Insider’s Viewpoint: Are You Sabotaging Your Slow-Cooker Meals?
Slow cookers are the star of many people’s kitchens due to the versatility throughout the year and the almost hands-free cooking process. However, this seemingly easy and convenient cooking method often raises food safety concerns. Follow these tips and make safe and delicious slow cooker recipes for you and your family, like the easy, flavorful No-Meat Slow Cooker Chili recipe below.
Slow-Cooker Safety Tips
Watch Temperature Closely
- Always thaw meat or poultry before putting it into the slow cooker.
- Start on high, if possible, to reach a bacteria-killing temperature in a safe amount of time before turning to low. Note, it is also safe to cook on low the entire time if you have to leave for work.
- Use an instant-read food thermometer to monitor internal temperature of food.
- Keep on WARM when cooking is done until ready to serve. Always check your manufacturer’s instructions and use a thermometer to monitor the temperature.
- Do not reheat food in a slow cooker, since it won’t reach a safe temperature fast enough.
Cook Food Thoroughly
- Don’t overstuff. Check your manufacturer’s instructions for suggested sizes of meat and poultry that can fit into your slow cooker. A good guideline is to fill the slow cooker no less than ½ full and no more than 2/3 full.
- Cut up meat to ensure even and thorough cooking.
- Put meat on top of vegetables since meat cooks faster.
- Keep the lid on. Remove only to check temperature and doneness.
- If you are not at home during the cooking process, and the power goes out, throw food away even if it looks done.
Follow General Food Safety Recommendations
- Start with a clean slow cooker, cutting board and preparation utensils.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before and during cooking.
- Keep ingredients refrigerated until you are ready to cook them, to prevent bacterial growth.
- Refrigerate leftovers within two hours after cooking has finished.
No-Meat Slow Cooker Chili
What You Need …
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1 large orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, undrained
- 3 (15.5-ounce) cans dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
How to Make It …
- In a large skillet over medium heat, add oil. Once hot, add onion, garlic, celery and both bell peppers and sauté for 5 minutes or until the vegetables start to soften.
- Add chili powder, cumin, paprika and cayenne pepper and sauté for 1 minute more; remove from heat.
- In a slow cooker, add cooked vegetable mixture, crushed tomatoes, kidney beans, vegetable stock and tomato sauce. Stir to combine.
- Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.
- Serve garnished with parsley if desired.
Carrie Taylor, RDN, LDN
Lead Registered Dietitian for the Living Well Eating Smart Program
Big Y Foods
Qianzhi (Tea) Jiang
University of Massachusetts- Amherst