Get Cooking in your Crock Pot!!
Fall is the season of bounty; from the gardens, the field and the window boxes that we plant in the summer. Now is the time to gather all these fruits and vegetables and let your imagination do the work. Crock pot cooking is one easy way for anyone too busy to cook healthy and nutritious meals. Crock pots save time and one can multi task while dinner is being made.
Because it cooks at a lower temperature for a longer period of time, some food safety questions arise while utilizing this equipment. There are steps that you can take to decrease any food safety risks as long as the power supply is not interrupted.
The average crock pot cooks at 200° F. on low and 300° F. on high. Bacteria thrive and grow at temperatures below 140° F.; therefore, when using a crock-pot you should minimize the risks that may cause the temperature to drop. On the other hand, most bacteria are killed at 165° F., therefore; as long as you keep the lid on and the food is cooked for the proper time, and power is on, the food will be safe to eat.
Below are some food safety items to consider while using a crock pot:
- Always start with a clean crock, clean utensils, and a clean work area.
- Keep all perishable ingredients in the refrigerator until you are ready to start cooking.
- Be sure to wash hands before and between preparation steps to avoid cross-contamination.
- Never partially cook meat your meal. Always make sure you follow guidelines for whichever food you are making.
- For best results, do not over fill the crock pot.
- Cut up meat for slow-cooker; do not cook large cuts of meat, such as a roast or whole chicken. Smaller cuts allow heat to penetrate through the meat faster, this will also help speed up the cooking process.
- Start cooking on high for the first 60 minutes to allow ingredients to heat rapidly and move above 140° F. and out of the “danger zone” before turning reducing the heat to low for slow-cooking.
- Stirring is not necessary for slow-cooking. Lifting the lid during cooking process will result in lost heat which increases food safety risk and that may extend cooking time.
- When meal is done transfer into another dish and refrigerate leftovers quickly―within two hours of serving.
- Crock pots may not be used to reheat foods. Reheating must be done on the stove or in a microwave oven to make sure that a minimum of 165° F. internal temperature is reached.
Read and follow the instructions in the manufacturer’s “use and care” book that came with your crock pot if you bought it second hand, you may be able to find instructions on the crockpot brand website. For more information on food and nutrition and food safety, visit the University of Florida Solutions for Your Life website, http://www.SolutionsForYourLife.com