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Crock-Pot slow cookers too hot on "Low"

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I have the white round version, approx. 5.5 qts IIRC. I've had this one for 3 years now and I use it mostly between Sept-Mar when the colder weather calls for comfort foods like soups, stews, etc.

I find even when on Low, the heat is still rather high and brings liquids to a steady if very gentle BOIL after about 3 hrs. Now since all dishes I make in this take at least 4-5 hours, they aren't all that affected since I need to cook them down anyway (meats).

But my perusal of online reviews of many Crock-Pot models seem to tell me CP products seem to generally go too hot on Low.

Is this the case with your Crock-Pot branded slow cookers ? If I were to buy another, what brand(s) are good alternatives ? Thanks in advance.

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  1. All slow cookers reach a gentle boil eventually. The "low" setting just takes longer to get there, as the power is lower. Ultimately, it is the boiling of water that limits the temperature, as the less expensive ones are not controlled by thermostats.

    4 Replies
    1. re: GH1618

      Thank you for that insight.

      But should a SC set at Low while cooking to be able to produce enough heat and steam to make the glass lid hop every 10-15 seconds ?

      Alas I'm not the only one who feels their SC is running too hot on Low. But how does one measure and calibrate a reference point ?

      1. re: LotusRapper

        The water must turn to steam to limit the temperature, and when there is steam the lid will lift when the pressure builds up sufficiently. Ten to 15 seconds does not seem unreasonable.

        Early slow cookers seem to have been lower power, so took longer to reach a boil. Power was increased as a safety measure, so the temperature would be in the danger zone for less time.

        I don't know what you mean by "reference point." To limit the temperature below boiling, a thermostat would be required. The most accurate type would use a temperature probe inserted into the contents of the pot. There are some like this (Hamilton Beach).

      2. re: GH1618

        >> All slow cookers reach a gentle boil eventually.

        Actually, that is not accurate.

        Cooks Illustrated did a test of several different slow cookers by filling them with water and measuring how long it took for them to reach the maximum temp.

        They found that some cookers heated water to full boiling (212 F) and some reached only 190 F.

        Cookers that reached 212 resulted in dried-out sauces and blown-out meat. In contrast, machines that never topped 190 degrees yielded watery sauces and tough meat. The best results came from models that cooked between these temperatures.

        Their top model was the Crock Pot Touchscreen, Model # SCVT650-PS which reached 199 on low and 204.5 on high.

        Mr Taster

        1. re: Mr Taster

          Ok, not "all," strictly speaking. But it isn't unusual for a low-end slow cooker to reach a boil. Mine does and I don't see it as a problem. A cheap slow cooker is not a precision cooking appliance — it is crude, but useable time-saving device.

      3. Electric Slow-Cooking and Food Safety Precautions

        "...The average slow-cooker/crock pot cooks at approximately 200° F. on low and 300° F. on high. Bacteria thrive at temperatures below 140° F.; therefore, you want to be very careful not to do anything that might affect the cooking temperature and cause it to drop. In addition, most bacteria are killed at 165° F. So, as long as the lid is left on and the food is cooked for the proper time, and if the power does not go out, food will be safe to eat." - University of Florida IFAS Extension

        http://pasco.ifas.ufl.edu/fcs/Electri...

        1. Is the slow cooker pretty full? I often have issues because there are only 2 of us and my slow cooker is ginormous so if there's not enough liquid or mass in the crock pot it boils quite quickly.

          1. Techinically (I am told) there are slow cookers, and then there are Crock Pots, new and old, made by Rival. Sounds like you have a newer model. My Crock Pot is from the mid 70s, and it has a great low setting, you can leave the food in there for hours and hours without a burp. The new ones are mandated by the government to have a higher temp, above boiling, and I only hear bad things.

            If I bought another, I would be haunting thrift shops and garage sales.

