Slow Cookers and Rice Cookers for Home Use

Slow cookers are a great option in today’s busy world, but there are a few things you should know when purchasing and using these products.

Choosing a Product

To help consumers who are concerned about the quality and durability of home appliances like slow cookers and rice cookers, NSF International developed NSF Protocol P389: Slow Cooker & Rice Cooker Appliances for Home Use. This protocol establishes strict criteria that address the durability, safety and cleanability of slow cookers and rice cookers. As part of its Home Products Certification Program, NSF also reviews product packaging for regulatory compliance and substantiates other marketing and label claims made by the manufacturer. Products certified under this protocol are eligible to display the NSF Certified for Home Use mark.

In addition to looking for certification, choose the right size slow cooker to meet your household’s needs. In general, slow cookers should only be filled between one-half and two-thirds full for best cooking results. Many slow cookers today are designed with a removable ceramic insert for easy cleaning.

Cleaning a Slow Cooker

Check your owner’s manual for recommended cleaning instructions. If none are present, hand wash food contact surfaces in warm soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Carefully wipe exterior surfaces with a clean, damp cloth. Use care not to immerse any electrical plugs or wiring in water.

Cooking With a Slow Cooker

When cooking with a slow cooker, don’t start with frozen ingredients as it takes them too long to reach cooking temperatures. Rather, defrost frozen meats and vegetables in the refrigerator and place the thawed ingredients in the slow cooker. To help promote even cooking, cut similar foods into the same size pieces.

Cooking on low heat generally takes about twice as long as cooking on high heat. For most units, the low setting is equivalent to about 200° F, while the high setting is about 300°F. Once the cooking process has started, try not to remove the slow cooker cover, as this lets heat and moisture escape and slows down the cooking process.

Don’t rely strictly on time or appearance of the food to determine doneness. Instead, use a certified food thermometer to make sure food is cooked to the proper internal temperature:

  • Whole or ground poultry:  165° F
  • Ground meats (other than poultry):  160° F
  • Fresh fin fish:  145 °F
  • Fresh pork, beef, veal: - 145° F with a three-minute rest time

Once the meal has finished cooking and has reached a safe temperature, remove the food from the slow cooker to prevent overcooking. Don’t leave leftovers in a slow cooker as it cools, as the food will not stay hot enough to prevent the growth of bacteria.

Slow cookers should not be used to reheat foods due to the length of time it takes them to reach cooking temperatures.