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. Hi Christine, Have you considered using the low setting and starting it 5-6 hours before you want to serve? You could take it out when you are ready to serve the chicken.

  2. Liz, I am cooking a 4 lb beef rump roast and want to make it into sliced sandwiches so don’t want it to fall apart. How long should I cook it in my 6 quart slow cooker?

  3. hi. I am trying to figure out the temperature.. Not low or high but the actual
    temperature. I do not have the option of a low or high setting. Thanks

  4. Hi, if you think of the settings like oven temperatures, Low setting is 190 degrees, high setting 300 degrees you may have an easier time deciding how long to cook the roast. You can start on high for an hour or two and then turn it to low for an additional 3-4 hours. Consider a cook time of 5-6 hours.

  5. Water boils at 212F. No slowcooker operates at 300F on High; all the water would have to boil off to reach that temperature.

    According to CrockPot’s website, the only difference between High and Low on their Slowcookers is the wattage of the heating element. Whether you use High or Low in a Crockpot, the element turns on and off to maintain 209F (just below boiling), but since Low uses lower wattage it’ll take longer to reach this point initially.

  6. I’m cooking 3 beef roast cut into 1/2″ chunk 6 lb + 35 Oz how long would it take me to cook it in a Hamilton Beach Slow Cooker 4qt.

  7. I work a 10-12 hr day and everything gets so overcooked but I am hesitant to program it to stay warm for 6-8 hrs. Any suggestions?

  8. Hi Chrissee, It would be safe to keeps something warm for another 6-8 hours, but you will want to choose foods that will not decline in quality by the long cooking process. You may want to consider soups, chili, spaghetti sauce, or stews.

  9. So I’m cooking a pork loin roast 5lbs in a crock pot . Howe long do I cook it and what should the internal temperature be when it’s done. I do have a temperature probe that comes with the crock pot that I’m using if that helps. Thanks for any advice

  10. Hi, I would cook it for 6-8 hours. Start on high for the first hour or two. Then you can reduce it to low. Remember to add liquid to the crock pot as it is required for crock pot cookery.

  11. How long should I cook a 6.35 lb pork loin in the crockpot? I only add chicken broth. Also how much broth do you recommend? Thank you for any help.

  12. Hi Tammy, I would cook for at least 6-8 hours. A little longer cooking time would not be an issue. You should use enough broth to make the crock pot 2/3 to 3/4 full.

  13. Liz, I’ll have a chilled pot of meatballs and sauce, that I need to be hot by 1:30, if I cook it on high, what time should I start it?

  14. Cooking shortribs, recipe calls for 8-9 hrs on low. If I cook on high for 5+ hrs instead, will the ribs be as tender?? I count on you all the time! So, HIgh or LOW…

  15. Cooking shortribs and the recipe says low for 8-9 hrs. If I cook on high for 5+ hrs, will it be as tender? So, HIGH OR LOW??

  16. Cooking shortribs and the recipe says low for 8-9 hrs.at If I cook on high for 5+ hrs, will it be as tender?? So, HIGH OR LOW?

  17. I’m a senior citizen and have used crockpots for over 26 years. I usually follow cooking instructions in recipes for slow cookers. The information you provided as a whole is the best I have ever seen about actual temperatures and time conversions. I myself own about 6 different crockpots and have used as many as 3 at same time. I recommend them to everyone I know. Thank you very much.
    Bob

  18. I have just started using crockpot for bar-be-que ribs. Simple recipe calls for putting ribs alone in crockpot and adding favorite sauce. Would it be better to set ribs on rack in crockpot or just place them on bottom. Only liquid will be from ribs and sauce.

  19. is the warm setting on a 2 qt slow cooker equal to low on a larger slow cooker? I’d like to use my 2 qt size slow cooker for just me and my husband, can you recommend any recipe sites?

  20. Hi, you may want to check at your local library for cookbooks for slow cookers. Your local library will be a good resource and cookbooks are usually edited to ensure that the recipes are accurate and complete. Sometimes websites may not have the most accurate recipes.

  21. Hi there… I am going to attempt to cook a prime rib roast in slow cooker… my family does not want it well done but want it medium… I just want to check that if I use your conversion chart for a 6.7 lbs roast it would take 3.5 hours to cook on low in crockpot… I am fairly new to using a crockpot to cook roast.. thanks in advance

  22. Hi, to cook in the crock pot you will need to use a fair amount of liquid. So it won’t be roasted, but more like stewed. Sounds about right for medium, but I’d use an oven and put something else in the crock pot. Otherwise, it is a bit of a waste of an expensive piece of meat.

  23. I’m cooking a pork tenderloin in crock pot. Every recipe I look at tells me a different cook time. Some say 3-4 hours on high, others say 4 hours on low, 6 hours on low, and I’m sure I saw other times. How do I know which is correct? It’s a large piece of pork tenderloin.

  24. Hi, either way should cook the tenderloin, but you may enjoy the longer, lower, slower time better. Remember that there must be liquid in the crock pot for cooking.

  25. I have a recipe for a 7 lb. pork roast to cook 8 hours on high which has worked well for me before (the “liquid” consists of apples, onions and applesauce). Now I had the butcher cut a 6 lb. roast in half – I am only putting in 3 – 3.5 pounds in the crockpot. Should the time be adjusted to a smaller weight and if so, how long should I cook it?

  26. Do I need one or two crock pots to make five lbs of beef stew with vegetables? They are six quart pots.

  27. If I am just cooking for myself, the recipes for 3-4lbs of meat in the slow cooker do not apply. How do you adjust liquid and temp time for a smaller serving–say 1 lb of pork loin.

  28. I’m actually cooking 21 of pork shoulder in a very large slow cooker how long do I need to cook in on low setting. Sorry, this is a first for me and the cooker didn’t come with any cooking time charts.

  29. You may be able to squeeze it into one pot, it really depends on the volume and type of vegetables in the stew, as vegetables tend to cook down and have less total volume after cooking. Two pots may be easier to manage.

  30. I am cooking a 8 pound chicken in my crock pot. To save time, can I start out on the high setting then switch to low? If so, how long on high? I have about 6 hours to work with

  31. I have a new slow cooker it says only 4 hours on low for my blade roast but all recipes online say 8 to 9 hours what is right it is a 6 pound blade roast I am confused

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