Thursday, January 28, 2016

Safety Tips When Cooking in a Slow Cooker or Crockpot

This week I had the pleasure of presenting a workshop on Slow Cooking and using multi-cookers three times.  Each time during our discussions, I learned something new from those who were attending.  During our discussion around food safety some of these reminders surprised our attendees and created some good discussion.  I thought I would share them with you

Food Safety Reminders:

  1. Be sure to read the book and follow the directions that come with the appliance.
  2. Start with clean hands, utensils surfaces and a clean cooker.
  3. Always thaw meat or poultry before putting it into a slow cooker. If frozen pieces are used, they will not reach 140° quick enough and could possibly result in a foodborne illness
  4. Preheat the crock-pot and add hot liquids, if possible. Preheating the crock before adding ingredients or cooking on the highest setting for the first hour will ensure a rapid heat start. Either way will shorten the time foods are in the temperature danger zone. This is highly recommended when cooking meat or poultry in a slow cooker.
  5. Do not use the warm setting to cook food. It is designed to keep cooked food hot.
  6. Do not reheat food or leftovers in a slow cooker; instead reheat on stove top or microwave and transfer to slow cooker to keep warm (140°F. or above)
  7.  Dried beans, especially kidney, contain a natural toxin. These toxins are easily destroyed by boiling. Safe steps for preparing would include soaking the beans for 12 hours, rinsing, and then boiling for at least 10 minutes, before adding the beans to a slow cooker. 
  8. Research conducted by USDA FSIS indicates it is safe to cook large cuts of meat and poultry in a slow cooker. Follow the manufacturer's recipes and safety guidelines. 
  9. Since vegetables cook the slowest, place them near the heat, at the bottom and sides of the slow cooker or crockpot.
  10.  Do not lift the lid or cover unnecessarily during the cooking cycle. Each time the lid is raised, the internal temperature drops 10 - 15 degrees and the cooking process is slowed by 30 minutes. 
  11.  Before taking a bite, check meat and poultry with a food thermometer to make sure it has reached a safe internal temperate to destroy bacteria. Roasts: 145°F to 160°F; poultry: 165°F; soups, stews, sauces: 165°F  
  12. Do not leave cooked food to cool down in the crock. Eat immediately or place leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate.

Foods that are held in the danger zone of 40 to 140 degrees will grow bacteria fastest.   There is some concern about crock-pots, but research shows them to be safe if used properly. The slow cooker cooks foods slowly at a low temperature, generally between 170° and 280° F, over several hours. The combination of direct heat from the pot, lengthy cooking time and circulation of steam, destroy bacteria making the slow cooker a safe process for cooking foods.  The time necessary to thaw meat and get it to temperature is too long when using a slow-cook method, so make sure to use thawed meat or to use a multi-cooker on a higher setting.
What Should You Do If The Power Goes Out?
If you are not at home during the entire slow-cooking process and the power goes out, throw away the food even if it looks done.  If you are at home, finish cooking the ingredients immediately by some other means: on a gas stove, on the outdoor grill or at a house where the power is on.  When you are at home, and if the food was completely cooked before the power went out, the food should remain safe up to two hours in the cooker with the power off.


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