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Slow Cookers

I keep hearing and thinking how handy and what a time saver these things can be, but I'm a little unsure about leaving an appliance, ANY appliance on while I'm not home. To me, it's no different than having a stove on low all day...And the stove is built to a better standard of quality. I might, MIGHT, leave the thing on the garage floor cooking away all day, but in the house, on the counter? Not so sure. What say you all?

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  1. I have left it on and not had any problems. That's not to say I don't think that something could go wrong.

    1. I've used my Rival since 1979 and haven't had any problems ever; have left it cooking on low while I'm at work many, many times. There might be some consumer websites that discuss safety of the ones currently manufactured, if that will help you decide.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Val

        I've had my Rival since 1990 and I was thinking it was getting old so I replaced it. Never had a problem with it in 20 years but I was worried that I might have a problem since it's getting quite old. Wrong. The new one actually burned my sloppy joes!! Trust the Rival!

        That said I always put it on a glass cutting board in case the bottom gets hot and burns the counter.....see? I'm just a worrier.

      2. My slow cooker has been left on many, many times when I have left the house. I've never had a problem.
        I've had two different slow cookers, and I can say that the newer version is designed so that no water vapor escapes during cooking, resulting in a low chance something could go wrong. The slow cooker has even heat from the all sides and does not touch the counter surface, so I would say it is far safer than leaving a low stove on all day.
        Regardless, I would recommend you purchase a Rival Crock Pot (the brand I've had much success with and is inexpensive) and use it to cook with during the weekend when you are home so you can get familiar with how it works.

        1. I use one and leave it on when I know I'll be returning in the appropriate time. Has other CHers have noted here, they have been around a long time plus Consumer Reports has rated tham and has not noted any safety issues with them. I did notice one item on the Consumer Reports Discussion site: while the old slow cookers maintained a temp of 150-170 at low setting, today's models operate at 200 so older recipes should be adjusted accordingly. CR also notes that slow cookers also are most efficient when at least half full.


          1. You can also put the slow cooker going before you go to bed and have it cook overnight (although I don't know if it would be cool enough to put in the fridge before you leave for work). I don't even like to have my dishwasher on while I"m gone.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Shann

              I won't run the DW if I'm not home. Friend of mine came home from running errands, after turning hers on to see water running out of the garage. A hose had broken and water was everywhere. So, no I won't run the DW if I'm not home.

              I DO use the crockpot and let it sit on my stainless steel stove, cuz' it gets warmer than I like to leave on the counter. It automatically goes to warm once it's cooked the prescribed time.

              1. re: JerryMe

                FYI -- feed hoses to things like dish and clothes washers can and do break, and not always when the unit is running. While not running the DW while away might make you feel better, the real solution is to upgrade the hoses

                1. re: MikeB3542

                  Yes, we learned that about the hoses the hard way. One time while we were gone on vacation, the hose burst and the whole kitchen flooded. Now we have super strong hoses on all the water supplies.

            2. I'm on my third slow cooker. I threw away the previous 2, but not because they were unsafe. I left them on many times with no probs. They heat at a very low temp, but high enough to cook food. Haven't you ever left your oven on with a timer to go off at a certain time? I think the slow cooker is safer than that. If you set a time on one of the newer slow cookers, the pot goes automatically to warm. So you should not burn your food. I just bought a Cuisinart 4.5 qt. and I absolutely love it! Next time you are at a bookstore have a look at this title: Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook by Hensperger and Kafmann. There is a 21 p. section in the front of the book that explains slow cooking. I recommend reading that chapter, and I recommend the cookbook. It is a very good cookbook.

              5 Replies
              1. re: sueatmo

                Why on earth did you throw them away?

                Yes, I'll be looking for that book. I find a lot of the slow cooker recipes available online very stodgy and boring. Now I'm thinking of making goat stew.

                1. re: lagatta

                  If you have a Kindle, you can get the book for free

                  1. re: sarge

                    How can you get the book for free on Kindle?!

