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.
- Start with fresh or thawed meat–not frozen.
- Use chunks rather than large cuts or roasts. Use pieces of poultry–not a whole chicken.
- Cook meat on high for 1 hour and then turn cooker to low–rather than cooking on low for the entire length of time.
- Only use recipes that include a liquid. Cooker should be ½ to ¾ full for best results.
- Check internal temperature to make sure food reaches 160°F.
- Do not delay starting time.
- Do not reheat foods in slow cooker.
- 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:
|3 hours||7 hours|
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.