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Old 10-16-2007, 05:08 AM   #1
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Slow Cooker *might* not be as useful as I'd hoped

I have a bit of a slow cooker issue. It's that I don't know *anyone* who goes to work and gets back 8 hours later, but apparently there are quite a few of them because most recipes have "Low" as a 6 hour cook.

Once I've left my house at 7:30 to catch the bus, it takes me Eleven hours to get home again. At that stage, any dish taking 6 hours to cook is nearly twice cooked.

My slow cooker can't be programmed to switch to "keep warm" after 8 hours, nor can it turn on at a programmable time. I do have a powerpoint timer, but I'm not sure about food safety. Raw chicken, sitting at room temperature for even an hour before cooking? Not so good.

I'm thinking about experimenting with frozen or partially thawed meat, so that it comes gently back to thawed state and is then hit with the heat, but I'm not sure of how frozen it needs to be, or how to judge the, erm, frozanity of any given piece of meat.

So I'm looking for suggestions and guides on how to slow cook food for rather a long time. I find cooking at night robs me of most of my spare time once dishes are done. I'm single and my housemate doesn't want to cook together, so I'm the only one who organizes my food. I'm thinking a combination of frozen meat and chilling the crock and ingredients the night before, combined with a 1 hour delay on cooking, MIGHT be the way to go, but I'm just not sure.

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Old 10-16-2007, 06:37 AM   #2
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Heavy Duty Lamp Appliance Timers. These are relatively inexpensive and are simple to use. Just set the time you want the Appliance to come on. If your recipe calls for 6 hours of cooking, set the timer 6 hours prior to your returning home. When you arrive, Dinner is ready!


Enjoy!
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Old 10-16-2007, 07:01 AM   #3
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That's what I was thinking UB, until they mentioned leaving the chicken sit in the cooker for several hours before the cooker comes on. From what I've read here on frozen foods.... I don't think that even partially frozen chicken or any meat should be slowly warmed/thawed up to cooking temp.
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Old 10-16-2007, 07:22 AM   #4
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Good point Pacanis! I missed that part. You know I wonder how we are all still alive sometimes.
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Old 10-16-2007, 10:07 AM   #5
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How old is your slow cooker? The newer ones cook faster and at a higher temp than the older ones.

If you wanted to have extended cooking time in your slow cooker, there are a couple of options. You could use a table-top lamp dimmer to decrease the power of the crock pot so that it cooks at a lower temperature, ideally about 170 degrees. A good way to test the dimmer is to fill the slow cooker halfway with water, then set the dimmer to the 3/4 mark and let it go for 3-4 hours then check the temp of the water with a meat thermometer. Adjust the dimmer as needed so that you hit 170 degrees, then mark the spot on the dimmer with a permanent marker. We talk about the dimmer in this thread.

Alternatively, you can get an AC timer that has multiple on/off settings like this one. Then start with frozen food, and have the timer come on 1 hour after you leave, Let it stay on for 4 hours, then go off for 2-3 hours, then back on for a few hours, then off, then back on. By doing this, you keep the food hot enough to be out of the danger zone without constantly adding heat to it and over cooking it.

ETA:
I just saw in another thread that you recently got an Engineering degree? Was it electrical? If so, I think youíll really like the thread about the dimmer. Ohmís Law is always fun!
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Old 10-16-2007, 10:11 AM   #6
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There is a wide margin of error for slow cookers. Try making a recipe that calls for 8 hours on low and you might be surprised that even after 11 hours it is still good. This will not always work so you will have to pick your dishes carefully, but lots of times it will be fine.
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Old 10-16-2007, 11:08 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quadlex View Post
I have a bit of a slow cooker issue. It's that I don't know *anyone* who goes to work and gets back 8 hours later, but apparently there are quite a few of them because most recipes have "Low" as a 6 hour cook.

Once I've left my house at 7:30 to catch the bus, it takes me Eleven hours to get home again. At that stage, any dish taking 6 hours to cook is nearly twice cooked.

My slow cooker can't be programmed to switch to "keep warm" after 8 hours, nor can it turn on at a programmable time. I do have a powerpoint timer, but I'm not sure about food safety. Raw chicken, sitting at room temperature for even an hour before cooking? Not so good.

