We’ve seen some great ideas on the web for prepping a large number of meals for a slow cooker, tossing the ingredients into a freezer bag and then dumping the bag into the slow cooker for a simple meal. The trouble is that not all of the recipes out there demonstrate a good understanding of best practices when it comes to food safety and slow cookers. You can read the USDA FSIS recommendations and consider this practical guide to safe slow cooking from Ellen’s Kitchen for a more detailed understanding, and we’ve pulled out a few important tips to keep in mind.
Never put frozen, raw meat directly into a slow cooker. Thaw it in the fridge overnight. For those handy-dandy bagged recipes, store the veggies and meat separately so the veggies can stay frozen while the meat thaws.
Cut meat into chunks. Especially poultry. And never, ever try to cook a whole, stuffed chicken in a slow cooker. The dense filling allows the center of the bird to remain at unsafe temperatures long enough that the slow cooker effectively becomes an incubator for dangerous bacteria.
Don’t overfill your slow cooker. Keep your manual or look it up online to make sure that you aren’t exceeding the manufacturer recommendations for the amount of food you’re trying to make in your slow cooker.
Consider power outages. If the power goes out, move the food to a secondary option like a grill or hot stove. If you’re away from home, check an indicator when you return (such as a microwave clock that would need to be reset after a power outage). If the power has been out, the safest course of action is to throw the food out.