One of the most appealing things about cooking with a crockpot or slow cooker is that you can toss all the ingredients in, set the timer, and not think about it again. When you return, a hot delicious home-cooked meal awaits you. Do you ever worry about leaving your crockpot on all day while you’re at work or all night while you’re sleeping?
You can leave a crockpot on low or warm overnight, but not on high. