Potatoes and steak in a slow cooker.

Warm up this fall with slow-cooked comfort food! Using a crockpot is an easy and safe way to prep your favorite seasonal meals. Be sure to follow these helpful tips to practice slow-cooker food safety:

  1. Begin your recipe with a clean crockpot, clean utensils, and a clean work area. Handwashing is an important part of preventing foodborne illnesses. Wash your hands before, during, and after food preparation.
  2. The slow cooker may take a while to reach a safe, bacteria-killing temperature. Keep perishable foods refrigerated until preparation time. Constant refrigeration assures that bacteria won’t get a “head start” during the first few hours of cooking.
  3. Always completely thaw meat or poultry before adding it to the slow cooker. If using a commercially frozen slow cooker meal, prepare according to the instructions.
  4. Do not overfill the slow cooker. This can result in the food not being evenly cooked. Slow cookers work best when halfway to three-quarters full.
  5. Be sure to keep the lid in place, removing it only to stir the food or to check for doneness.
  6. Reheating leftovers in a slow cooker is not recommended. Cooked food should be reheated on the stove, in a microwave, or in a conventional oven until it reaches 165 °F.

Slow-Cooker Recipes


USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service