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