Slow Cooker Safety Tips
In this article, we talk about slow cooker safety tips so you can enjoy preparing those hearty stews, soups, casseroles and other tasty dishes without apprehension.
The slow cooker was quite popular in the 1970’s then gradually simmered away in the background. However, it’s having its moment again as people continue to look for ways to make fuss-free, affordable yet healthy meals for the family. Now we have Insta-Pots and new recipes specially made for them.
With it’s revival, there’s a wealth of choices available - manual, programmable or digital. You can choose a pot that is ceramic, stoneware, or non-stick with Teflon coating.
If you’re thinking of getting yourself one or you already have one, you might have some safety concerns. Here we give you practical advice on how to use your appliance safely.
Slow Cooker Safety Tips - How Safe Is a Slow Cooker?
Cooking is the number one cause of home fires in the US. However, if you have a slow cooker, the chances of setting your house on fire because of it is a very slim possibility.
Typically, a slow cooker only runs on 200 to 300 watts - meaning the current it uses is relatively low and the heat it produces is low, as well.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), between 2011 to 2015, there were just 70 cooking fires that resulted from slow cookers.
However, these numbers should not make you complacent. A slow cooker can easily become a serious fire hazard if you do not observe safety precautions.
Slow Cooker Safety Tips - Maintenance is Key
While keeping your slow cooker always clean is a given, it’s also important to keep your appliance in good working condition with these simple maintenance steps:
Inspect your unit’s electric cord and plug. Make sure there is no fraying, and that cord is intact from the appliance to the plug. If you notice any signs of wear, stop using it until you’re able to buy a replacement part.
Make sure it’s OEM (original equipment manufacturer) to ensure that it’s up to code.
Test your slow cooker for overheating problems. This appliance is designed to operate at low temperatures. It’s important to check if it’s overheating to ensure safety. You can do this with this simple test - fill your unit with water three quarters full.
Turn your unit on at a low setting for eight hours. Use a thermometer to take the temperature after the prescribed period. The safe reading is between 170° to 280° Fahrenheit.
Make it a habit to check your cooker’s control panel, including knobs or switches. If the switches or knobs don’t work properly on your slow cooker, this can affect the effectiveness, and safety of your appliance.
It’s important to fix them right away. The control panel in your slow cooker controls the transfer of heat and the function of the heating element. This can emit a burnt or electrical smell if it has burned out or has malfunctioned.
This needs to be replaced to keep your slow cooker functioning properly and safely. Better yet, consider buying an upgrade, especially if your cooker is several years old.
A note on hand-me-downs or garage sale finds. You may find them cute because they’re “vintage” but older slow cookers do not offer modern safety features like what you will find in newer models.
They most likely will have fabric wrapped cords, which do not meet present safety standards. Auto shutoff will most probably not be part of their features, either.
Watch out for these telltale signs - any off-odors, burning smells or an exterior that feels hotter than it should be when operated. Unplug your cooker right away and toss it out.
Slow Cooker Safety Tips - How You Use It Keeps You Safe
Cleaning Up After a Grease Fire
Slow cookers are designed to be safely left unattended. Nevertheless, to keep risks to a minimum, make sure that you are using your slow cooker with the proper precautions.
Read your cooker’s manufacturer’s manual. Most people skip this step and just “wing it”. However, this contains important tips on how to operate your equipment properly and safe cooking procedures.
Don’t overfill your cooker. It’s important to refer back to the manufacturer’s instructions on how much you can put in. Most will recommend filling your slow cooker one-half to two-thirds full.
If you’re following a recipe, don’t overfill your pot with too many ingredients or too much liquid. This may cause the contents to boil over.
When you have stepped out of the house, you wouldn’t want to come back to your kitchen filled with messy boil-over from your slow cooker, would you? On the flipside, it’s also important to ensure that there’s enough liquid in your pot.
Not having enough may burn whatever you’re cooking.
Use your slow cooker on a level surface. Your kitchen counter is the best place to use it. Or just find a flat, heat-safe surface to set it on. Avoid setting the cooker on an uneven surface as this might tip it, causing spillage.
This can pose a fire risk, especially if you have left the cooker unattended.
Keep it away from the edges. This will prevent your cooker from being accidentally knocked onto the floor. Keep it safely in the middle of the counter or table, far from the edge.
