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Are You Using Your Slow Cooker Safely?

Keep the following safety tips in mind.

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preparing ahead of time makes hearty slow cooker meals are a favorite for fall and winter cookingsherwood/Shutterstock

The slow cooker is by far one of our favorite kitchen appliances. And what’s not to love? Simply set it and forget it (starting with these dump dinners!). But like any electric appliance, there are few safety concerns to be aware of. The show This Is Us brought slow cooker safety to the public eye. While we know that slow cookers are not dangerous, we’re here to teach you the right steps to keep your cooking safe.

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Pedantic woman wiping down kitchen countertop with pink cloth, wearing blue jean shirt and rubber gloves for household

Clean your workspace

First things fist, it’s best start your meal with a clean slate. Wipe off those countertops, corral loose odds-and-ends and be sure to clean your slow cooker thoroughly.

Pro tip: A damp microfiber cloth works best for spot cleaning the outside of the machine.

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Frozen berries and vegetables in bags in freezer close up; Shutterstock ID 666765940Yuliia Mazurkevych/Shutterstock

Thaw your ingredients first

Although it’s tempting to throw a frozen meal directly into the slow cooker, don’t. It’s much safer to let your frozen meat drop to room temperature before you cook. If using a prepared frozen package, make sure to follow its specific thawing instructions.

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Volumetric measuring cup; Shutterstock ID 188866007wanphen chawarung/Shutterstock

Don’t overfill

That recipe you are working with may ask for eight chicken breasts, but make sure your slow cooker can handle it first. Consult your appliance’s manual for maximum volume capacity before using. Lost the booklet? To be on the safe side, a slow cooker should never be more than two-thirds full.

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Person cutting the tip off their chicken wingTaste of Home

Cut meat into smaller sections

Though it’s not unsafe to cook large pieces of meat, (we love a good slow cooker pork roast recipe) cutting your meat into smaller sections can lessen the cook time and make it easier to fit more ingredients into the dish. Consult the instructions in your slow cooker’s instruction manual for further recommendations.

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Country style: the chicken broth and the ingredients on the table.AS Food studio/Shutterstock

Use liquids

You should always have a bit of liquid at the base of your slow cooker recipe. This keeps the ingredients from getting too hot, sticking to the bottom of the dish and potentially burning. Great liquids to add are broth, water and even barbecue sauce. (Try our homemade BBQ sauce recipes, here.) Liquids can also help keep your meal moist and tender.

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Slow cookerLighttraveler/Shutterstock

Keep the lid on

Though it’s certainly tempting, resist peeking into the pot as it cooks. If the lid is removed, it lets out heat that’s been building up inside the dish. This can slow down the cooking process.

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Sliced peppers visible inside of a red slow cookerTaste of Home

Yes, you can step away

Slow cookers are designed for countertop cooking over long periods of time. While you might not step away from an over or stove-top while in use, it’s okay to leave a slow cooker be. If leaving the house, make sure that the appliance is set to low, placed away from walls and set on a heatproof surface.

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OutletsTrum Ronnarong/Shutterstock

Check your cords

Always check to make sure your slow cooker’s cords are in good condition. If the cord is frayed or not perfectly intact from the appliance to the plug, you should not use it. Additionally, if it starts to emit a weird smell, get rid of it.

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Plugging in appliancepixfly/Shutterstock

Not in use? Unplug it.

Fire departments recommend keeping your appliances unplugged when they aren’t in use, as an extra precaution. The “off” switch isn’t enough—so next time you finish using your slow cooker, unplug it and store it somewhere safe.

Up Next: Check out these top 10 kitchen safety do’s and don’ts.