The Truth About Slow Cookers and Electric Pressure Cookers

— Written By and last updated by

There are two kitchen tools that strike fear in the hearts of home cooks everywhere. To many, the pressure cooker remains one of the scariest cooking tools ever. However the reputation of slow cookers has now taken a turn for the worse after the recent death of Jack Pearson on the popular TV series “This is Us”, as a result of a fire started by a faulty crock pot.

Making food at home never sounded so dangerous. I know. But there are a lot of ways to keep you and your family safe. One is to understand the tools you are using, purchase quality and up to date equipment, and operate them safely.

There are several advantages to cooking with a  slow cooker. They are fairly inexpensive to purchase and operate and slow cookers usually cook food at a low temperature, generally between 170° and 280° F, over several hours. Combining the direct heat from the pot, lengthy cooking time and steam that destroys bacteria, the slower cooker is perfectly safe option for preparing food. Liquid is needed to produce steam so thawing meals prior to cooking them is important to the cooking process.

To safely operate your slow cooker read your owner’s manual and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Prior to operating your slow cooker check the cord. Most electrical fires are started due to a faulty appliances and compromised cords or plugs. Just to be safe when you are not using the appliance unplug it. If your slow cooker smells “off” or gets hotter than usual it is best to unplug it and discontinue use. Lastly, if your slow cooker is old take extra caution. The technology in slow cookers has come a long way since their conception. As mentioned above slow cookers are inexpensive so replacing an older model or purchasing a new cooker will not hurt your wallet and will be safer in the long run.

Electric pressure cookers are a little scarier because you are creating pressure and high temperatures, but understanding the advantages to pressure cooking just might ease your fears. They decrease cooking time, reduce energy consumption, and retain nutrient quality that is equal to or higher than that of foods cooked by other methods. They are however,  a more expensive appliance. Electric pressure cookers have a few more safety features than the traditional stove top model. Nearly all new models are multi-cookers which means the can also be programed to slow cook, sear, saute, simmer, steam, warm, etc. When purchasing an electric pressure cooker look for a safety valve that locks the appliance while it is  under pressure. This is standard on almost all pressure cookers.

Electric pressure cookers were listed as one of 2017’s top Christmas gifts,  but tons of home cooks still don’t have the confidence to turn the thing on. The best piece of advice for using an electric pressure cooker is to read the user’s manual. Know your equipment and become familiar with its features. Most manuals will recommend a test run with water and this should get you a little more comfortable with the machine. Again always check the cords on your appliance and unplug them when they are not in use. New electric pressure cookers are completely programmable and for the most part take all the guesswork out of  cooking under pressure.

All kitchen tools can be safe if you follow the manufacturer’s directions, take precautions, and your equipment is up to date. Some tools like electric pressure and slow cookers save time and make cooking at home a more viable option for many families. So don’t throw out your trusty slow cooker or shy away from electric pressure cookers.

If want to learn more about electric pressure and slow cookers join the NC Cooperative Extension Currituck County Center for their hands-on Kitchen Tech: Electric Pressure Cookers and Slow Cookers class on March 13th from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. If you would like more information about the class please visit currituck.ces.ncsu.edu or contact Olivia Jones via email olivia_jones@ncsu.edu or phone 252-232-2261.

NC State University and N.C. A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, political beliefs, family and marital status, sex, age, veteran status, sexual identity, genetic information or disability. NC State, N.C. A&T, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.