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Should I be afraid of my crock pot?

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Growing up my parents rarely cooked in crock pots, and when they did, it was always when we'd be home for the duration of the cooking. My general rule is that no appliances (certainly no heating appliances) get left on when I leave the house or go to sleep...but lots of people seem to think nothing of letting the crock pot cook all day while they are at work! Is anyone else afraid to do this? Am I being silly? Does everyone else leave crock pots and ovens at low temps on while they sleep or leave the house?

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  1. I leave my corckpot going no problem. It is a new one that will switch itself to "warm" after a certain length of time (determined by me.) The oven I never leave on when I leave the house.

    ~TDQ

    1. Never left the stove on while not home but I have left the crock pot on all day. My fear with the oven is that if I get stuck in traffic, get a flat etc., that 3 hour dish could readily burn and maybe catch fire say on hour 5. I'd have much less concerned if my crock pot, set on low, runs an extra two hours. Most crock pot recipes have a lot of liquid and it'd take a lot to dry the recipe out. BUT, my wife once left the crock pot on 3 (out of 5) and we came home to dried out, burnt short ribs. Still, they were dried out and burnt, but still not near catching fire.

      1. I have abandoned crocks for pressure cookers but I have browned things in my LC and slowly braised in my oven, even, gasp,when I had to leave the house. With the pressure cookers it is no longer an issue.

        1. I don't do this for safety, but I usually plug my crock pot in outside. We have a little covered BBQ area and I put it there when the weather's not too cold. I assume this would allay your fears, if you have them, of leaving the pot in the house all day unattended. I do it because I use the crock pot to make stock overnight and I hate the smell of chicken broth simmering while I sleep.

          1. There's no real difference between leaving a crockpot on and leaving a light on - they both get hot, and in fact the lightbulb probably gets hotter. So stop worrying. There is no fire hazard, no glowing filaments anywhere.

            Odd the range of tastes and tolerances among us food-lovers: I can't imagine any nicer smell to wake up to than chicken broth, unless it's an overnight-cooked cassoulet...

            1. No I don't think you are being silly. I had the same fears and even had someone go over to my house a couple of times to check on the crock pot the first time I left it on while I was at work. I do it now without much fear (though it is in the back of my mind) but I think about it like this:
              1. It is a newish crock pot with no frayed cords or anything to make me think it isn't going to work properly.
              2. There's a lot of liquid involved (as someone else mentioned) so the contents are probably not going to burn to the point of setting my house on fire.
              3. It will switch to warm after a time (also as someone else mentioned).
              4. Everyone else seems to do it successfully.
              I usually put something in the crock pot during the weekend and go out to run my errands. Then I'm not gone that long and I know I'll be back soon to check on the progress. But I do that mainly because I work weird hours and can't be guaranteed to be home in 7 or 8 hours. I don't leave the oven on though. I can't bring myself to do that.

              1. My A/C unit, water heater, and other appliances start automatically. Any of them can malfunction and start a fire. I don't worry about those so I don't worry about the slow cooker. I do, occasionally, start the crock pot (slow cooker) and allow it to cook while I'm away. But here's what I do to try and reduce any risk. The outlet that provides power is never greater than a 15 amp circuit. The appliance is resting on a fire retardant insulated surface to prevent it from over heating the countertop. The temperature is set so that it automatically switches to low heat after the prescribed length of time. I always add about ten percent more liquid than the recipe calls for. That ensures it won't boil dry and the ten percent factor doesn't dilute the recipe appreciably. I never place the slow cooker under an overhanging cabinet; I always put it out on an open countertop.

                1. I leave mine on all the time, unless I'm making freezer beans. Those always seem to need checking for more liquid. I just make sure the cord is clear and there's nothing nearby that might catch fire.

                  1. Mine is the traditional one, it doesn't switch to 'warm' after certain time. I just made pork ribs w/ BBQ sauce couple days ago, turn it on to low before I leave for work. 10 hours later, I have dinner ready when I get home and it didn't dry out.

                    1. Do you leave your fridge on when you leave the house?....

                      The heating element in a crockpot is well insulated from contact with anything but the crock.

                      1. Thanks for the encouragement about the crock pot. I don't think mine switches to warm, but I'll look into one that does.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: akq

                          Don't toss the old one. The newer crockpots of the past several years are 25 degrees hotter at each setting, ostensibly for food safety, but it's really a drag, because the older temperatures were better for cooking correctly.

                        2. I love my crock pot. It's only 3 years old and it's just got 3 settings- warm, low, high.
                          It lives on my counter near the stove. I'll throw a brisket in there at 7:15am and it hangs out on low until we get home close to 6pm. I've not had any fear of leaving it, the outside doesn't get hot and the cord is NEVER hot.

                          I have friends who only leave them in the sink or bathtub (yuck) out of fear. Maybe you can start out slow and leave the house for a few minutes at a time, until you trust it. We run the dishwasher at night, and I'll think nothing of throwing a load in the dryer before we go to sleep (I read somewhere that it's less strain in the A/C if you run it when it cools down at night instead of the heat of the day...) But the oven? Noooooo... I don't typically even leave the kitchen if any part of the stove is in use.