Slow-cooking is a very safe and reliable cooking method. Nevertheless, it always pays to make sure you know what you’re doing when it comes to food safety.
Food safety when slow-cooking is important—just as it is for regular cooking. There are, however, a few safety rules that differ from conventional cooking methods, as you might suspect from an appliance that cooks “low and slow,” and can take all day to transform your food from raw to delish. Here is what the U.S. Department of Agriculture wants to remind you about slow-cooking and food safety.
These are all good tips, but one that they left out is quite important, and something that lots of folks think is ok (but it isn’t). Do not assemble ingredients in the slow-cooker crock and then refrigerate the whole shebang overnight. Why? The next day, when you plunk the crock into the slow-cooker housing and turn on the heat, the crock can crack…and you likely won’t know it until you get home at night and find a giant, leaky, unsafely-cooked mess on your counter. You were trying to be extra-efficient, but ended up wasting ingredients and wasting your effort and having to whip up something else (or order take-out) at the last minute.
The slow-cooker crock is not meant to go through drastic temperature changes like the ones that happen in that scenario. It’s fine to prep ingredients, but store them in baggies or on plates or however you prefer, then assemble them in the room temperature crock the next morning. Generally, ingredient assembly for slow-cooked recipes doesn’t take all that long anyhow if the ingredients are already washed, diced, trimmed, etc.
–Kit Broihier, MS, RD, LD
Images from: Ecolab