How to test your slow cooker temperature.

If you’ve noticed that your slow cooker recipes aren’t turning out quite right or if it has been around longer than your grandmother’s recipes it might be time to test it.  A slow cooker needs to run at an optimal temperature to ensure food safety and proper cooking.

slow cooker with food in it


How to Test Your Slow Cooker Temperature

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While a poorly functioning slow cooker can cause your meal to spoil or not to cook properly, it can also be a real danger in regard to food safety.

slow cooker should have a low enough temperature that you don’t need to tend to it however the temperature also needs to be high enough to keep food at a safe temperature. This delicate balance is what makes a crock pot everyone’s favorite appliance for everything from dips to roasts.

Knowing that your slow cooker works is super-important. If your crock pot has been around a long time, it may cook too slowly, allowing bacteria to form in or on your meal. Your slow cooker should heat the food to at least 140 degrees within a four time frame. You’ll want to test yours to ensure it meets the current safety standards to keep your food safe (and ensure your meals cooke properly).

How to Test Your Slow Cooker

  1. Fill your slow cooker with water halfway to the top.
  2. Turn it on to the lowest setting and cover for 8 hours.
  3. Remove the lid and immediately take the water temperature.

The water temperature should be 185 degrees F.

If the water temperature is higher, it’s not a huge deal. You may have to reduce the cooking time for some of your dishes. You can also buy one of the small attachments that will automatically shut your machine off once your food hits the ideal temp. But, either way, there’s no need to toss your crock pot.

If the temperature is less than 185, however, you should sincerely think about getting rid of your appliance. A slow cooker on low should be about 200 degrees; while the high setting should be 300 degrees.

Between 40-140 degrees F is the “danger zone” in your slow cooker. Bacteria will grow quickly and easily in your food if it stays in that range too long. Your food will obviously spend time at that temperature no matter what but if your cooker is heating the meal too slowly, you are creating a breeding ground for yucky stuff.

So, keep your family safe and healthy by checking your slow cooker and paying attention. It could save you from illness, or just a lousy dinner.

Find slow cooker recipes here.

My favorite slow cookers:

  1.  Hamilton Beach Set ‘n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker With Temperature Probe, 6-Quart.  I used this slow cooker for about 10 years for countless family meals. While I loved the slow cooker itself, I didn’t often use the probe.
  2. This Black & Decker slow cooker is great for a large family (7QT) while having an amazing price point and great reviews.
  3. If you’re looking for a smaller 4QT slow cooker, the Hamilton Beach Stay or Go 4QT Slow Cooker has great reviews and is fairly inexpensive and Crock Pot has a great 4-Quart Smart-Pot Digital Slow Cooker.
  4. And of course if you’re in the market for a multi-use appliance, you might like to consider an Instant Pot which is a slow cooker, pressure cooker, yogurt maker, steamer and more all in one.
Image ©Amy Muschik 
Food Safety and Inspection Service, United States Department of Agriculture
Iowa State University Cooperative Extension
University of Wyoming Nutrition and Food Safety.


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Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!
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  1. I’m sorry to have to ask, but how exact does the temperature need to be? My slow cooker is 184 after 8 hours on low, not 185. Is that one degree difference a concern? Thank you.

  2. I tested an old CrockPot brand slow cooker. The top temperature on high was 209F. The top temperature on low was 186F. They are not the same temperature for high and low.

    The higher temperature is best for lean cuts of meat (i.e. chicken breast) for it cooks faster, loosing less moisture. The lower (and slower) temperature is best for meats with higher collagen (i.e. brisket, ribs, stew meat). Breaking down the collagen is the key for these meats to be tender.

    For soups, vegetable, etc… the temperature more just a way to better time the end cooking time to meet your schedule.

  3. I recently gota Ninja Foodie and made a stuffing recipe on Low using the slow cooker option. It did not turn out the same and wasn’t even real hot after 4 hours. I used to make it in my crock pot for 4 hours. I read that slow cookers don’t heat up the sides Like crock pots do but only from the bottom. Do you have any advice for adapting crock pot recipes to the Ninja Foodie?