I'm thinking about experimenting with frozen or partially thawed meat, so that it comes gently back to thawed state and is then hit with the heat, but I'm not sure of how frozen it needs to be, or how to judge the, erm, frozanity of any given piece of meat.

So I'm looking for suggestions and guides on how to slow cook food for rather a long time. I find cooking at night robs me of most of my spare time once dishes are done. I'm single and my housemate doesn't want to cook together, so I'm the only one who organizes my food. I'm thinking a combination of frozen meat and chilling the crock and ingredients the night before, combined with a 1 hour delay on cooking, MIGHT be the way to go, but I'm just not sure.
Per the instructions for my model, food should not be frozen (too cold) or too hot when placed in the CP, used to rreheat food, nor can my model go into the freezer or oven. Food should be at room temp, or the crockery may crack and food may not cook evenly. Depends on your model/instructions.

Re cooking at night robs you of spare time - not sure I understand. My solution would be - put the food in the CP before you go to bed, allow time for food to cool, then refrigerate. Just reheat in the oven or microwave on low when you get home. Hope that helps.
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Old 10-16-2007, 11:20 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by *amy* View Post
Per the instructions for my model, food should not be frozen (too cold) or too hot when placed in the CP, used to rreheat food, nor can my model go into the freezer or oven. Food should be at room temp, or the crockery may crack and food may not cook evenly. Depends on your model/instructions.

Re cooking at night robs you of spare time - not sure I understand. My solution would be - put the food in the CP before you go to bed, allow time for food to cool, then refrigerate. Just reheat in the oven or microwave on low when you get home. Hope that helps.
Thatís interesting! What brand of slow cooker do you have? Iíve got a Rival, and they say you can cook frozen food. I had assumed all slow cookers were the same in that regard?

Question:
Can I cook frozen meat in my Crock-Potģ slow cooker?

Answer:
Yes, but be sure to add at least 1 cup of warm liquid to the stoneware first. Do not preheat the unit. Cook recipes containing frozen meats an additional 4 to 6 hours on Low or 2 hours on High.
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Old 10-16-2007, 12:29 PM   #9
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You want to put food in a crockpot and let it sit on the counter for hours before cooking it?



HERE COME THE FOOD SAFETY POLICE!!!

Why don't you try putting the timer on the crockpot, then cook the food, in the crockpot, INSIDE the refrigerator?
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Old 10-16-2007, 12:34 PM   #10
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...Why don't you try putting the timer on the crockpot, then cook the food, in the crockpot, INSIDE the refrigerator?

This is an interesting concept.

Don't you think a heating device inside a refrigerator generating heat for 8-10 hours might raise the temperature of the entire refrigerator into the danger zone and cause or initiate spoilage in the majority of what's in there?

Then there's the impact on the temperature of the freezer...
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Old 10-16-2007, 12:36 PM   #11
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Quote:
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This is an interesting concept.

Don't you think a heating device inside a refrigerator generating heat for 8-10 hours might raise the temperature of the entire refrigerator into the danger zone and cause or initiate spoilage in the majority of what's in there?

Then there's the impact on the temperature of the freezer...
No to mention the extra humidity added to the environment from steam......assuming the crock-pot could get up to temp in such an environment.
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Old 10-16-2007, 12:56 PM   #12
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And don't forget about the power cord that would prevent the fridge door from closing properly.
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Old 10-16-2007, 01:04 PM   #13
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Caine - please verify that your advice about crockpot cooking in the fridge was meant to be a joke?

Otherwise, we just might have to notify your local health officials that you've definitely snapped a serious twig - lol!!!
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Old 10-16-2007, 04:13 PM   #14
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I am just so tired of the self-proclaimed Food Safety Police telling me how I am going to die because I thaw frozen items on the counter instead of in the refrigerator. Everyone I have ever known thaws on the counter, their mothers thawed on the counter, and their grandmothers thawed on the counter. More than a few of these people have died, including most of the grandmothers because I am, after all, close to 60, but of those who have died, they died of the natural causes of aging , or heart disease, or cancer, one brain aneurysm that I know of, some in vehicle or industrial accidents, and a couple of their deaths were ruled as "at the hands of another." However, NOT ONE OF THEM died from eating something thawed on the counter!