                  2. re: lagatta

                    I didn't take the time to really learn how to use them. The first one I had was the original, and it was a bear to clean because it was all one piece. My second was a bigger unit. One day when all my family was home, I found a slow cooker recipe which called for frozen artichoke hearts and chicken breasts and other ingredients. I followed the directions, slow cooked it as directed and the food was awful. Just awful. So I pitched the cooker finally because it took up room and I didn't ever think I'd use it again. My new Cuisinart is great. And I have a good source for cooking techniqes and recipes in the book I recommended. I just poached chicken breasts according to the Hensperger book, and they turned out wonderfully! If you work, having these breasts ready for enchiladas or wraps would be such a convenience.

                  3. re: sueatmo

                    I second the Cuisinart. I've had one almost 2 years and love it.

                  4. Thanks, All....And no, I leaving my oven on while away freaks me out a little too! I will check out the book


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: BiscuitBoy

                      Do you leave your fridge on all day? How about your furnace / air conditioner? I bet your computer hardly ever shuts off, and even when you 'shut off' your TV it's still running at 90% or more inside.

                      So... not sure where we all get freaked out about these things.


                    2. Slow cookers or Crockpots have been around since 1971. Almost 40 years.

                      I just looked it up and about 6 million are sold each year.

                      If there was a problem with leaving it on in an empty house I think it would have cropped up by now. Everyone loves a good lawsuit.

                      I use mine all the time while I'm at work and the crockpot is cooking away on the counter. Me and 6 million new owners a year. And that's just in the US.

                      Cook away!

                      1. After hearing about all the positive experiences, I ordered one, a cuisinart 3.5 qt, and took'er for a test drive yesterday, a day that I wouldn't be away from the house for any length of time. I chose a porkchop recipe that sounded good to me. Assembled all the ingredients, programmed it, and went outside for about a half hour. When I came back in, the thing was beeping. The power button wouldn't turn it off so I unplugged it. Plugged it back in, and the beeping started again. Put the crock in a low oven and waited for the machine to cool down. When it cooled, I tried using it again, and sure enough, after 15 mins, it started beeping again. Called cuisinart (they actually picked up!) told the rep my story, and he suggested exchanging it for another one. I'm thinking of just getting my money back and saving up for a good cast enameled pot

                        27 Replies
                        1. re: BiscuitBoy

                          Moral of the story: KISS.

                          Avoid slow cookers from Cuisinart or Viking or Jet Propulsion Labs. Buy a Rival Crock Pot. And not one with an LED display, pushbutton keypad, or programmable thermostat, either. If you're looking at a unit and the only control is a single analog knob on the front, you're good to go. If it's capable of beeping, keep looking.

                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            So true. My crock pot is an old Rival, purchased from a thrift shop 18 years ago in all of it's burnt orange glory. Works like a charm for me at least once a week.

                            1. re: tcamp

                              My old Rival (from 1976) is still going strong. When I needed another crockpot, I bought a new one and hated it. Gave it away and made a trip to the Salvation Army to find another vintage one for $2.00. It was still in its box and looked as though it had never been used. I don't have to adjust any of my old recipes and I love having it.

                              1. re: decolady

                                A gazillion extra bonus points for going to the Salvos instead of the department store.

                              2. re: tcamp

                                Oooh, extra points for burnt orange. Or harvest gold or avocado green.

                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                  But I bet those old codgers are all round. I have a big, oval Hamilton Beach that has all those things you said above not to get and it's worked great. I've probably had it five years and used it alot. And run it for 8 and 10 hours at a time. Try to catch up with the 21st century, Alan :)

                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                      I'm not even getting an induction rice cooker. Honestly I bought what I bought cause Costco had it cheap. I use practically none of the features :) But it does go with my new black and stainless induction range.

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        I had a Kitchen-aid 7 qt one originally because of making stock... I didn't like the stock that came out of it versus the one I make in my pot on the stove. Not really sure what went wrong... I am a single person, so I have no use for a 7 qt one and gave it to my mom who entertains large parties a lot (as she has a house and I do not).

                                        I was looking into getting a portable induction cooktop for a hot pot on the dinner table, keeping buffet of food warm for entertaining, or even car camping. I noticed that the one from Circulon ( http://bit.ly/bwmiqZ ) has a timer and has temperature settings from 150-430˚F (or 9 power levels). I already own a Le Crueset dutch oven and pairing it with this induction cooktop is going to be my alternative answer to a slow cooker.

