Keeping Food Safe in a Slow Cooker

Slow cooker vegetarian chiliWe often get request for recipes that can be made in a slow cooker. It’s not surprising since you can add the ingredients to the slow cooker, turn it on, and then go about your day while the food cooks. No need to spend a lot of time in the kitchen when you have other things you need to do! Here are some tips to keep food safe when using a slow cooker.

  1. Cook foods using the low or high heat setting. If possible, turn the cooker on the highest setting for the first hour of cooking time and then to low or the setting called for in your recipe. However, it’s safe to cook foods on low the entire time. Do not use the warm setting to cook food. It is designed to keep cooked food hot.
  2. Always thaw meat or poultry before putting it into a slow cooker. If frozen pieces are used, they will not reach 140°F quick enough and could possibly result in a foodborne illness. If possible, cut the meat into small chunks. The temperature danger zone is between 40°F and 140°. If food is in this temperature zone for more than 2 hours, harmful bacteria may grow to unsafe levels.
  3. Place vegetables on the bottom and near the sides of the slow cooker. Vegetables cook the slowest, so you want them near the heat.
  4. Keep the lid in place. Each time the lid is raised, the internal temperature drops 10 to 15 degrees and the cooking process is slowed by 30 minutes.
  5. Place leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate. Do not leave cooked food to cool down in the slow cooker.
  6. Reheat food on the stove top or microwave and transfer to a slow cooker to keep warm (140°F or above). Do not reheat food or leftovers in a slow cooker.

For additional information on slow cookers and food safety, visit:

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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My family loves kiwi fruit. One of my favorite stories of my oldest son involves kiwi fruit. One night, my husband had washed two kiwis and set them on a paper towel to air dry. He intended to put them in his lunch the next morning before he headed to work, but he forgot. At lunch that day, I peeled and cut up the kiwis and shared them with my son who was two years old at the time. I told him that these were daddy’s kiwis and, since he forgot them, we were going to eat them. He thought it was so funny that we were eating “daddy’s tiwis”. That night when my husband returned home, my son started laughing so hard that he could hardly speak. Finally, we heard him say, “we ate your tiwis daddy!”.

Each time I eat a kiwi, I think of my two year old son mispronouncing the word kiwi. For a long time, I wondered if I was eating kiwi the right way. I just did not know the best way to get at them. As it turns out, there really is no right or wrong way to eat a kiwi – you can eat the whole thing, you can cut it in half and scoop out the inside, or you can peel it. If you would like to use kiwi slices to decorate a fruit pizza or kiwi dices to put in a fruit salad (or feed a hungry two year old), peeling the kiwi is the way to go. We have a new video that shows the quickest and easiest way to peel a kiwi – the spoon method.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Stocking Stuffers for the Cook

‘Tis the season for the brain to turn to mush. Last night I stopped by a large department store to return an item. Since I was already in the store, I decided to try to be efficient and do some last-minute shopping for stocking stuffers. But, instead of being smart about my trip, I found myself just wandering through the store in a daze, and finally gave up and left with nothing in my hands. I decided to go home and get organized with a list. Just like grocery shopping, all smart shopping is better done with a plan.

When I began thinking about my list and who is on it (and who is naughty and who is nice!), I realized that in my family we do quite a bit of cooking. I decided to start my list-making with kitchen gadgets. Alice Henneman’s has a list of 30+ Time-Saving Kitchen Tools for cooks which has some great ideas. I found some good gift ideas for the people on my “nice” list plus some items I would like to add to my own collection of kitchen tools: a new French knife and more food clips, for starters. Am I too late for a letter to Santa?

If you have ideas of kitchen tools you would like, or stocking stuffers for others, please leave them in the comment section.

Easy egg dishes are perfect for a simple Christmas morning brunch. Check out It’s a Meal Strata. It is very tasty. To save time, I cook the vegetables the day before and then while the oven is heating, stir the strata together.

-pointers from Peggy

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