Has anyone taken into consideration how long it takes for meat being cooked in a crockpot to go from the normal refrigerated temperature of, let's say 40F for argument's sake, to 140F? I would estimate that any crockpot cooked meat sits in the so-called danger zone for at least two hours. Any estimate on how many "eating crockpotted meat" deaths there are every year? Being safe is one thing, but verminophobia is something else altogether!
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Old 10-16-2007, 04:18 PM   #15
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I would estimate that any crockpot cooked meat sits in the so-called danger zone for at least two hours. Any estimate on how many "eating crockpotted meat" deaths there are every year?
Take a food safety course and you will learn that 2 hours in the danger zone is acceptable.

Hey Caine, what was the average lifespan 50 years ago? What is it now? Yeah i think we must have learned some things since then since people are living much longer these days. Food for thought.
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Old 10-16-2007, 04:53 PM   #16
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I am just so tired of the self-proclaimed Food Safety Police telling me how I am going to die because I thaw frozen items on the counter instead of in the refrigerator. Everyone I have ever known thaws on the counter, their mothers thawed on the counter, and their grandmothers thawed on the counter. More than a few of these people have died, including most of the grandmothers because I am, after all, close to 60, but of those who have died, they died of the natural causes of aging , or heart disease, or cancer, one brain aneurysm that I know of, some in vehicle or industrial accidents, and a couple of their deaths were ruled as "at the hands of another." However, NOT ONE OF THEM died from eating something thawed on the counter!

Has anyone taken into consideration how long it takes for meat being cooked in a crockpot to go from the normal refrigerated temperature of, let's say 40F for argument's sake, to 140F? I would estimate that any crockpot cooked meat sits in the so-called danger zone for at least two hours. Any estimate on how many "eating crockpotted meat" deaths there are every year? Being safe is one thing, but verminophobia is something else altogether!

Your rant, while entertaining, is irrelevant. We weren't talking about thawing food on the counter.

You were advocating using a crockpot in the refrigerator! I'd bet if we could poll your anestors, NOT ONE OF THEM would have thought that was a good idea!
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Old 10-16-2007, 05:29 PM   #17
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Because I have to leave mine cooking longer than directed, I have learned that certain recipes can hold or stand the cooking while others can't.

And if we were talking about thawing meat on the counter which we are not, then I would have to admit that I do. Sometimes I just forget to think ahead.
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Old 10-16-2007, 08:00 PM   #18
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Your rant, while entertaining, is irrelevant. We weren't talking about thawing food on the counter.
Placing cold meat in a crockpot and slowly bringing it to cooking temperature is the equivalent of thawing a frozen piece of meat on a counter. Unless you have taken the food out of the freezer and then gone on a mini-vacation instead of tending to it in order to ascertain when it has indeed thawed, it wouldn't spend any more time on the counter growing bacteria than it would in the crockpot growing bacteria.

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I'd bet if we could poll your anestors, NOT ONE OF THEM would have thought that was a good idea!
My mother would. She puts anything opened in the refrigerator! Have you ever tried to put refrigerated Mrs. Butterworth's on a toaster waffle?
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Old 10-16-2007, 08:15 PM   #19
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Wow! Reading this thread makes me very, very happy that ALL (We have quite a few.) our crock-pots are older models.
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Old 10-16-2007, 08:39 PM   #20
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Placing cold meat in a crockpot and slowly bringing it to cooking temperature is the equivalent of thawing a frozen piece of meat on a counter. Unless you have taken the food out of the freezer and then gone on a mini-vacation instead of tending to it in order to ascertain when it has indeed thawed, it wouldn't spend any more time on the counter growing bacteria than it would in the crockpot growing bacteria.



My mother would. She puts anything opened in the refrigerator! Have you ever tried to put refrigerated Mrs. Butterworth's on a toaster waffle?

My original post was to take exception to your suggestion to run a crockpot in the refrigerator for what it would do to the food in the refrigerator. I am convinced it's not a smart idea.

I disagree that cold meat in a crockpot is the same as thawing frozen meat on a countertop. The cold meat in the crockpot would come to temperature much faster.

AFAIC, you can thaw on the counter, cook in a crockpot in the refrigerator or make ice cream in the oven.

As I don't think your suggestions in this thread are safe, I felt it important to comment.
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