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Jan 7, 2011 04:46 PM

Lead in Slow Cooker Inserts?

So . . . I know it often produces less than chow-ish results, but I use my Crock-Pot once/week when school's in - on those nights where we're out 'til dinnertime, it beats takeout.

My knickers are in a twist today b/c a mother at school asked me if I'd heard about lead in the ceramic liners of slow cookers - I hadn't. Googling tonight, I see that's been an issue for a while . . . but I can't find any reliable, recent info.

Anyone here have the 411 on this and on alternatives? I'm willing to spend $$ on an All-Clad if the cast-aluminum is a good alternative . . . .



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  1. If you're concerned about this, buy some plastic slow-cooker liners at your grocery store -- makes clean-up a snap, too.

    4 Replies
    1. re: pikawicca

      txs. for this, but I'm actually more worried about cooking in plastic than in a ceramic liner w/traces of lead - as plastics heat they can leach chemicals into your food, too - and really, I don't find washing out the slow cooker to be a big deal.


      1. re: gansu girl

        The plastics used in the liners are meant to take the heat unlike cling wrap or ziplock bags. If you are concerned, buy an older model that was made in America. There have been rules about lead in eating and cooking utensils in the U.S. for decades.

      2. re: pikawicca

        ick...then you leach the plastic into your food...totally icky..sigh

        1. re: Maverick8901

          It's not that kind of plastic. It does not leach into anything. If it did it would not be approved for cooking with heat.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Doesn't aluminum erode your brain and cause Alzheimer's? Isn't that why people no longer cook in raw aluminum pans?

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            aluminum leaches into food as well as plastics...

            1. re: Maverick8901

              The thought that aluminum causes Alzheimer's has been debunked by numerous authorities on both chemicals and medicine. It has not however been debunked on forwarded internet messages.

          2. This was new to me so I did an online search, thinking it might be an urban myth. Apparently one consumer reporter in Utah tested both dinnerware and slow cooker liners for lead. Too much lead was found in some of the dinnerware, and some of the ceramic liners. I can't find any info online about which brands have the unacceptable amounts of lead in them. The original story which apparently dated from 2004, is no longer onine. This issue has also been addressed in a previous CH thread.

            The info I run into online is all hearsay and urban myth-appearing. I don't know how to evaluate it. I hope someone on CH has better knowledge of this issue.

            When you are purchasing any ceramic product, you should assure yourself that the product has been mfg. with lead free glazes. I have a number of hand-thrown vessels in my kitchen made by a potter who is careful about this issue. I did not even think that there might be too much lead in my Cuisinart Slow Cooker! I also admit that I don't trust stuff from China, where I assume my cooker was made.

            9 Replies
            1. re: sueatmo

              yes, sueatmo - that's why I posted here - after some serious on-line research I couldn't find more than you mention . . . hopefully someone has an idea - or yes, Chemicalkinetics, that's what I might do (although not sure what that cast aluminum liner might be treated with to make it non-stick - need to look into that, too).


              1. re: gansu girl

                A year ago, I purchased a ceramic baker that was manufactured in Italy. The very first time I baked something in it, the ceramic leached a white powder. I discovered that it was lead. Researching the whole incident, I also discovered that ceramics made or sold by American companies are prohibited from having lead content. Elsewhere in the world, this is not true.
                As for using plastic liners, that seems counter-intuitive. Plastic poly-vinyl chloride is a helluva alternative that'll give you cancer instead of lead poisoning.

                1. re: Ambimom

                  I agree about the plastic liners--counterintuitive, and just not the way I want to cook.

                  American companies might be regulated as to lead amounts in cookware. But if they contract to Chinese mfgs, and they stipulate what they require, the Chinese can still take shortcuts. The recent news is replete with this very problem.

                  That is what is worrisome to me. It may be that American companies skip testing the products they market, and so are surprised when testing finds lead or other chemicals in the product.

                  1. re: sueatmo

                    exactly, sueatmo! already planning to NOT use my current Crock Pot this week and it's distressing me . . . .


                  2. re: Ambimom

                    That is odd indeed, unless it was old, as the European Union has very strict rules about lead content in cookware and dishes.

