What size slow cooker do I need?
Slow cookers are available in sizes from 1 1/2 quarts ( used to keep dips warms) up to 8 quarts which can feed a crowd. Here are some guidelines to help you pick a size that is appropriate for your family. Remember that you need to fill a slow cooker at least half full when cooking.
Household size Slow Cooker Capacity
1-2 people 2 to 3 1/2 quarts
3-4 people 3 1/2 quarts to 4 1/2 quarts
4-5 people 4 1/2 quarts to 5 quarts
6 or more people 6-8 quarts
How full should I fill my slow cooker?
For best results fill your cooking pot at least 1/2 full but no more than 3/4 full. If it is filled less than half full the food may be burnt at the end of the cooking time. If filled more than 3/4 full foods may not cook properly and reach safe temperatures in a reasonable length of time. When foods give up their moisture over the long cooking process, you may find your cooker filled to the brim with liquid by the time you are ready to serve.
Can I open the lid to stir food when it is slow cooking?
There is no need to stir food unless your recipe specifically recommends it. Every time you take the lid off to stir the food the slow cooker can lose 10-15 degrees and it can take 20-30 minutes for the temperature to recover. Also, make sure your lid is sitting on the slow cooker properly so that heat and steam can't escape.
Should I preheat my slow cooker before using?
It is important to read the manual that came with your slow cooker. Some manufacturers recommend preheating on the high setting for a minimum of 20 minutes before food is added. The majority however, recommend that the slow cooker is heated only when it is full of food.
Can I reheat food in my slow cooker?
Do not use the slow cooker to reheat food. Reheat food in a microwave or stovetop before adding to a slow cooker. For safety's sake, previously cooked foods should come to a boil quickly or heated to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees F. You can then use the warm setting to keep food warm. Use this setting to keep gravy, mashed potatoes or other side dishes warm on a buffet table.
Are slow cookers safe to use?
Yes, slow cookers cook food slowly at a low temperature--generally between 170 degrees and 280 degrees F. The direct heat from the pot, lengthy cooking and steam created within the tightly-covered container combine to destroy bacteria and make the slow cooker a safe process for cooking food.
Keep perishable foods refrigerated until preparation time. If you cut up meat and vegetables in advance, store them separately in the refrigerator. The slow cooker may take several hours to reach a safe, bacteria-killing temperature. Constant refrigeration assures that bacteria, which multiply rapidly at room temperature, won't get a "head start" during the first few hours of cooking.