Are Slow Cookers Dangerous?

The slow cooker has come a long way since its humble beginnings as a bean cooker in the 1970s and there’s no better, or easier way, to cook a delicious beef stew – simply place the ingredients in the pot and let it cook while you’re away at work or even overnight while you’re in bed.

But is it really safe to leave an unattended appliance on for eight hours at a time? And does the slow cooker have any food hygiene implications? Let’s take a look…

Do Slow Cookers Pose Any Electrical Dangers?

Slow cookers are designed to be left on and left unattended for long periods of time and so there should be no real danger of causing an electrical fire or electrocution. Of course, if your appliance is faulty then there is a risk that something could go wrong, but slow cookers are no more dangerous than any other electrical appliance.

However, that doesn’t mean you can be complacent and you should always keep your cookers electrical connections, switches, cords and plugs away from liquids. Always keep these parts of the cooker clean and dry and, should they be subjected to any food spills or splashes, unplug the cooker at the wall and remove spills with a damp cloth and dry with a paper towel.

Obviously the cook pot is designed to hold liquids and is usually removable so that it can be washed – but you must never immerse the outer case in water as this houses all of the electrical circuits and connections.

Do Slow Cookers Pose Any Food Poisoning Dangers?

Slow cookers are designed to cook food thoroughly over a prolonged period of time and this, combined with the direct heat from the cooking pot and the steam that is created as part of the cooking process, helps to destroy any bacteria that may be prevalent.

That said, you should always take the same precautions when preparing food to be slow cooked as you do when preparing for any other dish; making sure the cooker, any utensils and worktops are all clean and regularly wash your hands during the food preparation process.

If you prepare meat and vegetables in advance the be sure to refrigerate them separately and don’t just leave them out in the open as bacteria quickly multiplies at room temperature and the slow cooker can take several hours to heat up to a temperature that kills bacteria.

You should always thaw meat, fish or poultry before placing it in a slow cooker and if cooking with any of these choose dishes with a high moisture content. In addition, if you’re also cooking vegetables then it’s often a good idea to put these in first as they take longer to cook through.

Always cook your meal on the correct temperature setting – don’t try to rush a meal by cooking it on ‘high’ if it needs to be cooked over a longer period of time and if your cooker suffers from an electrical shortage while you’re not at home and you’ve no idea how long it was cooking for, throw the food away. Even if it looks done, there’s no way to be sure, so don’t take the risk.

If you know that the food was completely cooked before the power shortage then the food should be good in the bowl for around two hours.

Are Slow Cookers Dangerous?

In short, no, slow cookers are not dangerous – but you must treat them as you would any other electrical appliance and treat food as you would if you were cooking it by any other means.