Slow Cooker Safety

PeccaviPeccavi Registered User regular
The weather has cooled down, and I've currently got a stew going while I'm at work. In the past I've always used plenty of liquid and ended up with a soupy meal. This time I've only used 1 small can of broth, because my understanding is that basically all the ingredients (beef, potatoes, onions, celery) are going to add their own liquid to the dish while cooking.

My safety concern is that the broth wasn't enough to cover the ingredients, and that the slow cooking method uses that liquid to quickly transfer heat, limiting the amount of time bacteria can breed. My question is even if some of the food stays in the USDA danger zone of ~140° for an extended period, spending the next 8+ hours at 165°+ should still kill off the bacteria and make it safe, right? Not a microbiologist so there may plenty of bad info here.

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  • see317see317 Registered User regular
    Peccavi wrote: »
    The weather has cooled down, and I've currently got a stew going while I'm at work. In the past I've always used plenty of liquid and ended up with a soupy meal. This time I've only used 1 small can of broth, because my understanding is that basically all the ingredients (beef, potatoes, onions, celery) are going to add their own liquid to the dish while cooking.

    My safety concern is that the broth wasn't enough to cover the ingredients, and that the slow cooking method uses that liquid to quickly transfer heat, limiting the amount of time bacteria can breed. My question is even if some of the food stays in the USDA danger zone of ~140° for an extended period, spending the next 8+ hours at 165°+ should still kill off the bacteria and make it safe, right? Not a microbiologist so there may plenty of bad info here.

    I've been using a slow cooker for years, and I don't think I've ever added enough liquid to submerge the ingredients.
    No microbiologist either, but I'm pretty sure spending 8+ hours at 165+ should be sufficient to kill off any bacteria and with modern food safety standards you shouldn't have anything to worry about unless you left your meat on the counter overnight (thus allowing/encouraging microbes to breed and their excretions to build up, since that's not going to be taken care of by heat).

    Ringo wrote: »
    Well except what see317 said. That guy's always wrong.
    bowenPeccaviShadowfireDaenrisMortious
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    Food safety is a function of both time and temperature. You can use lower temperatures over longer periods of time to accomplish the same thing as blasting a chunk of chicken to 165 in short order. We often see those high numbers spit out from the USDA because they're easy enough for the line cook at applebees to understand.

    Toxins from the microbes tend to be more dangerous than the microbes themselves. The liquid also doesn't need cover the food, the whole chamber heats up to the temperature fairly quickly because it's a small confined space. And whatever liquid you do have in there will quickly transfer the heat from the cooking elements.

    I'm obviously no food scientist or anything, but it's extremely unlikely you'll get sick from that.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
    Peccavi
  • OnTheLastCastleOnTheLastCastle let's keep it haimish for the peripatetic Registered User regular
    A slow cooker doesn't let food stay in the danger zone, that's not at all how cooking works. It heats up and stays there. The low and high settings get to the same temperature just in a variable amount of time. You are in no danger putting ingredients in a slow cooker then using it and the ingredients do not have to be covered all in liquid. That's way too much liquid most of the time for a lot of various things.

    If the long time makes you uncomfortable, an instant pot does what a slow cooker does but in about 1/10 the time.

    Peccavi
  • DevoutlyApatheticDevoutlyApathetic Registered User regular
    edited October 2018
    Yea, so the stuff like that 165° for chicken is instantaneous pasteurization temperatures. If you get the whole piece of meat to say 140° for half an hour you'll get the same level of dead bacteria. This is more of a thing with sous vide but the idea sorta applies to what you're talking about. A handy link. The big thing to remember here is that those numbers are for sealed containers. A slow cooker with the lid left on counts as sealed I'd think.

    Now Bowen is totally right that the issue isn't really the microbes still being around but what they might have left behind. If a lot of time passes where they're in a good temperature to grow they may leave behind a significant quantity of waste products that are not good for people. Rice is supposedly a big culprit of this when reheated.

    As for the unsubmerged bits that feels real easy to test if you've got a thermometer around but I'd be real surprised if they were that different in a sealed crock pot.

    DevoutlyApathetic on
    bowenPeccavi
  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    The air above the liquid reaches the same temperature through convection. Anything above liquid also gets cooked the same amount at the same temperatures.

    tinwhiskersbowenPeccaviSkeith
  • PeccaviPeccavi Registered User regular
    Thanks, everyone! Looked at tips last night and pretty much every site suggested using less liquid, so I figured it was safe, but still needed a gut check.

    Went home for lunch and my kitchen smells amazing, so I'm really looking forward to tonight!

    Elvenshae
  • see317see317 Registered User regular
    Peccavi wrote: »
    Thanks, everyone! Looked at tips last night and pretty much every site suggested using less liquid, so I figured it was safe, but still needed a gut check.

    Went home for lunch and my kitchen smells amazing, so I'm really looking forward to tonight!

    This is the best part about slow cookers.
    Coming home after a long day to a house that smells amazing and a meal that's 90% done.

    Ringo wrote: »
    Well except what see317 said. That guy's always wrong.
    Pixelated PixieShadowfireFiendishrabbitElvenshaeEncDoctorArchSmokeStacksCommander ZoomMichaelLCchrishallett83HappylilElfSmrtnikPolaritie
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