                                        The combination means one less dedicated appliance in my inventory now! Now if I can only find an old-school waffle iron, I'll be free of dedicated purpose appliances.

                                    2. re: c oliver

                                      Ah, but when you are used to cooking in an older model at the lower temps, then you have to adjust all your recipes for the new crockpots that cook at a higher temp. I don't love the colours of my old crockpots. I'd like it if the crock section were removeable. But the temperature is the biggie for me.

                                      1. re: decolady

                                        I have warm, low and high settings. Nothing that I cook is all that sensitive anyway to some variation.

                                      2. re: c oliver

                                        The problem with new slow cookers is that they "cook hotter." The powers that be decided that old models didn't raise the temp of foods quickly enough, so "low" is no longer "low." Back in the day, you could leave something in the slow cooker all day on low, and it would be perfect. Do that today, and it's over-cooked.

                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                          I don't find that to be true with the THREE that I own :) And I do cook things for eight or more hours. But I only cook meat. I dislike soft vegetables so never do them in the slow cooker.

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            c oliver, it may be totally related to what we are cooking. I'm curious to know, but what is the LO cooking temperature on yours? I really don't want to redo all my recipes. After having several of them not turn out right on the new slow cooker I bought, that was when I got rid of it and headed to the Salvation Army to look for another original model.

                                            Lots of times I start red beans (of red beans and rice) on Sunday for Monday night's dinner. The newer crockpot cooked too hot on LO for them. It also was too hot for my vegetarian chili.

                                            1. re: decolady

                                              It doesn't tell me what temp LO is and I don't have any immediate plans to use it. But as I mentioned, I don't do things with vegetables so that may be the difference. I just really love the oval shape and larger size and if I hadn't long since gotten rid of my old ones, that's probably what I would still be using.

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                I'm just the opposite. I have an oval crock but I use the burnt orange cylindrical model much more often. I usually cook dried beans, chili, spagetti sauce type things.

                                                1. re: tcamp

                                                  And I usually do roasts and shanks. I'd never do chili or spaghetti in a slow cooker but I don't cook them for long periods of time. But we're each different - thank heavens.

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    You should try it for a long-cooked sauce like Hazan's bolognese. It takes a little longer, but the sauce is much less likely to scorch.

                                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                                      Shit, it already takes me all day :)

                                        2. re: c oliver

                                          The only downside to most of the old ones is they don't have removable crocks. That's a huge, huge step backwards once you've used a modern one.

                                          But absolutely, no electronic controls. The basic Hamilton Beach model with a four-position knob (off, warm, low, high) serves me very well.

                                          1. re: dmd_kc

                                            I have electronic all through my house and my car. So I see no difference.

                                            1. re: dmd_kc

                                              I suppose the "baby poop" coloured crockpot I bought for $1 at a community park sale was the firest model was the first model with a removable crock. I would be unhappy with something I couldn't clean properly.

                                              We have new electronic thermostats, and I suppose there is something of that nature in my computer, other than that no, and my car is a bicycle. (My other car is the Montréal métro system, 10-minutes' walk from my house. It has plenty of electronic everything).

                                              I'm looking over the year of slow-cooking blog again, though I suspect that goes in home cooking or media.

                                              1. re: lagatta

                                                Wow, you're practically living off the grid :) JK. But I have TVs, radios, phones, MWs and other small appliances. I don't make purchasing decisions based on whether something has an electronic component in it or not.

                                          2. re: alanbarnes

                                            My original is avocado green. The one from the Salvation Army is burnt orange. I got it covered! :-)

                                        3. re: alanbarnes

                                          Well, not always. My 7 quart KitchenAid has settings for simmer, buffet, etc., timers that can be set to start the cooking at a later time, etc., and it's never beeped at me inappropriately. ;-)

                                          However, there ARE a lot of woeful tales (discovered after I paid more than $100 bucks for this puppy) of the completely NON-technological crock part of the machine suddenly cracking and breaking, while heating. :-O I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

                                          1. re: Beckyleach

                                            I also have the 7 quart KitchenAid and I love it. And it's settings. Cooks great! Wish they made a smaller one like it-- say 4 quart. Mine hasn't beeped at me inappropriately either. I've had it for quite a few years too... over four years at least.