            2 Replies
            1. re: coll

              That's what I did - purchased a vintage slow cooker. It works great, and since it has an old-fashioned manual knob, I can attach it to a timer to delay the start of cooking. See my earlier post on this. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/758912

              1. re: coll

                I would do the same thing.... garage sales and thrift shops. My newer 8 quart Rival Crock Pot gets things boiling even on the "keep warm" setting.

              2. This is the exact model I have (bought from Walmart in 2010 ?):

                http://www.cookrev.co.uk/crock-pot/cr...

                @ fldhkybnva: generally I'd either be doing a pork butt/shoulder, beef chuck, or a whole chicken, so ranging from 2.5 lbs (chicken) to the chuck or butt (4-5 lbs). Liquid-wise, I try not to exceed 1/3 depth when measured from the pot bottom. Even for braises I keep the amount of liquid to a bare minimum (as to not have the liquid absorb the flavors that should be going back into the meat itself). So maybe that's why my liquid is boiling.

                @Coll: I guess it is due to the federally mandated regulations that modern SC's exceed the minimum temp for food safety reasons, that there seems to be much complaints out there about the cooking temp being higher than desired, even at the Low setting. Of course there's always the option of slow cooking on the stove top in my enameled cast iron dutch oven. But it's just so convenient and safer to dump everything into the SC and set it and forget it (sorry, Ron Popeil).

                4 Replies
                1. re: LotusRapper

                  I have a Popeil rotisserie too, I'm an old fashioned kind of gal in the kitchen. I rarely use the crock pot except for big holidays, I prefer a cast iron pot in the oven at 250 or 300 degrees for anything that requires long simmering. Or alternatively, a pressure cooker. The crock pot is great for holding and serving mostly.

                  I'll try to remember to take a picture of mine, it's so ugly that it's almost cool.

                  1. re: coll

                    My mother has one from the early '70s, kinda looks like this:

                    http://brooklynlocavore.files.wordpre...

                    I wonder if she still has it stashed away somewhere, ha ! :-)

                    1. re: LotusRapper

                      If so grab it! Mine is even older, I have to run now but I will definitely post a photo, it may have been the first one for all I know. I almost threw it out and was just going to keep the crock part, until I realized I had something unique. So great for keeping potatoes or stuffing hot at Thanksgiving.

                    2. re: coll

                      Here it is, in all its glory!

                       
                  2. It has been my experience with the newer slow cookers that warm is low, low is high, and high is really high. Try turning your slow cooker to high, and when it is hot, then turn it to low.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: John E.

                      Yeah that's basically what I do. I start off with cooker on HIGH but empty for 30 mins. When time's up I then put in whatever meat I'm cooking, still on HIGH, for 30 mins. Then I goto LOW for the entire remainder of the required cooking time, anywhere from 4 to 9 hours, depending on what it is.

                      1. re: LotusRapper

                        You know what? I made a mistake in my post. When I want a newer slow cooker to cook for 6 to 8 hours, I turn it to warm, not low. We have a newer 6 quart oval Crockpot and a 5 quart round slow cooker with an actual thermostat. We never use them unattended so we have not had a problem with over cooking. I might be interested in acquiring a programmable slow cooker.

                    2. I agree w/OP and have yet to see a desc of one that promises a very mild simmer. Mine boil at low. I'd rather that not happen at low.

                      1. I can really relate to this problem. I bought a new slow cooker and it sat in my cupboard most of the time because the "Low" setting was just too aggressive and my food did not cook as I wanted because "Low" produced a vigorous bubble.
                        Not good when you want to "set it and forget it" for hours.
                        As it was in good working condition, I donated it and just sucked it up and bought a Hamilton Beach model, and now I'm back to utilizing slow cooking and delving into new recipes, as well as using it for my old standards.
                        http://www.amazon.com/Hamilton-Beach-...

                        I also have my mom's old Rival crockpot and it's a gem! Just this week I tried overnight oatmeal and the "Low" setting handled the job perfectly.
                        It's great having the smaller cylinder model for certain jobs, including baking with the old cake/bread insert.
                        I'd highly recommend buying one of these old models if you have the space.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: monavano

                          Thx !

