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

  1. Cooking gammon joint 2.13 kilos on its own any idea how long I’m thinking 6 hours added 500ml of apple juice with water .please x

  2. No, an 8 pound roast cut in half would cook in the same time a 4 pound roast would cook. We are looking at the time it takes for heat to penetrate into the roast and cook it until it is done. A four pound roast is smaller overall and two of them in the same pan will still cook in the same time it takes to cook one four pound roast.

  3. Hello Liz,
    Thank you for the information!
    I am feeding about 35 people and serving Pull Apart Beef sandwiches. How long (on low…lol) would it take to cook a 12 pound boneless beef butt?
    Should I be doing 2,12 pound butts? And how should I be ‘saving’ the other while the second cooks?

    Thank you for your expertise,
    Marie

  4. Hi Marie, you will want to plan on at least 8 hours for cooking the roast or roasts. Start on high for the first hour or two and then turn it down to low. The 12# roast should feed 35 people approximately a 5 oz. serving. So you would have just enough. This amount may be just right assuming that you are not feeding teenage boys. We also assume you will have a bun and perhaps other foods available so you may get by with one roast. If you want to be sure you have enough, you may consider more beef or even as much as a second 12# roast. Feel free to call us at 1-800-262-3804 in Iowa, 1-800-854-1678 in Minnesota, 1-888-393-6336 in South Dakota or 515-296-5883 from anywhere else. We would be happy to help answer any further questions.

  5. Hi! I am cooking an 8.0 pound pork butt roast in the crockpot…can you tell me how long it would have to cook on high? I got it started too late maybe.

  6. Hi, I would start the roast on high for the first two hour and then reduce to low for the next six to eight hours. You can also leave it on high for the entire cooking time.

  7. Hello, I have a 6lb chuck roast that I am cooking in the crock pot. How long should it cook on low? Thank you!

  8. Hi! I am cooking a 4.5lb boneless pork sirloin roast, how long should I put it on high for and then how long on low?

  9. I put a turkey in a roaster oven overnight. I first cooked it on high (450) for an hour, then turned it to 250 at about 11 pm. This morning it had an internal temp of 130. If I turn up the roaster and get the internal temp to 160, will it be safe to eat? It may have spent 7 hours at 130.

  10. Is it safe to use the slow cooker pot in my regular electric oven at a temperature of 250 degrees? This would be for baking the Chex Mix Snack, Looking forward to your reply.
    Thank you.
    Jimmie

  11. Hi Carol, I can’t say that the turkey would be safe after being in the “danger zone” which is between 40 and 140 degrees F. for that long of a time. I’m sorry that this response wasn’t as timely as you would have liked.

  12. I am now cooking for two so, I often cut roasts in half for my husband and me. I’ve also bought a smaller crockpot so there isn’t a lot of empty space. How long do I cook a 1 1/2 to 2 pound roast? Is the time the same if I add vegetables?

  13. Hi Linda, I would suggest starting the pot on high for the first hour or two and then turning to low for the remaining 4 or so hours. Yes, the same time if you add vegetables to the pot. Place the vegetables on the bottom and the meat on top before adding the liquid. Thanks

  14. I am cooking a 8lb chuck roast for 18 people for lunch tomorrow. Should I put is on tonight around 11:00 and cook on low all night? Also would it be better to put my potatoes and carrots in a separate crockpot or put them on top of the roast at 11:00. I feel the potatoes and carrots would be too soft if I put them on the under the roast. Thanks, Betty

  15. im new at cooking with a slow cooker…is there some where i can find how long to cook a certain amount of meat and kind….im single and dont have a clue…so i usually cook 2 lbs and under….thank-you
    P.S….i just bought a 10.00 dollar one from the wal.

  16. Hi Jack, you may want to check out a cookbook designed for the crock pot. You can usually find one at either the public library or any bookstore. Of course, you can always call or email us at AnswerLine.

  17. Hi Betty, I am sorry that this reached me too late to be helpful. The overnight route is likely the best way to ensure the food will be done for the meal at noon. Typically, meat cooks faster in the crock pot than vegetables, so they are usually placed at the bottom of the pot. I hope everything turned out well for you. Again, sorry that I didn’t see this until this morning.

  18. Hi Liz,
    I’ve used the traditional style slow cooker for years (…. and years…), and have a couple of cookers- the older has a lower Low setting than the newer one (I asked the manufacturer many years ago who advised that temperatures had been raised due to newer -at that time- food safety recommendations) which is handy at times.
    However things move on and I’ve now got a one of those multi-cookers that is supposed to do everything based on those TV infomercials but is basically a pressure cooker with extra options. One of its methods of cooking is slow cooking which is preset to 98°C (208°F) and can be reset up and down by single degrees. What temperatures would be best equivalent to Low and High? It automatically goes to Keep Warm after cooking so I’m wondering how that will compare to the Slow Cooker setting too. (At one time I had a base that also had an Auto setting which started High then moved to low after a preset time- Kind of like a Medium setting I suppose).

