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.

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

  1. Yes, actually the vegetables take a bit longer than the meat to cook, so you can place them in the bottom of the crock and put the meat on top of the vegetables.

  2. Great sale on porkloin! Portion size 6lbs.. Do I need to cut it in smaller portions before I cook it and for how long. My crockpot is larger than the usual size but not sure how big. Seen no recipes to help.

  3. How long for 2 small venison roasts each weighing approximately two pounds each when cooked on low in the crockpot. I added beef broth, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and wrapped each roast with bacon. I am starting them at high for an hour and then on low for the remaining cooking time. Thank you!!

  4. You may want to cut in half and cook in crock pot. I would plan on cooking for 6-8 hours on low after starting it on high for the first hour or two.

  5. I have a 2.172 kg (approx 5-5.25 lbs) Pork Shoulder portion. How long do I cook this in the crock pot?

  6. Hi Doreen, I’d plan on starting it on high for the first hour or two and then continue to cook for a total of 6-8 hours. The longer you cook, the more tender the meat will be. Remember to add liquid to the crock pot for cooking. Enjoy

  7. It would be nice if answers to questions included the question so you know which question the answer applies to.

  8. I inherited a slow cooker where the high temperature is about 163-165 degrees, is it safe to use or just slow?

  9. Susan, I did not realize that the questions were not with the answers on the blog. I am now adding a sentence that reflects the question in my answers.

  10. If I am using a recipe for a larger size crockpot, but I have a smaller crockpot, do I have to just cooking time?

  11. Hi Betty Jo, if you choose to use the same recipe in a smaller sized crock pot, I would assume you have cut the recipe down in size. I’d think that the time would remain about the same since the ratio of food to size of the crock pot would remain about the same.

  12. Hello Liz,

    Quick question, if I started my chicken breast on high for the first 2 hours about, once I switch it to low how long should I set it for? 4 or 6 hours. Please help,

    Thanks
    Katya

  13. I have a chicken cooking now. Ive set on low for 3 hours and 15 minutes can I change the setting to High?

  14. I have a recipe for Slow Cooker Beef Brisket weighing 3 pounds. My slow cooker is very large and I have a 5-1/2 pound brisket. The recipe calls for it to be cooked on low for 12 hours. How long for the larger brisket?

  15. Hi, if you cook the 5.5 pound roast in the larger crock pot for the same amount of time the 3 pound recipe calls for, it should be cooked enough. I can not imagine anything taking longer than 12 hours in the slow cooker.

  16. Thanks, Liz. I figured that was probably right, but wanted to be sure. I have a recipe for caramelized onions (7 lbs.) that I cook for 14 hours in the slow cooker, but with the lid cocked for the last two hours. Yummy. I put them in pint containers and freeze for up to 1 year. When I want French Onion Soup, I use 1 can of Beef Consomme and a pint of the onions. Add Swiss cheese and croutons and run under the broiler after heating through. Delicious!

  17. I figured that was probably right, but wanted to be sure. I have a recipe for caramelized onions (7 lbs.) that I cook for 14 hours in the slow cooker, but with the lid cocked for the last two hours. Yummy. I put them in pint containers and freeze for up to 1 year. When I want French Onion Soup, I use 1 can of Beef Consomme and a pint of the onions. Add Swiss cheese and croutons and run under the broiler after heating through. Delicious!

  18. I have a 1 lb pot roast and all the recipes online are for 2-4 lb roasts. How would the size of mine affect its cook time in a slow cooker?

  19. Hi, I want to cook a 7.5lb beef roast. Can you suggest cook times on low and high. Thank you

  20. Like Jonathan, I had a beef roast that was 1lb, and a recipe called for 3lb. I decreased the time from 10 hours, on low, to 8 hours (just because that’s how long I was going to be out for the day). The beef ended up very dry. I’m wondering if there’s any useful guidelines (formulas?) I can use, in the future, to figure out how to adjust the time, based on the amount of meat, and perhaps the size of the crock pot since sometimes the recipe calls for a pot that’s different than mine. From everything I’ve read, it’s not an easy task to figure out any adjustments, which results in a lot of trial, error and disappointing dinners.