                          That's it .... the Crock-Pot is headed for Craigslist. I'm snagging that Hamilton Beach (not crazy about the brand, but oh well). At Walmart it's only $50, and it's the only model (in my price range anyway) that features a temp probe, and those nifty clips on the handles.

                          Besides, the HB model's black/stainless steel exterior will match all my other countertop appliances ;-D

                          1. re: LotusRapper

                            Plus, the pot lifts out to clean, and as you said, the snaps allow you to transport without worry.
                            It's not the top of the line, or maybe not even on Cook's Illustrated's radar, but it gets on overwhelming number of 5 stars on Amazon, with over 1500 reviews.
                            I'm back to slow cooking again, and it feels great...went on to buy this cookbook:
                            http://www.amazon.com/Cooker-Revoluti...

                            Good luck!

                        2. I don't use mine anymore. The low setting boils too hard. I use my Le Crueset dutch oven in a low oven or even on a low burner. Works much better.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: chileheadmike

                            I about gave up on slow cooker stoo, but am very happy with my Hamilton Beach.
                            It was hard to give away a relatively new slow cooker, but it was just collecting dust!
                            I'm glad I pulled the trigger on another one. I'm back to slow cooking again and feel better about leaving it on all day, vs. the oven all day.
                            I know I'm saving on energy, that's for sure.

                          2. Hi, LR:

                            Between government regulations, lowest-common-denominator consumers, and personal injury lawyers, we now have a situation where Hi and Low settings on these things are practically meaningless.

                            If you have one of the popular models, the manufacturer's website should have a precise explanation of the above. And if you search, you'll find a post of mine where I actually measured what my Rival does on both settings, time vs. temperature.

                            The bottom line is that you are not to be trusted with a true Low or Warm setting. This Thanksgiving, Wahine didn't get the memo, and bunkered her mashed potatoes in the Rival on Low. Not a pretty sight when they came out, but decent glue.

                            The good news is that you can pimp your SC with a PID controller to attain and hold whatever precise temperature you want. There is nothing magic about 165F for safety, either. It is perfectly safe to cook for longer times at lower temperatures. Consult the USDA/FDA websites, where you will find a table of values.

                            Aloha,
                            Kaleo

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: kaleokahu

                              I ordered one of these sous-vide controllers during the kickstarter for the product: http://www.codlo.com/ and I'm thinking I might be able to use it for things I'm not necessarily sous-viding to also keep the temperature down to something slower than the rollicking boil that my Cuisinart slow-cooker favors.

                              1. re: Jacquilynne

                                Hi, Jac:

                                Good idea. What are you plugging it into usually, your slow-cooker?

                                Aloha,
                                Kaleo

                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                  I don't have it yet, so not doing anything with it right now. But I think I should be able to use it with either my rice cooker or my slow cooker. The test they suggested was unplugging them and plugging them back in and seeing if they were still in the same setting when you plugged them back in, and both of mine were. I gather the more programmable ones will lose their program if you cut the power, and that's basically how this thing controls the temperature, by opening and closing the circuit, so the more manual machines are a better fit.

                                  I don't think it would help if I were essentially baking a whole chicken in my slow cooker, but it seems like if I'm cooking something in a liquid, I should be able to just dump the probe in the liquid and have it control the slow cooker and keep the liquid at a simmer, rather than having it boil as it does now. I'd assume that throwing it in a pot of chili or chicken stock isn't going to damage or significantly throw off the probe.

                                  1. re: Jacquilynne

                                    Hi, Jac: "I gather the more programmable ones will lose their program if you cut the power..."

                                    That is a really good and important point. For use with any timers or thermostats, electronic appliances will usually go OFF when instructed, yet disobey when they're supposed to go back ON. I use X10 home automation modules and software, and you cannot use the newer oil-filled room heaters precisely because of this. And, if you want your house to look lived in with a TV turning on and off, you must find an antique TV with a manual power switch. Yet another way we're outsmarting ourselves by putting electronics in everything...