                                      3. I usually use it when I'm working at home, which I do most of the time. When I'm working outside, often it can mean 15-hour days, so I don't leave any cooking appliance on.

                                        I'll certainly leave it on when I'm running errands in the neighbourhood.

                                        I have a very simple, old-fashioned crockpot from a community garage sale. Works fine for what it does, but often I braise meats and vegetables (especially onions) beforehand.

                                        What I like most about it is having it braise or stew away very slowly without my having to check on it. I've burnt soup with a regular pot, when I was very concentrated on a work task.

                                        1. I have an older crockpot and I am looking into getting a programmable one--anyone have a suggestion for a good one?

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: jquest619

                                            I have a Cuisinart 4.5 and it is very good. By programmable, you mean it will stop at a certain time and go automatically to warm? I like my pot, and if I buy a larger one, it will be a Cuisinart.

                                            1. re: jquest619

                                              Another option is to buy a timer made for crockpots that don't have that feature. I have two older, non-programmable models and didn't want to get yet another crock so I bought an older version of this, which works wonderfully when I need it:


                                              1. re: tcamp

                                                I just use a household appliance timer, the kind that will turn your lamps off and on automatically at pre-set hours of the day. Does basically the same thing as the dedicated crockpot timer, and I happened to have one on hand. But of course, this method wouldn't permit switching automatically to the "keep warm" setting--if my old Rival unit had such a thing.

                                                1. re: tcamp

                                                  Yeah that thing rocks. I love mine and worry all the time that it's going to break and I won't be able to get another.

                                                  1. re: SuperGrover

                                                    Thanks for all the suggestions--I ended up getting Hamilton Beach Set n Forget....I love it! The "keep warm" setting is such a big help since I never know what time I'll be home from work!

                                                    1. re: SuperGrover

                                                      They don't make it any more, unfortunately. I noticed my crockpot on LO cooks stuff too hot. It's a shame.

                                                2. I first used a crockpot in 1984. I've left it on when I've been out and never had an issue. (Except for the one time the lid wasn't on tight. My ribs were like jerkey!) If it makes you more comfortable, cooking with it on a Saturday when you can be around, but now necessarily in the kitchen. From there try making steel cut or "Irish" oatmeal overnight in your crockpot. The recipe is one part steel cut oats, four parts water. Cook it on low for eight hours and breakfast is ready when you get up in the morning! After awhile you'll trust it enough that you'll be regularly serving mouth-watering foods out of it when you get home from a busy day.

                                                  9 Replies
                                                  1. re: elogam

                                                    elogam, do you have a favorite slow cooker cookbook? I just gat a simple 5-qt Crock Pot recently and while I'm having fun with it, cooking times especially are kind o shot in the dark. If you have any favorite I'd appreciate the advice. H

                                                    1. re: junescook

                                                      I think the most important thing is to buy the right size. I bought the biggest one I could find and then fornd most recipes are for smaller crocks. It's good to get the liquid to the right height, and if the pot is too big it doesn't quite measure out right

                                                      1. re: sarge

                                                        I might add that everybody should own a crock pot, just so you can cook beef short ribs if nothing else. It will be the best $50.00 you ever spent

                                                        1. re: sarge

                                                          Mmmm....Do you have a recipe to share, sarge?

                                                          1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                                            Dice carrots, onions, celery and bell pepper and sweat out in a saute pan, move to crock. Season short ribs and brown in same pan, move to crock. Some beef stock, red wine and a can of tomatoes, cut up(optional). Cook for 6 hours on low. Check for seasoning towards the last hour. If it's too thin for your liking add some cornstarch, and cook a little longer.

                                                            Remove insert, let stand, then refrigerate a few hours and the fat comes to the top. Remove and reheat on high until warm enough to eat. Serve over mashed potatoes

                                                            1. re: sarge

                                                              I will give it a try.... Thanks! I figure if I can come up with 2 or 3 good dishes, it'll make the gadget worth it

                                                              1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                                                A friend of mine won a new crock-pot, so she gave me her old one. I thought
                                                                "great, something else taking up space in my kitchen that I will never use, but won't be able to get rid of because it was a gift."

