7 KEY POINTS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SLOW COOKERS AND FOOD SAFETY

November 21, 2019

7 KEY POINTS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SLOW COOKERS AND FOOD SAFETY

We love slow cookers as it is convenient and portable and notably getting more and more popular in today’s modern kitchen setting. There are so many advantages of cooking in a slow cooker. You can cook all day without having to check on it so often. Another thing is, it’s easy on the budget and a great way to make cheaper and tougher cuts of meats (shoulder, round, and chuck) tender in no time. The list of benefits of cooking with slow cookers can be endless. Not to mention the more flavorful quality of foods you get from them. However, you might also wonder if cooking with these incredible slow cookers are not only efficient but are safe worthwhile? Or, is there other things you don’t know about slow cookers yet?

Is a slow cooker safe?

The answer is YES, if like any other cooking gadgets, used correctly. How do slow cookers work their magic? Slow cookers cook foods slowly and at a low temperature (generally 170 and 280 degrees F ) over hours. The direct heat from the pot and lengthy cooking and steam time, combined to work together, kills bacteria making slow cookers a safe method for cooking foods.

Safety Beginnings

Begin with a clean cooker, clean utensils, and a clean work area. Of course, we don’t want any disease to come lurking in our foods. For a safe start, wash hands before and during food preparation. After all, the foods are being transported to and from our hands, so it’s a must to keep the transport clean.  Next thing is if food is not to be cooked yet, keep them refrigerated especially perishable foods. This will inhibit bacteria build up in your foods. The same is true when you cut up meat and vegetables in advance but you should store them separately in the refrigerator. The slow cooker may take several hours to reach a safe, bacteria-killing temperature, but patience is a virtue especially when all you ever wanted was to give your family the best when it comes to mealtime. Doing constant refrigeration assures that bacteria, which alarmingly can multiply rapidly at room temperature, won’t get its way during the first few hours of cooking.

Thaw Ingredients

Yes, refrigeration is best to ensure food safety but you must always thaw meat or poultry before putting it into a slow cooker. Bacteria thrive in temperatures between 40º-140ºF. If you thaw food in very cold water--under 40ºF/4.5ºC--it takes a long time, but doing this will make your food, not at major risk of bacterial growth. You may choose to make foods with a high moisture content such as chili, soup, stew or spaghetti sauce. Furthermore, a commercially frozen slow cooker meal should best be prepared according to the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure the quality and safety of food.

Use the right amount of food.

When using vegetables, cook them first as they cook slower than meat and poultry. As for large cuts of meat and poultry, they can be cooked safely in a slow cooker, however, due to several size availability of slow cookers, it is best to consult the instruction booklet first to know the suggested sizes of meat and poultry to cook in your slow cooker. Finally, when all thing’s set, add the meat and desired amount of liquid following what is suggested in the recipe, such as broth, water or barbecue sauce. Make sure to keep the lid in place, removing it only to stir the food or check for doneness.

Proper Settings

Most cookers have two or more settings. Same with foods that take different times to cook depending upon the setting used. High settings will cook foods faster than low settings. However, you may want to use the low setting for all-day cooking or for less-tender cuts of meats. It’s also advisable, for the first hour of cooking, to put the cooker on the highest setting, turning it later to low or the setting called for in your recipe. If you’re leaving for work, it’s safer to cook foods on the low setting the entire time. A good thing to bear in mind, keep the slow cooker in a good operating setting to ensure food stays safe while cooking and once it’s done.

What to do when there’s a Power Out

Power interruption happens and in case you are not at home during the entire slow-cooking process when the power goes out, don’t hesitate to throw away the food even if it looks done. However, if you are at home, you must finish cooking the ingredients immediately using other means: on a gas stove, on the outdoor grill or at a house where the power is on. What if the food is completely cooked before the power went out? No worries, the food should remain safe up to two hours in the cooker with the power off.

Safe Handling of Leftovers

Food waste is a big NO especially when you put extra penny and effort to get them. You can safely store leftovers in shallow covered containers and refrigerate within two hours after cooking is finished. Note that reheating leftovers in a slow cooker is not recommended. You should reheat cooked food on the stove, in a microwave, or in a conventional oven until it reaches 165 °F. That’s only the time hot food can be placed in a preheated slow cooker to keep it hot for serving—at least 140 °F as measured with a food thermometer.


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