a variety of appealing textures. That information is hard to find. These suggestions and conversion charts are a great help.

  3. I have a 3 quart Dazey crock pot with a removable liner. My recipe calls for high temperature; however, the dial shows the crock pot temperature in degrees. What temperature do I use?

  4. The recipe I would like to try, calls for a pork tenderloin roast to be cooked 4 to 5 hours in the crockpot; how long would I need to cook a 7 pound pork tenderloin? Thank you

  5. I HAVE A PORK JOINT WHICH HAS BEEN DEFROSTED WEIGHS APPROX 600G CAN YOU TELL ME HOW LONG IT SHOULD GO ON FOR PLUS WHAT SETTING THANK YOU

  6. HELPPPPPPP!

    I have a 11 pound boneless beef roast I want to cook for Christmas 2016. I want to cook it overnight wrapped in aluminum foil.
    On what temperature should I use if I start it at 9 p.m. the day before and have it ready for
    1 p.m. the next day?

    I don’t mind starting it at 2 or 3 a.m. I’ve tried to find something online but to no avail.

    You can reach me at kathianne051@gmail.com

  7. What type of roast? If you would like to prepare it in your slow cooker, remember to thaw the roast and add some liquid to ensure the roast cooks properly. I’m not sure if the roast will fit into a typical slow cooker. You may want to use your oven. If it is a less tender roast, you may enjoy using a cooking bag to keep clean up to a minimum. Please feel free to contact us with more questions. You can email us directly at answer@iastate.edu.

  8. what kind of thermometer should I use to check the temperature of the water when testing the crock pot to see if it’s heating properly?

  9. Hi. I have a pork loon roast rib end. 6.41 lbs. I have broiled all sides for a few minute just to Brown and want to cook it on low 28th some bbq sauce. How long should I cook it for on low in my crock pot. Thank you for your help.

  10. How long would you cook a very small bottom round roast beef? (1 1b). I understand I should sear first and cook on low. Thank you.

  11. We just purchased a Kitchenaid 6.5qt model and after finding a few comments about how slow this unit heats online I decided to preform a simple test. I filled it with about 4qts of water and set in on HIGH. After 5 hours the water held temp at 197 degrees Fahrenheit. We have an thermometer with a remote head so I was able to set the sensor in the water and leave it without lifting the lid. I had read that high Temps would normally be much higher. Approx 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Is this unit running too cool? Need I test it again with the unit set to LOW to compare?

  12. If slow cooker recipe calls for 1 1/2 hrs on medium. How much time do I add for cooking on low or high? Thank you

  13. I am cooking a recipe that calls for 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low. Due to my schedule, I need to cook it longer. In the past, I have been able to cook on the warm setting for longer amounts of time to cover my work day. The recipes I have used give that conversion. How long should I cook a chicken breast recipe on warm to make sure it is done?

  14. We would not recommend cooking on the warm setting. We would advise you to just use the low setting for a longer time. This way we can be sure your food is cooked long enough to prevent food borne illness.

  15. If a recipe calls for a 4 pound corned beef brisket to cook on high for 9 hours (with veggies), but I bought a 2 pound brisket, do I cut the cook time in half? This question goes for any recipe, I only feed two people, most recipes need halved. Is there a general guideline for cook times when halving a crock pot recipe?

  16. If I am cooking half the amount of chicken a recipe is written for, do I halve the rest of the ingredients? Should I halve the cooking time?

  17. My recipe calls for cook on low for 5 hours. My crock pot has the following temperatures: low high & high high; low low & low high. Which high should I use?

  18. My recipe calls for a 2 pound pork tenderloin cooked on low for 6 hours. What if I have 2 tenderloins that are one pound each?

