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Nov 8, 2010 07:54 PM

should my slow cooker be doing this?

I was making a stew recipe which called for 6-8 hours cooking on low. After 4 hours, the stew was starting to lose a lot of the liquid. If I had left it on for 8 hours (which I wanted to in order to soften the meat), I'd have had a dry, burning mess. Yet my sister made the same recipe and had no problems. Could a slow cooker get too hot on a low setting? I have only three settings, warm, low and high. Any suggestions for a good brand to buy? It looks like I might need to get a new one. I checked the brand and it says general electric. I've had it for years with no problems.

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  1. I had something similar happen to me. I've always used mine to make baked apples for Christmas morning breakfast. So I turned the crockpot on around midnight after the Christmas Eve festivities were over (around midnight) so the apples would be cooked and ready for the morning. Luckily I was still awake when I smelled something burning... turned out it was the crockpot and it had completely overheated and was extremely hot to the touch. I hate to think what would have happened if it had burned all night. It was also one that I had had for over 20 years. Anyway, I went out and bought a Rival Crockpot "Smartpot", the large oval type, and I love it. No problems at all.

    1. I'd use the overheating as an excuse to buy a new slow cooker! There are a lot of new features out there, such as being able to program a timer or a combination rice cooker and slow cooker (Sanyo is the brand name for the latter)

      1. New crock pots apparently only actually have one heat setting. the only difference between low medium and high is how long it takes to reach the max temp.

        There's a post somewhere on here recently about crockpots with a link to a site that tells you how to make a cheap controller so you can control the max temp on your crockpot, but I can't remember what the thing is called or where the site is. I meant to bookmark it but forgot.

        15 Replies
          1. re: grnidkjun

            Nope. This didn't have an automatic temperature sensor. You controlled it with a dimmer switch I think and measured the temp yourself. Cost around $6.

            I assume most of the "under $100" in that is for the temperature sensor. Looks nice, but not what I had in mind.

            1. re: ZenSojourner

              Re: ZenSojourner

              I believe the post you made reference to was made by BryanPepperseed on 8/8/10 under the Cookware heading "What are the cooking temperatures of your slow cooker?" I have not made one of these but thought about it after my new rival crockpot (6qt used twice) handles cracked and broke off when I picked it up to use. I will never use another Rival. I bought a used Breville (have not used it yet) on ebay and a new Cuisinart.

              1. re: barb2007

                Yes, that's one of them! It was resurrected at the end of October.

                Here's the link to the thread:


                And here's the link to plans for the controller:



                Also here is an article about how the temperature settings have changed:

                An article about the changes in slow cookers:

                Slow Cookers Change as published in the Hartford Courant, Sept. 20, 2000

                A reader e-mailed the Food desk to comment on a recipe story about crock-pots - or slow cookers, as they are now called - that appeared in the Food section last Wednesday. This man finds that his new crock-pot, a 6-quart Hamilton Beach model, takes less time to cook than his original cooker by the same company.

                Through some research, he found that his old model had a temperature setting of 140 degrees for low. The new model is 180 degrees at low. He says food reaches the boiling point in about 4 to 5 hours.

                A call to Hamilton Beach Proctor-Silex in Glen Allen, VA., confirmed that the new pots have a higher temperature on low. The change was made to prevent any food contamination and ensure that foods cook to the proper temperature.

                Crock-pot cooks should consult the manual that accompanies the cooker and adjust recipes they find elsewhere accordingly. As our e-mailer points out, he has found that a 4-pound pot roast, cooked in his new pot, "is over-done after six hours on low." He compared his experience with the recipe for flank steak with gravy, published in the crock-pot story, which listed cooking times as 8 to 10 hours on "low." This recipe was taken from an older crock-pot cookbook, whose recipes were developed for the older models.

                The above article has been quoted several times on Chowhound.

                And another solution for a controller which you can read about on the Cooking for Engineers Forum


                It's important to note that just any dimmer switch is not necessarily safe for use with a crockpot. You need to make sure it will handle the load.

                1. re: ZenSojourner

                  "Through some research, he found that his old model had a temperature setting of 140 degrees for low. The new model is 180 degrees at low. He says food reaches the boiling point in about 4 to 5 hours."