  21. Hi, I would suggest that you start the 7.5 oz. roast on high for 2 hours and then reduce the heat to low for another 8 to 10 hours. Be sure that there is enough liquid in the crock pot for pot to function well.

  22. Hi Blair, did you include some liquid in the crock pot? If so, the steam and liquid should keep the meat moist. Remember that we always need to use liquid when cooking in the crock pot.

  23. I have a 6lb pot roast i have started on high how long to cook on high will it be done in 6hrs?

  24. I have 2 17lb beef tenderloins. What is the best way to cook them? I have two slow cookers. Eating tomorrow 3-10-18 by 5pm.

    Was planning on cutting them into large chunks, then cooking for 10 hours.
    Is that enough time and what setting do you recommend?

  25. Hi Liz,

    I have temperatures on my cooker from 200-400 degrees at 50 degree increments…. is “low” 200 and “high” 400? Thanks!

  26. I have a 5 lb. beef roast and I have 7 hours to cook it. Should I start on high for 2 hours and cook the rest on low? Or leave it on high longer?

  27. I am cooking 2 pork tenderloins – total wt 2.35 pounds. The recipe says to cook on low for 4 hours. Does that sound right? I would have thought it would take longer. I am wondering if their slow cooker is newer and cooks at a hotter temp. Mine is pretty old! Do you think 4 hours on low will get the job done? Thank you!

  28. Hi Elizabeth, I would start your crock pot on high for the first 2 hours and then lower the temperature for at least 2-4 more hours. Be sure to include liquid in the pot when cooking.

  29. Hi, you should cook a 5.4 pound roast beef for the first 2 hours on high. This allows the meat to move through the danger zone for bacteria more rapidly. Then, depending on the cut of beef, cook on low for an additional 4-6 hours. Be sure to include some liquid in the crock pot when cooking as that is what allows the heat to transfer efficiently from the pot to the meat. Enjoy.

  30. Hello I have a 7.2 LB PORK LOIN SIRLOIN ROAST AND A 8QT CROCK POT..It came already cut in half.Would I also cook 2 Hours on High? If so after that How many hours on low?.I also bought (2) packs of some Roast mix,it says mix with one cup of water.Should I use both packs(which would equal 2 cups of water) or is that too much water?

  31. Hi, a very general recommendation for using the crock pot is to always start of high for one to two hours and then down to low for the remaining time. The amount of water depends on the amount of available room left in the crock pot after the roast is in it. You want to fill it with meat and liquid to 2/3 or 3/4 full. Then cook another 4-6 hours depending on the amount of tenderness required.

  32. I am cooking a pork loin using my slow cooker in low temperature setting for 6 to 8 hours I did not know I had to do high first will it still be alright to eat (safe)

  33. Yes, it should be safe, and I assume that you have likely eaten the roast by now. In the future, just plan to start it on high for an hour or two.

  34. Hello, I have 5.75 lb chuck roast that I want to use to make Ropa Vieja. How long should I cook it, and should I divide the roast into chunks, or leave it whole? Thank you.

  35. Hi, you can leave the roast whole, I would brown it first, or cut it into chunks. Cut up, it may be ready sooner than if left whole in the crock pot. You will want to allow around 6 hours cooking time for the roast.

  36. Hi

    I am cooking an 8 pound pork butt for pulled pork. How long should I plan to cook it?
    Thanks
    Mary

  37. Hi, cook an 8 pound pork butt for 6-8 hours. You will want to start on high for the first hour or two and then you can reduce the setting to low. Thanks

  38. Pressure cookers have long been noted to decrease cooking time, reduce energy consumption, and retain nutrient quality equal to or higher than that of foods cooked by other methods. There is several consumer considerations including safety features, ease of operation, cleaning, and special features.

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