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Volume II
February 3, 2007

Keep Food Out of the 'Danger Zone' When Using a Slow-Cooker
By Glenyce Peterson-Vangsness, University of Minnesota Extension Service

A slow-cooker pot is convenient, saves time and can give you food that's delicious and safe to eat.

A slow-cooker that's safe cooks slowly enough for unattended cooking, yet fast enough to keep food out of the bacterial danger zone, which is between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F. In this danger zone, bacteria grow very rapidly. Food left in the danger zone too long can cause food borne illness.

You can check to see if a slow cook pot is safe to use by filling it with two quarts of tap water, then heating it on a low setting for eight hours with the lid on. Check the water temperature with an accurate food thermometer, but do it quickly since the temperature drops 10 to 15 degrees when the lid is raised or removed.

The temperature of the water should be 185 degrees F. Temperatures below this indicate the cooker doesn't heat food high enough or fast enough to avoid potential food safety problems. The slow cooker is unsafe and should be replaced.

* DVO welcomes your kitchen hints and cooking or nutrition questions! Email us and we'll post your hints and Q/A's in upcoming newsletters! *

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