Preparing Foods in a Slow Cooker

Article Contributed by
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County’s Expanded Food and Nutrition. Education Program (EFNEP) and The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would like to remind everyone that they can play it safe when using a slow cooker. 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. Slow cookers are popular cooking tools during the cooler months. The direct heat from the pot and lengthy cooking time combine to destroy bacteria, making slow cookers a good choice for safely cooking foods.

There are 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.

For more information on keeping food safe please contact the EFNEP Program at 716-664-9502 ext. 217. The EFNEP Program is one of many programs offered by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County (CCE-Chautauqua). CCE-Chautauqua is a subordinate governmental agency with an educational mission that operates under a form of organization and administration approved by Cornell University as agent for the State of New York. It is tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The association is part of the national cooperative extension system, an educational partnership between County, State, and Federal governments. As New York’s land grant university Cornell administers the system in this state. Each Cornell Cooperative Extension association is an independent employer that is governed by an elected Board of Directors with general oversight from Cornell. All associations work to meet the needs of the counties in which they are located as well as state and national goals. For more information, call 716-664-9502 or visit our website at www.cce.cornell.edu/chautauqua. Cornell University Cooperative Extension provides equal program and employment opportunities.