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

  1. I am cooking a 1-1/2 pound pork loin (not tenderloin) in a slow cooker. I estimate about 4 hours on low (seared prior to slow cooker) with cooking liquid covering about the bottom 1/4-1/3 of the loin. Does that sound right?

  2. Hi Shelia, it should take between 6-8 hours in the crock pot. Be sure to add plenty of liquid as that speeds the cooking process along.

  3. How long would it take to cook a 7 lb beef roast with potatoes and carrots in the slow cooker ?

  4. Hi Walt, it should take 6-8 hours on high to cook the 7 lb beef roast with potatoes and carrots in the slow cooker. You will need to extend the cooking time if you want to turn it to low. Place the vegetables into the cooker first and top with the thawed roast. Add water or broth to fill the pot at least 2/3 full.

  5. I have a total 1.5 lbs of chicken (two bone-in breasts at 3/4 lb each). How long should I cook them on low heat in the slow cooker? Thanks!

  6. Hi – I am cooking a pork loin that is 15oz. I am cooking with a chile verde salsa. I was going to cook for 4 hours on high – does that sound right?

  7. Hi, I would cook the 1.5 pounds of chicken breast on high for the first hour and then low for the remaining4-5 hours in the slow cooker.

  8. Hi, cook the four pound loin for 4-6 hours. Start on high for the first hour or two and then you can set the cooker on low for the rest of the cooking time.

  9. Great charts! I’m planning to cook 1 pound of boneless short ribs on low for 6 hours. Does that sound like enough time, since it is only 1 pound?

  10. Im gonna be cooking mutton witch is sheep meat with potatoes n zucchini.. How long should i cook it and what temp…

  11. Hi, start the cooker on high for the first 2 hours and then move to low for the rest of the cooking time. Likely you will cook the mutton for 4-6 hours, but since you didn’t specify a weight for the meat, it is hard to know.

  12. How does a 5 lb pork tenderloin need to cook on high in my slow cooker? If I don’t have enough time to use the slow cooker, what would be the oven temp and time needed. Thank you

  13. hi if I cook pulled pork in slow cooker for 8 hours overnight, am i able to reheat about 4 hours later

  14. Hi, your pork tenderloin will cook faster than the whole, uncut tenderloin in the crock pot. Cook as you would anything else, add some liquid and vegetables if desired. Start on low for the first hour or two and finish cooking on high. I’d expect 4 hours of cooking time for the pieces.

  15. Yes Cynthia, you can reheat the meat later. I would not use the crock pot to reheat. I would instead use either a microwave oven or heat on the stove top with liquid remaining in the crock pot.

  16. I have a slow cooker that requires time setting & temperature input (not the usual “slow and 9 hours”) can you give me the best temperature and time for 1.6 kg corned silverside, thanks

  17. Hi, I have a 2.37 pound Applewood smoked bacon crust, pork loin filet. I was going to cook it in the crockpot with some baby red potatoes and carrots. How long should I cook it and how much water should I put in it? I was going to cut it in half.

  18. Hi Nancy, fill the crock pot with vegetables first and add enough water to nearly cover them. Lay the roast on top and cook, starting on high for the first hour or two and then reduce to low for another 4-5 hours.

  19. I have a 11/2 pound beef siverside,as there are just two of us I’m cutting it into two and putting half in the freezer. Have you any advice as to what setting,high or low.also how many hours to cook it for in my new slow cooker?

  20. Hi, I have a one pound pork loin already seasoned, I’m putting carrots and potatoes in with it. How long should I cook it for?

  21. Hi Liz, I am making a large pork roast (8 1/2 lbs.) in the crock pot for a party. Would it be best to cut it in half and use two crock pots? I am planning on browning the roast first but am unsure as to how much time is needed for cooking. I was planning on using beef or vegetable broth for the liquid. Should I start the crock pots on high and then switch to low?

  22. Yes, Jo Ann, you may want to cut the roast in half and use two crock pots. Browning first will increase flavor. You can start on high for the first 2 hours and then reduce to low for the rest of the cooking time –6 to 8 hours.

  23. Hi Heather, start the roast on high for the first hour and then reduce it to low for an additional 3-4 hours. Be sure to use some liquid in the crock pot as that is how heat is transferred from the pot to the food.

  24. I cooked about a 4.5 pound pork roast in a Meyer cooking pot with temperature settings of simmer, 220, 270, 320, 370, and 420. I started cooking it late at night it at the high side of simmer, my guess around 180-190 degrees, since it’s not digital. About 9 hours later, it’s still not done enough to shred but it doesn’t look pink. It had bubbled out some liquid down the sides of the pot during the night so I think it was hot enough. My concern is that it wasn’t cooked at a high enough temperature. If I continue to cook it in order to be able to shred it, will it be safe to eat? Did it cook too long at too low of a temperature? After 9 hours, I turned it up to 250-260 and it boils a bit now. If it’s safe to continue cooking, what temp should I continue cooking it at? After I’m able to shred it, how long can I keep it on warm or simmer? Thanks so much for your help!

  25. Hi Lynette, I can’t guarantee that your roast would be safe. It spent a long time at a very low temperature. We can’t guarantee that all bacteria that could have grown during that time would be killed by further cooking. It would be much safer to start the roast during the day and not plan for it to cook overnight. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with further questions at 1-800-262-3804 in Iowa, 1-800-8554-1678 in Minnesota, 1-866-393-6336 in South Dakota, or from anywhere else 515-296-5883.

  26. Hi Liz,
    This is great info. Thank you so much!
    I have about 8 pounds of boneless pork ribs. I did a dry rub on them and put them in the fridge for about 12 hours. I layered the bottom of the crock with long onions and about a cup of apple cider vinegar and then packed to the max level with the rib meat. I was thinking 3 hours on high and then another 6 hours on low. Is that about right? Maybe when I switch to low heat, I should add some more liquid?

  27. I have a 9lb roast with thin layer of fat on one side. What are some tricks to cooking this in the slow cooker. Fat side down or up? seasonings recommended? Adding veggies? I see plenty of fluid is a key. Timing and heat setting?

  28. How long would you cook a 15 lb pork butt for pulled pork? I have a huge crockpot and cooking for a large party

  29. Hi, I would plan to cook a 15 pound pork butt for 10 to 12 hours. I’d start on high for the first two hours, and maybe the first three hours before turning it down to low for the remainder of the cooking time. Remember to add liquid as that is what will speed cooking along and tenderize the meat to make it easy to pull.

  30. Hi Rebecca, actually the biggest tip for cooking in a slow cooker is the use of liquid inside the pot. Using liquid helps the pot conduct heat into the food as heat is transferred more easily and your food will cook more uniformly if you use plenty of liquid. Fat side up may be better as the fat will be rendered out of the meat and move down the meat. Add any seasonings that you desire. If you choose to add vegetables, place them on the bottom as it takes longer for veggies to cook in the pot than the meat. Enjoy

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