Test your slow cooker for safety’s sake

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This time of year, many people use their slow cooker to prepare healthy, hearty dishes that make their whole house smell good. Do you know that you can test your slow cooker to make sure it is safe to use? Does it work properly or even work at all? Follow these guidelines and check your slow cooker.

This small appliance cooks foods slowly at a low temperature – generally between 170 and 280 degrees Fahrenheit. The low heat helps less expensive, leaner cuts of meat become tender and shrink less while staying moist.

The direct heat from the slow cooker, length of cooking time and steam created in the covered container combine to destroy bacteria and make slow cooking a safe process for preparing foods.

Food safety is a major concern for this appliance. Yes, it is a timesaver, but what if it isn’t cooking foods at a high enough temperature to stop bacterial growth properly? When, if ever, have you checked it? Do you know what to look for? These are just a few questions that may come up.

Rest assured, it can be checked easily and will give you piece of mind that your appliance is working properly and will continue to provide safe, efficient meals for your family.

First, check for any obvious signs of damage, such as a cracked or broken crockery liner, frayed cord or damaged plug. Older slow cookers prepared foods at lower temperatures and should be checked for accuracy and safe food-cooking temperatures.

Next, test your slowcooker’s cooking performance and reliability. Place eight cups of water in the slow cooker, cover and turn to the low setting. Using a food thermometer, check the temperature of the water – it should be at least 165 degrees. After eight hours on low, the water temperature should be 185 degrees.

If the slow cooker fails to heat the water to the recommended temperatures, it should not be used to prepare foods. Using it could result in foods not reaching temperatures to kill harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. Discard and replace it with a new one. No one wants to become ill because foods were not prepared safely.

If you have any questions or want more information about health or nutrition, contact Holly Jay, FCS Extension Agent, MSU, Big Horn County at (406) 665-9770, email holly.jay@montana.edu or stop by 317 N. Custer Ave. in Hardin.