Slow cookers warm up to a temperature of least 165 Fahrenheit to a maximum of around 200 Fahrenheit. This is hot enough to kill bacteria and germs, but below the regular cooking temperature. Slow cooking food at low temperatures for a long time, changes the food in a way different from cooking at boiling temperature. Most slow cookers have 3 temperature levels to cook, some models also have also a keep warm level.
The actual temperature will also depend on the level of food in the pot. Obviously, a low-filled pot will become hot quickly and reach a higher temperature than a full pot.
What temperature does a slow cooker cook at?
- Low: about 165 degrees Fahrenheit. The minimum temperature for safely and slowly simmering food.
- High: about 195 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. This setting is meant to be below the boiling point of water (212 F). If food in the pot may start to bubble at the pot wall, that’s OK. If it bubbles everywhere in the pot then it is “regular” cooking with its respective changes to food. Avoid this, better switch to:
- Medium: this level simmers the food somewhere at temperatures between low and high.
But what is actually way more important – than the questioning: what temperature does a slow cooker cook at – is how those temperature settings affect cooking time.
Different slow cookers cook differently. You need to get to know your slow cooker and learn how long to cook food in the slow cooker for best results.
As a rough rule of thumb, one hour HIGH equals about 2 hours on LOW.
If the pot is full to the brim cooking will take a bit longer, if the pot is only half full temperatures in the pot become higher, and cooking may be quicker.
Slow cooking on low or high? What is better?
Slow cookers are very easy to use as long as you follow a few recommendations. But are may be wondering whether you should be cooking food on low or high?
Either way, the heat from the heating element is slowly released into the food, but you have to make sure the pot is sufficiently full. As for the cooking time and temperature, food tastes best when cooked longer at a low temperature. The “low and slow” provides the perfect conditions to develop the best flavors. The difference can be tasted particularly well with soups, goulash, stews, and chiles.
The meat is much more tender at the low-temperature setting than at the “high” setting or in classic cooking or roasting for that matter. The only advantage of slow cooking at a “high” level is the significantly shorter cooking time.
What happens when you slow cook meat?
Slow cooking produces delicious meals and especially meat can turn out to be incredibly tender and juicy. When the meat is cooked at low temperatures several processes take place. The most notable when slow cooking is:
- over 140 degrees F – protein molecules break up and lose moisture, this process is called Protein-coagulation. Many foods we cook for consumption are made of proteins. When they are heated the proteins break down and lose water, the more water that’s lost, the dryer and harder a piece of meat gets. Obviously, a higher temperature will evaporate more water than a low temperature in the slow cooking process.
- at around 160 degrees F – the collagen, the main protein component of connective tissue, turns into gelatin, meat cuts become juicy and tender
In regular cooking where the boiling temperatures of water (212 F) is reached, the water turns into steam and evaporates. As water is in most foods, cooking them at high temperatures dries them out.
What happens in a Slow Cooker?
When heating a roast or large cut of meat, it needs to reach an ideal core temperature of about 165 F. This ensures the coagulation of the protein and the collagen conversion of the connective tissue into gelatin.
But more heat is not necessary, because the greater the temperature gradient between the meat cuts inside to the outside, the greater the water loss and the drier the met will become. Timing is everything in conventional cooking, but with a slow cooker at a low setting, the temperature gradient will always be exactly right.
So when slow-cooking meat at low temperature, this temperature gradient is very little. The perfect cooking time plays a much smaller role as the ideal temperature cannot be exceeded at all. Most of the liquid remains in the meat and can be absorbed by the connective tissue turning it into gelatin. The meat becomes soft and tender.
What meat cuts are suitable for slow cooking
Generally, any meat is suitable for a slow cooker. However, expensive and lean meat cuts such as fillet and back of veal, prime cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and game may be better be on the BBQ or other conventional cooking methods as this may produce better results.
Slow cookers are great for cooking more affordable cuts of meat, anything that has a lot of connective tissue, tendon or cartilage.
The longtime at low temperature in a slow cooker will turn the tough connective tissues into soft and juice gelatin. As a result, even lower quality and cheaper meat cuts become part of a juicy tasty dish.
The best are Beef brisket, chuck steak, lamb shanks, pork shoulder, chicken tights…
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