Are slow cookers safe for cooking chicken and meat?  

Are slow cookers safe for cooking chicken and meat? I've read that keeping food at such a low temperature might...

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Becky Luigart-Stayner

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If you have a cooking question, our expert, Marge Perry, can answer it. Marge teaches home cooks in her classes at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. She is an award-winning food writer, longtime contributor for Cooking Light and a number of other leading food magazines, author of the blog A Sweet and Savory Life, columnist for Newsday, and has contributed to over 20 cookbooks.

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Are slow cookers safe for cooking chicken and meat? I've read that keeping food at such a low temperature might be dangerou–is it true?

Although it seems that cooking food at such a low temperature might be dangerous, slow cookers are, in fact safe, according to the USDA. When you use a slow cooker, food stays at 170-280 degrees in a tightly covered container. As is true with any method of cooking, on its way to being safe the food passes through a time period where bacteria might thrive. The key is to continue cooking until it reaches a bacteria-killing temperature.

The USDA does recommend that, if possible, you cook large pieces of meat in a slow cooker on the HIGH heat setting for 1 hour and then reduce to the LOW heat setting for the remaining cooking time.

It is also important to fill the slow cooker at least halfway but not more than two-thirds of the way and to keep the lid on throughout the cooking process. Do not put frozen food in the slow cooker.

If you use your slow cooker often, see our collection of Slow-Cooker Recipes and 7 Ways with a Slow Cooker.

Marge Perry
Jan, 2011
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