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A crock pot, also called a slow cooker, is a great kitchen utility for ensuring your food is as perfectly cooked as possible. Slow cookers are often used on meat to make sure that it cooks gently, resulting in an insanely soft and delicate texture. Pulled pork is a great example of meat cooked slowly in a crock pot, it comes out being so soft and delicious that you can pull it apart with forks without using much pressure at all. The only issue with slow cookers is that you don’t always know the ideal temperature and time to cook food for. Thankfully, this article will discuss everything you need to know.
Table of Contents
What Is A Crock-Pot?
While you can sometimes hear people discussing crock pots and other times discussing slow cookers, you will be relieved to know that they are basically the same thing. A Crock-Pot is a brand of slow cooker that is very well reviewed and is arguably the top brand for such an item.
The job of a Crock-Pot, or a slow cooker unlike the pressure cooker, is to slowly cook your food at a consistent temperature to ensure it is done properly and as well as possible. While a lot of people use a slow cooker for the meat, they can also be used for stews, soups, and broths. A lot of slow cooker recipes will focus on making a soup in them as you can simmer it for a long time and reduce the moisture content to have a very richly flavored soup.
Crock-Pots and other similarly designed slow cookers work on a very simple basis. On the exterior, there is a knob that dictates the heat. This will range from being off, low, medium, and high. Some slow cookers may come with a timer or other extra features but the simple and straightforward ones will usually have exclusively a knob.
As for the inside, the slow cooker will have a heating unit that evenly distributes the heat. This heat will be directed into a ceramic or porcelain pot that sits inside your slow cooker. This pot can be removed easily and is where all your cooking will be done. They are sizable and can fit a lot of food in them, and are surprisingly easy to clean.
Lastly, slow cookers and Crock-Pots will have a glass lid that will sit on top of the pot, with an airtight seal. This allows you to monitor your food and check on it every now and then. They will typically have a handle in the middle that you can use to remove the lid, and a hole or two around the lid to help let any air escape, as to avoid a high air pressure build-up.
What Do The Heating Settings Mean?
As mentioned, the majority of Crock-Pots and similar products will have three main heating settings that vary from low-high. These settings might seem self-explanatory to some, but an in-depth look at how they work is never a bad idea.
When it comes to Crock-Pots, the low setting is typically 200 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a good temperature for food that you want to cook for a long time. Preparing a dish in the morning or early afternoon will give you ample time to cook it on the low setting and have it cooked properly by the time you are hungry in the evening.
A lot of the Crock-Pot recipes call for a dish to be cooked at a low temperature for around 8 hours. This is because the longer the food cooks in the slow cooker, the more time the flavors have to develop and blend with each other. This results in a delicious meal.
The medium-slow cooker temperatures can vary from model to model, yet a lot of them are around 250 degrees Fahrenheit. This setting is used to quickly get your soup or stew to a simmering point. Once at the simmer point, the heat can be turned down enough to maintain the simmer but not start boiling the food. Simmering will evaporate some of the moisture content from the dish and will thicken both the texture and the flavors.
The medium setting can also be used to cook your desired dish in a faster time. If you are in a bit of a rush and do not have time to wait 8 hours for something to slow cook, you can set it on medium and guess when it will be done. It will not come out as nice but it will still be tasty and delicious.
The high setting will bring the internal temperature up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. This setting has the fastest cooking time and the highest of all Crock-Pot temperatures. Most slow cookers will bring a soup or stew to the boiling point when set on high and the cooking time for other dishes will be a lot shorter than the lower settings.
Slow cooking your food is good for getting it incredibly soft and delicious, yet sometimes there is not enough time for that. The high-temperature setting has the shortest cooking times but will not make your dish as flavorful and soft as a low temperature would. Using a slow cooker at a high temperature is still better than using an oven or a grill for cooking as it is still even heat distribution and a constant and consistent temperature.
Some of the best non-toxic slow cookers will come with a warm setting. This is to be used when the food is cooked but you are not wanting to serve it yet. The food can stay in the slow cooker while it is on this setting and will remain warm enough to eat. The only caveat to this is that if you leave the food at the warm setting temperature for too long, it will start to dry out. So it is advisable to not leave it there for longer than necessary.
Optimum Cooking Temperature
While there is no perfect choice for Crock-Pot temperatures, there are a few things to take into account when you decide what setting to use.
If you have plenty of time, it is always better to use the lowest setting so that the food can cook properly and for a long time so that it develops a strong and rich blended flavor. If time is a bit of an issue then there is nothing wrong with choosing one of the higher settings.
It all depends on how long you have to cook your food, and how long you want to be cooking it for. If you need to, put it on high and only cook it for a little while. The food will be delicious either way, so it is your choice to make.
Slow Cooker Temperature Conversion Guide
While it may seem confusing to just guess how long to cook something if you are cooking it at a temperature different from what a recipe calls for, thankfully it is really easy to convert the temperatures and time so that you can be as accurate as possible when substituting one temperature for another.
The general conversion rate is that whatever time a recipe uses on the low setting, is twice as long as on the high setting. For instance, if a recipe calls for 8 hours on low, you can cook it for 4 hours on high. The same works the other way round, if you are wanting to cook a dish on the low setting, you can double whatever the high setting cook time is.
Programmable Slow Cooker
If you have a programmable slow cooker, you can customize it to have your preferred temperature for each option. This is a good idea if you are an experienced cook and understand how cooking works with timing. However, if you are new to cooking then you will want to research the best temperatures as it would be a bad idea to accidentally set it too high or too low without realizing it.
Crock-Pot Temperature Summary
If you are wanting to get into using a Croc-Pot or a slow cooker for a few meals, then that is great. You will be pleasantly surprised at how all of your dishes turn out. Don’t be afraid to change the temperature from the recipe as you can easily account for this by also changing the time you let it cook. As a final reminder or summary of the temperature settings and their respective temperatures;
- Low: 200 degrees
- Medium: 250 degrees
- High: 300 degrees
- Warm: 165-175 degrees