                                    Aloha,
                                    Kaleo

                                2. re: Jacquilynne

                                  For what it's worth, the Cuisinart slow cooker (Model PSC-650) was rated as "Not Recommended" by Cooks Illustrated.

                                  The first unit they tested wouldn't turn on and the second one struggled to cook onions evenly.

                                  They found the construction flimsy, and the buttons hard to push. The low setting produced tough meat as their water boil tests showed at low setting the contents reached only 177, which is way too low. (Their top-ranked slow cooker reached 199 at low setting.)

                                  Mr Taster

                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                    Mine is an older one that I acquired used from a friend. It doesn't have buttons, just nobs. It definitely doesn't have a problem with not getting up to a high enough temperature -- it boils things like crazy.

                                    1. re: Jacquilynne

                                      "It doesn't have buttons, just nobs. It definitely doesn't have a problem with not getting up to a high enough temperature -- it boils things like crazy."

                                      Does it go to 11 ?

                                      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xgx4k...

                                      (sorry I couldn't resist !)

                              2. I have a Crock-Pot (I forget the model number but it's a 6 quart oval "cook and carry") and yes, it's an issue. It's at the point where it's rendered the crockpot useless because I can no longer put things up in the morning. Unless I'm cooking a huge piece of meat, it will be fall apart tender even if I set a timer to switch it to warm during the afternoon. I was also told it's due to federal rules on food safety and so "low" is no longer what it used to be,

                                A friend told me her All-Clad slow cooker does not run quite as hot as Crock Pots, but I can't justify the splurge on one.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: AlexisT

                                  I was also told it's due to federal rules on food safety and so "low" is no longer what it used to be,
                                  *******
                                  How did our mothers not kill us slow cooking with with their old Crock Pots?!

                                  1. re: monavano

                                    Cuz they cooked with "love" :-D

                                    How did we ride around in cars without seatbelts, carseats with 5-point restraints, hand sanitizers, etc and survived ??? ;-)

                                    1. re: LotusRapper

                                      I grew up in the days before carseats and universal seatbelt usage. The answer is there were a lot of people thrown about inside and eventually outside their vehicles in auto accidents.

                                    2. re: monavano

                                      Occasionally, people were poisoned by undercooked food prepared in old slow cookers. Here's a link to one document which mentions this:

                                      http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIlln...

                                      1. re: GH1618

                                        Well, thank goodness Mom never made me raw, soaked and undercooked beans. Whew! She also never poked a turkey with a thermometer- just wiggled the leg and knew it was done.

                                        Dodged those bullets...

                                    3. re: AlexisT

                                      I wrote to Desjardins (Crockpot mfr) a couple of years ago about this - Crockpots running too hot - and after some run-arounds they told me that they did increase the cooking temperature of all of their "slow cookers" due to "the regulations" (her term to me). I suspect "the regulations" were from their legal department as a precaution against getting sued rather than from the federal government. Slow cooking at temperatures below the boiling point CAN allow rapid bacterial growth, but that's an issue that should be dealt with through proper ingredient preparation and attention to cooking (don't remove the lid for at least the first 3 hours)

                                      A primary benefit of slow cooking is to make tender flavorful meat dishes from tough cuts of meat. This only happens over long periods of time at low temperature (160-190F). Temperatures above the boiling point make meat tough and completely defeat the purpose of slow cooking.

                                      The great body of slow cooker recipes that assumed cooking temperatures of less than boiling are worthless in modern slow cookers that permit temperatures to rise above boiling.

                                      1. re: rdavis184

                                        I have a real Crockpot (luckily I have the low option as God intended it) but the pressure cooker is just as good, or better, to make tough cuts of meat tender despite high temps. Just saying!

                                    4. I have decided that my crock pots are now electric chaffing dishes for social gatherings where they can't get as hot because I leave the lids off, and I manually cycle on/off every half hour or so.

                                      Which really bums me out because I LOVE the idea, but I've been "over cooked" one too many times. For the crock pot cook all day events, now I have 2 dutch ovens going on the stove and a big stack of food saver bags for storage duty.