                2. re: sueatmo

                  I agree with you on all of the above. I did find a reference to a lead testing kit you can use to test your dishes. I can't remember where I stuck it.... I did order it...sigh. I need to complete what I started...ADHD moment...LOL

                  1. re: Maverick8901

                    See my above information about the testing kit I bought and tested just a few days ago.


                    1. re: Maverick8901

                      But, would you believe the results from the testing kit? How do you know the testing kit is accurate or that it is not owned by the same company that manufactures the clay materials with the lead in it? ; )

                      1. re: John E.

                        No, I do not necessarily take as written in stone the results from the testing kit, any more than I believe that aluminum has been debunked, nor that cooking with plastic is safe because it wouldn't be on the market and ga-zllions of other similar things.
                        Nor that corgii's fly :-))

                        My mother taught me to be circumspect.

                  2. If you find it that much of a concern, you can test individual pieces for lead. Test kits are readily available in hardware stores, Harbor Freight, etc.


                    10 Replies
                    1. re: Leepa

                      This is good info. Is the test reliable, though? I guess we would have to decide to trust the results.

                      1. re: sueatmo

                        I suppose you could send your slow cooker off for testing. There are labs that test glazes for potters (I am one - not a lab, a potter) so I suppose they could test for you. Or you could do a standard potter's leach test which is to place a slice of lemon on your piece. Leave it for several hours, remove it, and see if the glazed surface has discolored. If so, it may leach whatever chemicals the glaze was made of. Of course, even if it did, if the glaze didn't contain lead or cadmium or some other ingredient of concern in the first place, then there isn't a problem.

                        Also, the All-Clad slow cooker you mention with the aluminum insert is covered in a non-stick surface - which to many is a worse concern than ceramic inserts.

                        1. re: Leepa

                          Here's another alternative by West Bend, for those of you who don't want to blow a good portion of your paycheck on the All-Clad slow cooker:


                          It's pretty ugly, I have to admit - nowhere near as attractive as the All-Clad - but I've been pretty happy with the performance of mine. It also has a non-stick coating, but my understanding is that the greatest health concerns involved in non-stick coatings are when they are used at very high heats (not low heats as in slow cookers).

                          1. re: paraque

                            Paraque, I had posted a separate question about finding a used slow cooker or alternatively, a new cooker recommended by a Chowhounder. You said you've been happy with it. Have you found it to run too hot? What if you need to be away all day and cook something for 10 or more hours? Thanks.

                            1. re: goodeatsgal

                              I have found the settings on the West Bend slow cooker to be VERY accurate. The setting dial runs from 1-5, with 1 being the lowest heat and 5 the hottest heat. At 1, it really just keeps things warm for serving. I usually use 3, which provides enough heat to cook a pot of beans (without pre-soaking) if I put them on at 9:00 am and come back at 6:00 pm. At 3, the pot will not boil (every other modern slow cooker I've used boils even on the lowest settings). However, if you want a boil, 5 will do it.

                              I imagine if you want to cook for 10 or more hours, 2 or 2 1/2 would work out for you. Like I said - I've been very pleased with it's range of performance on different settings. I will say that it's not thrilling to use - it really is pretty ugly and feels kind of unsubstantial. It also looks like it holds a lot less than it really does (I often will cook a whole 3 lb. chicken in it). But it works well. You can put the pot on the stove if you want to sear or finish something off, too.

                              1. re: paraque

                                Thanks for the feedback, Paraque. I was concerned about a few of the negative reviews, but your's is very convincing. I don't mind about it being ugly since it'll be stored in a cabinet when not in use.

                        2. re: sueatmo

                          Yes, I wonder about the efficacy of these tests.


                          As many good reviews as bad on this First Alert LT1 Premium Lead Test Kit

                          1. re: Rella

                            I should add that I tested about 10 years ago - I don't know what test kit I used - a set of dishes written up in the newspaper "leaded crystal" which did NOT test affirmative for lead.

                            1. re: Rella

                              I bought a 3M lead test kit and just today tested two of my slow cooker ceramic inserts; one the 70's 3qt crockpot, and two, my new Frigidaire Professional slow cooker.

