Many Moms, Dads and other cooks find cooking in a slow cooker or crock pot to be a cookware item that produces amazingly good food that your family, friends and guests will enjoy. Crock pots and slow cookers are a great way to cook a meal. They are time savers and can really help those cuts of meat that aren't quite the best, but are affordable. Unfortunately, food poisoning due to crock pot cooking can occur fairly easily if you don't use your slow cooker properly. Bacteria present in foods will die at temperatures higher than 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If your crock pot is used incorrectly, the temperature of the food will not reach higher than the critical point of 140 degree Fahrenheit. In order to keep enjoying the foods cooked in your crock pot, follow these simple guidelines to stay safe from food poisoning. Crock pots and slow cookers are available in a wide variety of sizes and styles ranging from basic to elaborate.

Crock Pot No No’s

Never put frozen foods into a crock pot to cook, even if the food is only partially frozen. All foods must be at either refrigerator temperature or room temperature.

Meats, poultry and fish should always be at refrigerator temperature usage.  Always defrost meat, chicken and seafood in a refrigerator to keep the food safe.

Vegetables can be at either room temperature or refrigerator temperature.

Slow Cooker Lids

Only use the lid specifically made for the crock pot. Never substitute another lid.

 Proper fit of the crock pot lid is necessary to achieve and maintain the proper temperature.

Do not lift the lid on a slow cooker during cooking because too much heat will be let out and lost from opening.

If you have to lift the lid, you have to add more cooking time.

Meats, Chicken and Turkey in a Crock Pot

Do not put a whole chicken, turkey or thick cuts of meat into a slow cooker. A whole chicken, turkey or thick cuts of meat will not get hot enough to kill the bacteria that cause food poisoning.

Only use chicken, turkey and thick cuts of meat cut up into pieces.

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Filling the Slow Cooker

Fill the crock pot up 2/3 to 3/4 of the way with food.

The crock pot has to have enough food in it to allow the food to absorb the heat from the crock pot.

Cover the food with a liquid such as water, gravy or a stock to create steaming. The steam in a crock pot helps to generate more heat.

Crock Pot Temperature

Use the highest setting possible for at least the first hour to 1 1/2 hours in order to raise the heat high enough to kill any bacteria on the food.

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Slow Cooker Do Not

Do not use your crock pot to reheat food. There are many bacteria present on left over foods and that bacteria is less likely to be killed during shorter reheat cooking times.

Unless you plan on cooking leftovers for at least four hours and allowing them to reach an internal temperature of greater than 140  degrees Fahrenheit, use another method for reheating left over foods.

Food Temperatures in a Crock Pot

To be sure of crock pot food safety use a food thermometer.

Insert the food thermometer into the center of meat or poultry to get a reading.

Be sure to check a few different pieces of meat or poultry because crock pot heat is not always even.

Crock Pot and Slow Cooker Cooking

Use your crock pot safely to guard against food poisoning. While most people recover from food poisoning within a day or two, the very young and old are more likely to suffer complications, hospitalization and even death.

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