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Helpful Tips

How to test the temperature of your slow cooker

Have you found a slow cooker at the thrift store that you want to be sure is safe to use? Do you want to make quark or any other cheese in your slow cooker? Is your slow cooker cooking too fast? Because I use the slow cooker so often and plan to post more slow cooking recipes, this helpful hint is here to help you determine how safe a slow cooker is to use by testing the temperature.

The USDA recommends that you check your slow cooker to ensure that it reliably heats to a safe temperature. There are many kinds of slow cookers, often they have four settings: warm, low, high, and off. If you have acquired a second hand slow cooker, put it to the test to ensure safe meals.

How can you tell if your slow cooker will heat to a safe temperature? Here is a simple test:

  1. Fill your slow cooker a half to two-thirds full of cool water (about two quarts, depending on the size of your cooker). Heat covered on low for two hours. Do not peek, that will allow the steam and heat to escape and invalidate your test.
  2. With a food thermometer, check the temperature of the water. Do this quickly because as the lid is removed, the temperature can drop quickly. The temperature should be above 165°F. This first step is meant to determine if your slow cooker heats food quickly enough to reach a safe temperature. If it has reached 165°F, keep going. If not, your cooker is not safe to use for food.
  3. Put the lid back on and continue to heat for another 6 hours. When you check the temperature, remember to do so quickly. The temperature of the water should now be at around 185°F. You can use the cooker if this temperature is achieved.

For temperatures above 185°F on low, your slow cooker will cook too quickly and be overdone for a typical eight hour recipe. If the temperature reads below 185°F, it doesn’t heat food high enough. That will indicate that your slow cooker is unsafe to use. Toss it or use it to dye wool in but don’t use it for food. If the temperature is higher than 185°F, this would indicate that a meal cooked for 8 hours without stirring would be overdone.

Slow cooker cooking is a great way to spend more time with your family while your food cooks. Just remember to stay safe!