Don’t go too close to the wall either. Setting your cooker too close to the wall is not advisable either. This puts your home at risk for fires. The rule of thumb is leaving a 6 inch clearance all around.
Don’t use near water. This is a no-brainer - electrical appliances and water are a deadly combination (unless the water is in your pot). Keep your cooker away from the kitchen sink or other sources of water.
And of course, don’t handle the plug if your hands are wet.
Set your temperature properly. Slow cookers are meant to be operated at low heat so they, well, cook slowly. Again, refer to the manufacturer’s guide to set your temperature when cooking.
Opt for a programmable cooker. This may cost more but has certain features that enhance the safety of the cooker. For instance, you can program your cooker to automatically switch to a lower temperature after a designated time.
This prevents whatever you’ve got cooking from burning, and protects your kitchen from going up in flames.
Turn off your unit and unplug it once cooking is done. As a practice, fire departments recommend keeping appliances, including slow cookers, unplugged even when they are not being used.
Even models with automatic shutoff features should immediately unplug once you’re done cooking. Additionally, make sure that the cord is stored neatly wrapped. Do not fold it up as this could lead to breakage and exposed wires.
Make sure your smoke detector in your kitchen is working. Again, this is a general safety tip, regardless if you’re a slow cooker owner or not. At least once a year, check your smoke detector and replace batteries.
Slow Cooker Safety Tip - Some FAQs
Here are some questions people often ask when it comes to slow cooker operation.
Is it safe to operate the slow cooker overnight?
If you want something cooked and ready when you wake up in the morning, a slow cooker will do the job. In fact, slow cookers are designed to cook slowly over long periods of time.
A word of caution, though. If your slow cooker is old, or does not heat up properly anymore, it may not be safe to use it anymore. A good way to check? if it has a fabric cord, it’s outdated.
Definitely do not use your vintage slow cooker from the 70’s. They admittedly look cool, but do not meet current safety standards.
Can I step out while I have something cooking in my cooker?
If you can leave it on overnight, you can definitely leave your slow cooker on as you go about your day. However, you must ensure that your slow cooker is set to low.
Also make sure you follow the safety precautions mentioned earlier, that is, to make sure that your cooker is placed away from walls and edges, on a flat surface.
Can you cook in a slow cooker without liquid?
It’s a must to have a bit of liquid at the base of your slow cooker recipe.
The purpose of this liquid component is to keep the other ingredients from getting too hot, sticking to the bottom of your cooker and potentially burning - not just your dinner but your kitchen, as well.
Are slow cooker liners safe?
If you’re tired of cleaning out your slow cooker after each use, slow cooker liners make your job easier. While this may not be a fire safety issue as slow cooker temperatures are so low that the risk of fire starting from a slow cooker liner is likewise low.
However, some slow cooker liners may pose a risk to your health if they are not BPA free plastic. According to the Mayo Clinic, plastics, when exposed to heat, can leach BPA into your food. This can cause health problems, especially in children.
Slow Cooker Safety Tips - Key Points
A slow cooker is a great appliance to have in the kitchen. It offers a lot of convenience because it allows you to cook healthy meals while you sleep at night or while you go about your daily routine.
In general, slow cookers are safe. You just need to ensure that they are well maintained and are used according to the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations. Not following safety precautions can lead to a fire in the kitchen. Once a crock pot catches fire, it can cause as much damage as a fire in your oven.
Flames can start from your slow cooker and quickly spread to the surrounding areas. And this can be devastating, especially if you’re not home or sleeping.
We Can Help
Observing safety practices is the best way to avoid kitchen fires caused by slow cookers or other means. However, accidents can and do happen.
In the unfortunate eventuality of a fire,even after the fire is put out, damage is not always confined to only the kitchen. Smoke and soot stains, water damage and mold can spread through the house, as well.
As a top rated water and fire damage restoration company, Five Star Restoration responds quickly to provide assistance when you call. We not only offer fire and smoke damage restoration, our technicians can help with water damage, mold removal and board up services.
Call us today at 951 368 2227. We have technicians on call 24/7.
Tags: Slow Cooker Safety Tips, slow cooker FAQs, slow cooker maintenance, how to safely use a slow cooker