    1. The problem with pressure cookers trying to do double business as a slow cooker is the designs are different. Pressure cookers heat from the bottom while slow cookers heat from the sides. That, in addition to several other compromises, means something like a Foodie or Instant Pot can only be a limited slow cooker at best.

      Your biggest issue is going to be lack of moisture. The current recommendation is you need to add up to 2 cups of water to a “slow cooker in a pressure cooker recipe” to transfer heat from the bottom of the pressure cooker pan to the food. So some recipes like soups and stews work fine but you could never adjust something like a stuffing recipe to cook properly without wrecking it in the process.

  4. I have had 2 slow cookers. Both were CrockPot brand. The first one was great, but it was too small. My husband bought me a new one, larger, but it does not heat as high as the smaller one did. I could cook dumplings in the old one, but the new one does not heat to a boil. Is it faulty? Someone told me there are 2 different pots, and one heats high but the other doesn’t. Is that true? If so, how do I know I am getting the hotter one?

    1. As far as I know, slow cookers (regardless of size) should heat to about the same temperature. This allows food to stay at a safe temperature and also keeps it from overcooking.

      According to the official CrockPot website:

      Both “High” and “Low” stabilize at the same temperature; it is just a matter of how long it takes to reach the simmer point. Once food reaches the simmer point, total cook time is dependent on cut and weight of meat to reach the point of maximum flavor and texture potential. Most dishes can be prepared on either “High or “Low.”

  5. Holly,

    For recipes that use a slow cooker can you use a crock pot instead. For example: slow cooker Salisbury steak recipes.

    Thanks, Carrie

  6. What is this information based on? According to Crock-Pot there isn’t a temperature for the low and high settings, but rather refers to the amount of time it takes to reach the simmering point – around 209*. Low will take 7-8 hrs, while high should get there in 3-4 hrs. Of course, thinking about this logically, getting to that temperature faster would mean the heating element is operating at a higher temperature. Given the explanation from Crock-Pot, it would seem that the max temperature of their product is 209*, but they never say that…..they only refer to reaching a simmer point

    Using an instant read thermometer will ensure that your unit is up to temperature. Crock-Pot® SlowCcookers reach the simmer point and stabilize on both “High” and “Low” at about 209°F.

    Understand the Low and High Temperature Settings
    Don’t think of your slow cooker like a stove top. Cranking up the dial might move the temperature up, but it’s better to think of your meals in terms of time. That’s why you should think of the simmer point first.

    The simmer point is the time it takes to bring all the contents of your slow cooker just below the boiling point. It’s right around 209 degrees. On the low setting, the time it takes to reach the simmer point is around seven to eight hours. For the high setting, it takes around three to four hours.

    1. The information provided comes from studies performed Food Safety and Inspection Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Iowa State University Cooperative Extension as well as University of Wyoming
      Nutrition and Food Safety.

      While the information you’re seeing from Crock Pot may in fact be correct, please keep in mind that Crock Pot is a brand so the information may be brand specific while the information I have provided is generalized slow cooker information.

      The information provided on my site does state the that temperature should be a minimum of 185 by 8 hours (it could be higher, that is the minimum)… since crock pot states that the temperature should be 209F after 8 hours, this still aligns with the information provided.

      Hope that helps.

    2. I can’t believe how long it took to get that answer. It read that the Hi setting should be 300, but no one says how to check it. Even Crockpot sent me a free new pot because it didn’t get to 300. What you say makes perfect sense.
      Thank you.5 stars

  7. Do you have a guideline for the high setting? I just put chicken in my 3 month old programmable slow cooker on high for 4 hours and it is almost raw yet! It was frozen, but I’ve never had this problem before.

      1. On the high setting, the heating element can get to 300 degrees but the water temperature will never get over 212 F. Thermometers are calibrated in ice water or boiling water because the water maintains the 212 degrees at sea level.

        Also, don’t put frozen chicken in a slow cooker, because it will stay at unsafe temps for too many hours.

  8. This is SO useful and informative and I have never thought to test mine. I know mine runs on the hot side just based on recipe guidelines, if it says cook for 3-4 hours, mine is always done at the 3 hour mark, never the back end of the range. Thank you for this one!