                              Another test was on the largest Emile Henry tagine bottom part where the cooking takes place.

                              My tests proved negative for lead. This test does not include a test for cadmium.

                        3. re: Leepa

                          its not the pot that needs to be tested, its the food that needs to be tested to check if the reactive metal -- lead has leached in. crystalline lead or amorphous lead they use is cookware does not come off when tested with test strips but can react to food and leach in and so you cant rely on rub and test kits in this case. -- no way.

                        4. I have an update - I emailed Rival and All-Clad - Rival said that their crocks conform w/FDA reqs. for acceptable amts. of lead. All-Clad says their crocks are "lead free." I also asked All-Clad what they coat their cast-aluminum liner with to make it non-stick and they didn't answer the question - just said that it's made from cast-aluminum - ? Not helpful. I also emailed Cuisinart and haven't received a reply.

                          So there you have it - WWYD? I might replace my older Crock-Pot w/an All-Clad - been wanting a programmable slow cooker anyway . . . .


                          7 Replies
                          1. re: gansu girl

                            "Rival said that their crocks conform w/FDA reqs. for acceptable amts. of lead"

                            Every cookware sold in America passes that requirement. Technically the requirement is not about how much lead is used, about how much lead leaks out of the cookware. California Prop 65 (I think) has an tougher retriction on lead than the FDA one, so cookware sold in California has to demonstrate that as well.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              Right, I understand that all cookware sold in the U.S. is *supposed* to conform to that req. and indeed, CA has tougher restrictions, but this controversy started after crocks were found to be leaching lead in excess of acceptable amounts. What Rival's said to me is that they're in compliance - whether we choose to believe them is another matter. There is a big issue w/oversight for these kinds of requirements. If you're like me, you're skeptical about "acceptable amounts" of toxins like lead, and about profit motives and whether the FDA really has the welfare of the population top of mind at all times. Lots of things once pronounced to be A-OK for human consumption have turned out to be crappy for us, and lots of food that supposedly's produced in OK ways ends up being contaminated with one thing or another, or manufactured using not-OK ingredients.

                              On the other hand, if I followed every hunch and suspicion out to its conclusion, I'd make myself a maniac. So I do what I can while trying to maintain sanity at the same time - which is why I'll likely go back to using my slow cooker, or perhaps buy an updated one b/c I think that oversight and third party testing has been stepped up a bit in recent years.


                              1. re: gansu girl

                                Just buy the ugliest slow cooker or crockpot then. Lead is added to paint and glaze for bright and beautiful color, which is why a good solid percentage of lipsticks have lead in them. White or dull colors tend to have little lead added to them.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  Kinetics, that is assuming that the crock is made from white clay. Mine is definitely made from brown clay, like many of the early Rivals.

                                  I don't think that is a guarantee, as many tagines from North Africa contain too much lead, and are a natural brown colour. (There is also white or pale grey clay, just as natural, but I've never seen tagines made from it).

                                  Ambimom discusses an Italian ceramic containing lead. While it is inaccurate that lead is permitted anywhere in the EU (and I'm sure EU rules nowadays are stricter than US (or Canadian) rules in the days of the earliest crockpots) she does have a point about oversight.

                                  1. re: lagatta

                                    Yes, it is not a guarantee. However, one of the reasons, lead is added to paint is to brighten the color along with increasing stability. In fact, lead paints were once prized and people paid premium for lead paint in their home. Of course, like you said, it does not mean every dull color paints have no lead in them.

                                    Lead is not outlawed. Its leech level has a restriction, but you can put as much lead as you desire as long as the leach level is under the guideline. In this sense, I would argue that lead is permitted for cookware in Europe. I also not sure why you said EU has stricter regulation. I know for a fact that Canada has the toughest lead restriction for toys, and California prop 65 has one of the toughest regulation guidelines for lead in cookware. As far as I know, EU regulation on lead is much more confusing and non-cohesive.

                            2. re: gansu girl

                              That All-Clad avoided answering your question would make me reluctant to buy their product.

                              1. re: greygarious

                                I asked them the same question and got the same answer she got from the other company 'it meets US requirements'