Slow Cooking, Safe Cooking

Pot of vegetable stew

January is National Slow Cooker Month, a perfect time to try out some new recipes or dig out your favorites. But first, here are some safety tips when using your slow cooker:

  • Thaw first. Always thaw meat or poultry, following safe thawing practices, before placing in a slow cooker.
  • Preheat cooker. If possible, preheat the cooker and add hot liquids.
  • Put vegetables on the bottom or sides. Vegetables cook the slowest, so place them near the heat.
  • Don’t cook on warm. Do not use the warm setting to cook food. This setting keeps food warm; it does not cook it.
  • Keep the lid on. Each time you raise the lid, the temperature drops 10–15 degrees and the cooking process slows by 30 minutes.
  • Check the temperature. Before taking a bite, use a food thermometer. Visit Foodsafety.gov for a chart on safe minimum internal cooking temperatures.
  • Cool properly. Do not leave cooked food in the crock to cool. Place leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate.
  • Do not reheat food or leftovers in a slow cooker. Instead, reheat on stove top or microwave (165°F or above) and transfer to slow cooker to keep warm (140°F or above).

Source: USDA Slow Cookers and Food Safety, fsis.usda.gov

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