                                                                Wrong wrong wrong.

                                                                once i stated using it I never stoped. Pulled Pork, Chili, Pork and Beans, Portuguese Bean Soup, Irish Stew, Beef Burgandy, Chicken Soup, Corned Beef, Pot Roast, Short Ribs. Essentially anything that you want to braise, stew, simmer for long periods of time. I know you had a problem on your first attempt. That is a possibility with any new appliance, major or minor, or any other type of electronics for that matter.

                                                                Hope you will give it a second chance. If you are worried about leaving it on while you are home, put it on top of the stove, what could be safer than that? I have to say though, I've never heard of anyone burning down the house with a slow cooker, and a google search for same turned up nothing but reassuring information.

                                                      2. re: junescook

                                                        Anyone interested in slow cooking recipes should immediately buy Cuisine at Home's slow cooking cookazine: http://www.cuisineathomestore.com/boo...

                                                        I have been cooking out of it for 3 weeks straight. With a new baby (plus 2 other kids), it is heaven to not have to cook a full supper at night when she is her fussiest. I am loving every thing I make.

                                                        1. re: junescook

                                                          Two books to recommend (well, one of them is a series, actually), both full of NEW style, recipes (meaning, almost none begin with "open a can of soup" ):

                                                          The Gourmet Slow Cooker, vols. 1 and 2: http://www.amazon.com/Gourmet-Slow-Co...

                                                          Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook:

                                                      3. I have left it on without any problems but generally tend to put something in there in early am. then do some chores , watch a movie and before you know it supper is ready

                                                        I have two crockpots as they are great for keeping food warm when you have guests for dinner.

                                                        1. BiscuitBoy, I hope you will really enjoy your new appliance. I have a Rival I won as a door prize in 1978 and I can't begin to tell you how many times I have started it cooking in the morning, left home, and come home to dinner being ready to eat. I just have the slow cooker on my kitchen counter and have never had any reason to worry about the surface. The last few years I have been using it a lot for overnight cooking of apple butter and caramelised onions. Oh so easy!

                                                          If you ever want to sell your house and know you have prospective buyers coming over, be sure to leave something cooking in the crockpot. That's as good as the smell of freshly baked bread and very welcoming.

                                                          1. I've got 2 large crockpots, 1 smaller one and 1 tiny one for warming dips/appetizers. Most of my cooking is with the crockpot (sometimes 3 at one time: soup, main dish, and dessert--I have a cake pan that fits inside my crockpot). None of them are programmable but I have bought appliance timers so I can time exactly when I went them to go on and off (but sometimes I set the timer correctly but then forget to turn the crockpot on!).

                                                            I've never ever had any problem leaving them on while we're out for the day. And I do unplug other small appliances when not in use. I've always felt the crockpot is one of the safest appliances out there.

                                                            I like it especially for making lemon chicken for Sunday dinner. I put it all together on Saturday and keep it refrigerated till Sat. night. Then I set up the crockpot and timer to have it ready when we come home from Mass around noon or 1pm. A little hummus and pita, rice, and we're all ready for a great meal!

                                                            I can't imagine life without one, but that's just me! :-)

                                                            1. I actually have had a problem with my crockpot, once. I had started dinner, turned it on, and left it. When I came home, everything in the crockpot was lukewarm. It had burned itself out, sometime during the day. I had to throw everything out.

                                                              Having said that, I still run my crockpot during the day....

                                                              1. I have recently discovered that I can do sous vide at home using my big oval crockpot, the one I bought at Costco by Rival. I seal chicken breasts seasoned with s+p, a couple pats of cold butter and some fresh thyme in Foodsaver bags. I fill my Crockpot with hot water and turn it to high. I spin the lid 90% so it's resting over the top but the oval's going the wrong way. With the lid positioned like this, my Crockpot keeps the water an even 148F, the exact right temp for sous vide chicken. I leave the breasts in there for 80 minutes and check the final temperature, of course. They are delicious and oh so tender. I am enamored with the new process!

