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Cook Slow to Save Time: Four Important Slow Cooker Food Safety Tips

Posted by Mary Katherine Jeffers, Executive Correspondence and Issues Management Staff, Food Safety and Inspection Service in Health and Safety
Aug 03, 2021
Slow cooker tip graphic
Slow cooker tip: cut large pieces of meat into smaller pieces before adding them to the slow cooker.

With work, school, sports practices, music lessons and homework time filling up the calendar, the back-to-school season can be hectic. During this busy time of year, having dinner waiting for you when you come home can make life so much easier. That’s why a lot of people choose to use slow cookers. No more standing in front of the refrigerator trying to make decisions about what to have for dinner after a long day at work. No more trying to balance food prep and homework. Just throw the ingredients in the slow cooker before work and turn it on!

There are so many advantages to using a slow cooker. They can help you save time and money. Slow cookers use less electricity than a conventional oven. They cook foods slowly and at a low temperature — between 170°F and 280°F, and the low heat helps less expensive, leaner cuts of meat become tender and shrink less. The direct heat from the pot and lengthy cooking time combine to destroy bacteria, making the slow cooker a good choice for safely cooking foods.

When using a slow cooker, follow these important food safety tips:

  1. Make sure your slow cooker, utensils and work area are clean.
  2. Keep perishable foods refrigerated until it is time to add them to the slow cooker. Bacteria multiply rapidly when food is left at room temperature.
  3. Always defrost meat or poultry before putting it in the slow cooker. If you place frozen meat or poultry in a slow cooker it can spend too much time thawing, allow bacteria to multiply, and make you sick. Using defrosted foods will also ensure your meal cooks evenly and all the way through. Vegetables cook slower than meat and poultry in a slow cooker so if using them, put them in first.
  4. Cut large pieces of meat into smaller pieces before adding it to the slow cooker and make sure your slow cooker is half to two-thirds full to ensure foods cook thoroughly.
Category/Topic: Health and Safety

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Mark A. Traveis
Jan 21, 2020

Do you have any good slow cooker recipes ?

Ben Weaver
Jan 22, 2020

@Mark A. Traveis - thank you for your comment. You can find slow cooking recipes over at MyPlate Kitchen, a newly improved USDA tool! Visit us at:

Mar 28, 2021

Is there a USDA timing chart that indicates hours per pound when cooking a whole chicken on high in a slower cooker? Or might you provide that info here -- for 3, 4, 5, and 6 pound chickens? Thank you.