by Jennifer Sonntag on
Ahh…the go-to, easy-to-use appliance in our kitchens—crock-pots. They put the question, “What’s for dinner?” to rest and give our homes and apartments the home-cooked meal smell. Here are some trusted tips to consider when using your crock-pot:
Not everything is better with age
If you’re just starting out and you’ve been “gifted” your mom’s (or grandma’s) old crock-pot, there’s something to consider: age. While it might be in great working order, a vintage crock pot from the ‘70s or ‘80s with an insert firmly attached to the heating element might need to be upgraded. Newer crock-pots also offer the convenience of being able to lift out the insert (bonus, it’s dishwasher safe!).
Some older crock-pot models also had vent holes or a notch in the lid for a spoon. While these might’ve been convenient, the rule of thumb is that crock-pot lids should fit snugly. If the lid is warped or has one of the mentioned “features,” steam and heat will escape. Cooking times could be off and you could end up with dry or burnt food.
Make the connection
It’s important to regularly check the crock-pot’s electrical cord (from the base to the plug). If there’s any sign of wear or tear, it’s probably time to buy a new one. Using a crock-pot with a broken plug or wire is a fire hazard. According to the National Fire Protection Association, crock-pots are involved in an average of 150 home structure fires per year. Make sure to always unplug your crock-pot when it’s not in use.
Location, location, location
It’s important to keep the crock-pot away from the edge of countertops and this includes not having the cord dangle off the edge. The closer it is to the edge, the easier it is for a person (or pet) to bump it or knock it over.
Tips to simmer over
If you’re curious to see if your crock-pot is in working order, you can do a simple water test. Older crock-pots may not work as well as they once did, and for temperature and food safety purposes the water test will help you make the decision whether you should keep or toss it.
Fill the crock-pot 2/3 full with tap water (tepid water) and set your crock pot on the low setting. After 8 hours, use a thermometer to check the water’s temperature, which should be at least 185 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
As always, every crock-pot is different and has varying specifications by make and model. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s directions and take heed of anything suspicious or concerning. It’s better to cook safely than to be sorry…and hungry.
Keep these tips in mind the next time you pull out your crock-pot or any other small kitchen appliances. And remember to talk to your ERIE Agent for big kitchen or home upgrades to make sure you have the coverage you need.