  19. Here are some directions for using the slow cooker and beans.
    No-Fail Crock-pot Beans
    (Starting w with one pound of beans)
    1. Sort dry beans, removing any small rocks or dirt pieces. Put the beans into a strainer/colander.
    Rinse well with cold water.
    2. In a large pot, heat 6 cups of water and 1 tsp. salt to boiling.
    3. Add beans, simmer for 10 minutes on the stovetop.
    4. 4. Pour beans and hot liquid into crock-pot and cook on low setting overnight (8 to 12 hours)
    You can now use these beans in a recipe or freeze (2 cups would be equivalent to a 15.5 ounce can of
    beans).
    This cooking method consistently cooks beans in all crock pots but does not reduce the gas!)
    Tootless Crock pot Beans
    (starting with one pound of dry beans)
    A 4 to 16 hour “hot soak”, drain and rinse will reduce the “gassy sugars” in beans by 75% or more.
    Eating cooked beans 3 to 7 times a week, gradually increasing the amount , allows the digestive system
    to adapt to the sugars and increased fiber.
    1. In a large pot, heat 10 cups of water and 1 tsp. salt to boiling.
    2. Add cleaned dry beans, boil 2 to 3 minutes (blanch).
    3. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 4 to 16 hours (soak).
    4. Drain, discarding soak water, rinse beans with fresh, cold water.
    5. Pour beans into crock pot, cover with fresh, cold water, add 1 tsp. salt. Cook on low setting 8 to 12
    hours.
    Beans are now ready to use in recipe, to refrigerate or to freeze for future use (can be frozen up to 6
    months).

  20. Using the slow cooker to reheat food is not recommended as the food will remain in the zone between 40 degrees and 140 degrees too long. That could result in bacteria growth that would not be destroyed during further cooking/heating. You may want to try a microwave oven for reheating, or a pan on the stove top set on a low setting to prevent scorching.

  21. Here is a chart from the Crock-Pot folks with times

    Meat Cut

    Meat Weight

    Low Cook Time

    High Cook Time

    Large Pork Roast* 6-7 lbs 9 ½ hours 7 ½ hours
    Pork Loin 3-4 lbs 6 hours 5 hours
    Poultry** 6 lbs 7 ½ 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 ½ hours
    Note: 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 high slow cooker is filled, etc.

    * Pork butt, pork shoulder
    ** Whole chicken, Bone-in turkey breast
    *** If fish is stirred in after Crock-Pot® Slow Cooker has been fully heated to stabilization/simmer point, it will cook within 15-30 minutes.

  22. Start cooking on high for an hour and then finish on low for the remainder of the time. Use enough barbeque sauce to fill the pot at least half way with sauce to enable the cooker to cook most efficiently.

  23. I have a crockpot that has 1 and 11 on it and i would like to know which is low

  24. I’m cooking a 6.5# Boneless Lamb Roast in the Crockpot tomorrow 5/13/17. The recipe I’m using calls for a 3-4 pound boneless roast, cooking it for 4-5 hours on LOW for a pink roast. Because I’m Greek, I want the roast cooked through, not pink. How do I adjust the cooking time to cook the larger roast to a higher internal temperature, all at 5400 feet of altitude? Thanks for your input! Victoria Marchi, Thornton, Colorado

  25. Hi, you will want to increase the time in the slow cooker. You may want to cook for 6-8 hours in the crock pot. I’ve enclosed information from the USDA on cooking in a slow cooker at altitude. I hope that this helps.
    How do high altitudes affect cooking with a slow cooker?
    Always thaw food thoroughly before putting it in a slow cooker (at any altitude). Remember that when cooking at high altitudes, water boils at a lower temperature. Water is essential to slow cooking. The water and the steam conduct heat throughout the food in the slow cooker. At high altitudes, the slow cooker simmers at a lower temperature, making it more difficult for the food to reach a safe temperature and for bacteria to be destroyed.

    Check the manufacturer’s instructions. If your slow cooker has an adjustable temperature control, select a setting that will maintain the food at 200 °F or higher. If your slow cooker has both a high and low setting, start the food cooking on high for the first hour; then either continue to use high or turn it to the low setting for the remainder of cooking. The low setting may also be used for keeping food warm.

    Allow longer cooking times at high altitudes. Do not remove the lid from the slow cooker; it can take 20 minutes or longer for the lost steam and heat to be regained. It may be helpful to place aluminum foil on top of the foods being cooked in a slow cooker and under the lid. The aluminum foil will reflect the heat downward into the food. Use a food thermometer to ensure that all food in the slow cooker has reached a safe temperature of 165 °F.

  26. I am doing a recipe for a slow cooker – butter basted whole chicken. I have a 2.4 kg chicken but the recipe uses 1.4 kg and cooks on high for 5 hours. What time should I cook a 2.4 kg chicken?

  27. I have a partially frozen pork lion how long and what temperature should it be cook on

  28. Hi Casey, you should completely thaw the loin before putting into the crock pot. Then we would advise starting it on high for the first hour or two and then turn it down to low for the rest of the cooking time.

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