    Many thanks for any advice you can give.
    Alan

  19. Hi Liz,

    I have a 2 roast package of boneless pork shoulder blade roast that weighs 9 pounds. I have not weighed each roast but they look equal in size. That would mean each roast weighs 4.5 pounds. To cook in the slow cooker should I cook 1 hour on high and 8 hours on low? I plan on pulling the meat to make carnitas. Thank you for your assistance.

  20. Hi Alan, here are the temperatures you requested. Low setting is 190 degrees, high setting 300 degrees. I hope that this is helpful. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for further information.

  21. Hi Liz,
    I want to cook a 3.75 lb boneless pork loin on low. I want to use a recipe that calls for 1 1/2 cups of liquid for a 1 to 1.25 lb loin, but I don’t know how to adjust the amount of liquid for the increased pounds. Thanks for all of the information -this website is great!!

  22. Hi.

    I am very new to crock pot cooking I have a 5lb top round roast how long should I be cooking it on low in my crockpot? We like it med-well done. I have read on-line to cook between 8-10 and 10-12, any suggestions?

    Thanks,
    Jack

  23. Hi Jackie, You should start your roast on high for the first 2 hours and then reduce to low for another 6 hours or so. Be sure to add liquid to the pot to ensure that the roast cooks well.

  24. Hi Liz, I’ve been cooking an 8.65 lb pork butt roast in the crock pot for 8 hrs today. The recipe said to cover the roast with water and cook at least 12 hours. I set it on auto shift so it started on high and switched to low heat automatically. I have cooked many beef pot roasts, but never added much, if any liquid, just vegetables. This pork roast is for making BBQ. Is it really necessary to cover it with water? I did, but now I am wondering if I should have. Also, 12 hours sounds like a very long time! Is that the correct amount of time it needs?

  25. Good morning Diane, I apologize if this response reaches you too late.
    We always advise using water or some liquid when cooking in the crock pot. Heat is transferred more easily through liquid than air. Just think of a pan of boiling water. You can’t place your hand in that for even a second although you can put your hand into an oven heated to twice that temperature and not burn your hand. Since the crock pot operates at a very low temperature we want to maximize the temperature and speed of cooking by using liquid. And for the second question, I do think that 12 hours would be an appropriate time to cook the roast.

  26. Want to cook Jewish style chicken soup. Recipes all say bring to temperature and simmer for several hours with veggies. Is it possible to get exactly the same results with a slow cooker, and is it possible to buy a slow cooker which has a high power setting to bring pot quickly to a proper simmer, then switch down to hold the simmer for a fixed time?

  27. I am cooking two 1.7 pound pork tenderloins in the slow cooker with a bbq and cherry sauce. How long and what setting should I use? I will have to leave it unattended for several hours while I am at work.

  28. I am pressure cooking a 6lb pork butt bone in for 2 hours on high, not quite done enough. So I want to slow cook afterwards. Not sure of temp (high or low) or how long. Any suggestions ? I plan to allow meat to relax and tenderize. Using a Crock-pot cooker.

  29. Hi. I’ve never made a spiral ham in a crockpot before but I would like to try. This ham is 9.8 lbs. How long would I cook it and at what setting?

  30. Hi Deborah, start on high for two hours and then turn to low for another four hours or so. Remember that you must use liquid in the crock pot in order to cook effectively. That may not be something you want to do. Your ham may be better suited to the oven.

  31. Hi Liz I bought a 9 pound sirloin tip roast. How long would I need to cook it and how do I sure that it will be tender. I would like to make this for Christmas lunch.

  32. Hi Jan, you will want to start the roast on high for the first 2 hours and continue to cook for at least another 6-8 hours on low. Remember to add liquid whenever using a crock pot for effective cooking.

  33. I have a 2 and 3 lb rump roast and want it tender. It looks like I should cook high for 2 hours and then low for 7-8 more, is that right?

  34. Hi there !
    Looking to cook a 6 pound beef roast in the crock pot … best way to do it for this larger price of meat ? Thanks !

  35. Have a 5 lb. chuck roast. Wanting the end result to be tender/shreded when all is done.

    Note: I brown mine fin a pan first before I put it in the crockpot

    1. How long to I cook it at 5 lbs.?

    2. How long do I cook it if I cut it in half (2-2.5 lb. roasts)?

    3. Since I pre-brown the roast in a pan, do I still cook it on high for an hour, before dropping it to low?

    4. Does the time change if I decide to add carrots?

    5. When should I add the carrots?

    Thank you!

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