Slow Cooking the Autumn Flavors

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The season is upon us where the outside temperatures are dropping while the temperatures of our foods are rising. Many people are breaking out slow cookers to create soups, stews, roasts and more where the flavors of autumn are strong and the meal warms the soul. This convenient method of cooking foods at low, slow temperatures has advantages for a home chef. It is an economical way to tenderize less expensive cuts of meats like shoulders, rounds, and chuck while also allowing the home chef to multi-task and still enjoy a fresh meal at the end of the day. It is important to follow proper care and food safety guidelines to avoid temperature abuse where the food is sitting too long between 41F-135F and can lead to foodborne illness.

Fall for These Slow Cooker Food Safety Tips:

  • Start clean. Always start with clean hands, cooking equipment and food preparation areas.

  • Thaw. Always thaw meat and poultry first. Frozen pieces will not reach above the temperature danger zone fast enough.

  • Preheat. Start by preheating the slow cooker before adding ingredients. This is important when cooking meat and poultry to shorten the time in the temperature danger zone.

  • Warm setting is for already cooked foods. Do not cook food on the warm setting, which is designed to keep already hot food hot.

  • Add liquid. A liquid is needed to create the steam that allows for the cooking process. When cooking meat or poultry, the liquid levels should cover the ingredients for effective heat transfer throughout.

  • Minimize opening. Keep the lid on while cooking to maintain temperature.Each time the lid is removed, the crock cools and extends cooking time.

  • Check before you eat. At the end of the suspected cooking time, check food with a thermometer before eating to make sure it has reached a safe temperature.

    • Roasts: 145-160F

    • Poultry: 165F

    • Soups, stews, sauces: 165F

  • Cool promptly. Do not leave cooked food to cool down in the crock. If not eating immediately, transfer to a shallow container and store in the refrigerator.

N.C. Cooperative Extension’s goal is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on nutrition, health, food preservation, and food safety in Lee County please contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Ashley Szilvay at 919-775-5624.