                                                                1. If you have a propane grill handy, you can sear your meats for slow cooking easily without dirtying an extra skillet. I do this quite alot.

                                                                  1. Ileave my oven on fairly often it isnt dangerous

                                                                    1. I tried Sarge's short ribs yesterday, and they came out great....Sub'd egg noodles for mashed potatoes. Birmingham, how do you prepare your lemon chicken?

                                                                      1. I'd suggest that you also put it either on a granite counter top with plenty of ventilation around it, or else put in on a tempered glass cutting board. I also have a copper metal pad that is made of copper foil that has asbestos in it. There is still a certain amount of constant heat that comes off the appliance. I wouldn't leave it on laminate or wood.

                                                                        1. I just bought a Crockpot brand "smart-pot" slowcooker Model no. SCVP550-W at Kohls on sale for $29.99 with a $10 mail in rebate making it $19.99 plus tax on $29.99 making it a total of about $22.46. This model is a 5.5 quart.

                                                                          Here is the link. http://www.kohls.com/kohlsStore/kitch...

                                                                          This may be the last day of the sale.

                                                                          1. I had been looking at an All-Clad slow cooker because Cook's Illustrated recommended it.

                                                                            I have since found out that people are having trouble with the ceramic insert cracking. It is mentioned several times in reviews at Amazon and I noticed 2 for sale in my local for sale ads with cracked inserts.

                                                                            I suppose I could be being unfair. It is possible that someone that would buy a $200 crockpot would use it a lot and therefore give it more opportunities to crack.

                                                                            I wonder how you could inadvertently crack a ceramic insert? Possibly taking it out hot and putting it on a cold stove pot burner or maybe running cold water into it immediately.

                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                            1. re: tonka11_99

                                                                              I think it's a manufacturer flaw.

                                                                              I use my $35, 15 year old crock all the time and it hasn't cracked. It shouldn't.

                                                                              1. re: Jennalynn

                                                                                I don't think I've paid more than $15 for any of mine. They always have some sort of sale on them at Target. If the lid isn't tight enough I'll usually wrap some tin foil along the rim if I haven't already lined the crock with it.

                                                                              2. re: tonka11_99

                                                                                Apparently the big KitchenAid slow cooker has the same problem (judging from Amazon and the KitchenAid Conversations forum. Most people report the crack occurring almost out of the blue, while in the MIDDLE OF COOKING! Ack. I bought the KA version before I'd stumbled on all the negative reviews (unusual for me, but I must have been hot to trot, that day ) and am keeping my fingers crossed, and plenty of paper towels nearby.

                                                                                1. re: Beckyleach

                                                                                  It would really anger me to pay over $100 for a Cuisinart or $200 for an all clad to have the insert crack. It's not a new technology. It should be simple enough.

                                                                                  By the way, I checked on All Clad's web site and a new insert is $140!! They may make great pans but I think I will rely on someone else for my kitchen electrics.

                                                                              3. I have shared your concern about leaving one running but i have never met anyone that ever had a problem with them and that is precisely what they are made for.

                                                                                I think some precautions are in order:

                                                                                They can get fairly hot to the touch so make sure nothing is touching them like paper or plastic.

                                                                                The worst case scenario seems to me is all the water evaporating and burning the food. However, there is a ceramic insert that doesn't burn and should be able to take extremes in temperature. The pot itself would still contain everything even if the insert broke

                                                                                Evaporation sounds like an excellent reason to insist on a clear glass lid that seals well.

                                                                                The idea of putting it on the stove top sounds like an excellent idea.

                                                                                By the way, I have, inadvertently, left my oven on all night. Waste of electricity but no catastrophe.

                                                                                Bottom line, if you are concerned, I doubt anyone is going to be able to comfort you. I guess you could leave it on the patio.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: tonka11_99

                                                                                  used'er a few times now, semi-supervised, and I feel pretty comfortable with it. I think I have conquered the demon

                                                                                2. Another successful session with the slow cooker (the appliance, not me) yesterday....Hot sausage links, green peppers, onion and tomato sauce. Incredibly delicious. Served on crusty sub rolls. So nice to come home to a dinner that's waiting for me.