                  This statement does not make much sense. At point in the cooking was the pot at 140 or 180? The boiling point is 212. A slow simmer will be a bit lower, maybe a degree or so less at the bottom, and 10 at the top where there is evaporation.

                  The temperature plots on markkubis post of the cookingforengineers thread, while small, give an idea of what is going on.

                  1. re: paulj

                    The new pots are never at 140. 140 F was the old "low", the new "low" is nominally 180F. However many people have found, when measuring actual temps in their crockpots, that the actual operating temperatures are much higher, over 200F, regardless of the setting on the dial. The actual boiling point of water depends on surface tension which depends on atmospheric pressure. At 3000 feet above sea level, the boiling point of pure water is 206F.

                    Furthermore, the standard boiling point of water at 212F refers to a rolling boil. Before water reaches that point, we can look at it and name it to be boiling because it is starting to boil - a slow boil, or simmer, with little steam produced. That's at about 180F up to about 205 F. However all the water in the pan has not reached 212F (assuming you are at sea level) at that point.

                    My crockpot boils regardless of where I turn the dial. It just takes longer for it to get to that point when I put it on low as opposed to putting it on high.

                    1. re: ZenSojourner

                      My low is 140 and it's only a couple of years ago. That's why it's important to measure your own.

                      1. re: chowser

                        Is that low or "keep warm"?

                        I'm not sure what the "keep warm" temp is on mine, but from what I read on the FDA website, cooking temps are supposed to be a minimum of 170F and the "keep warm" setting is supposed to be 140 min.

                        I wish you could set and forget at the temp you want, but I"m pretty sure that would turn a $30 or $40 appliance into a $150 appliance, LOL! Which then wouldn't work properly half the time. I know the DeLonghi deep fryer I had never worked properly (actual temp did not match the temp you set it to). I finally gave up on it and I just deep fry stove top now. It's much easier to clean up after, too.

                        The $6 solution, a thermometer, and a black sharpie to mark where you want your settings is probably the best we can do without breaking the bank.

          2. re: ZenSojourner

            "New crock pots apparently only actually have one heat setting. the only difference between low medium and high is how long it takes to reach the max temp."

            That's certanly not the case with the three newish ones I have. I can raise an lower the temp. Have never measured it but I can take it from almost boiling to barely simmering, over and over again.

            1. re: c oliver

              That's not the case with my newer one, either. I've tried three temperatures (actually four with warm), with water.

              1. re: chowser

                Crockpot running too hot has become a common problem since they raised the minimum temp on them which has had the effect of reducing the range of temperature. It would be useful to those of us who are having this problem if you would share what model and brand yours is.

                1. re: ZenSojourner

                  I posted below yesterday where I bought mine and suggestions for checking. I don't know the model number. It's easy enough to check the temperature of a slow cooker since they vary so much, and IMO worth it to get the right results. "High" and "low" mean nothing.

                  1. re: chowser

                    Thanks. Sorry, I hadn't seen that or at least hadn't recognized it as your posting.

                    1. re: ZenSojourner

                      I just checked. It's not a Rival, it's a Crock Pot. Don't know which model.

                      1. re: chowser

                        No, you were right, that's a RIval. Costco apparently stopped carrying it earlier this year though, and it doesn't look like they've replaced it. It seems to still be available elsewhere however.

          3. Sounds like your temperature mechanism is broken? I'd call the manufacturer and describe what you experienced and ask if it's true that the slow cooker will reach the same temperature on all settings, just at different rates. I don't know if that's true for mine (5 year-old Hamilton Beach, simple 6-qt with warm, low and high settings), as I turn mine down to low after it's been on high, and the boiling decreases a bit when I do that.

            1. How well does you lid fit? My Rival lid can rock just a little in place to let steam out. You might consider placing a piece of heavy duty foil between the lid and the crock to form a tighter seal.

              If you suspect that the temp is not regulated correctly, I would use it as an excuse to get a new one. I don't believe that the new ones all operate at the same temp, as I have been able to keep things on warm rather than cook, and that is a reduction in temperature.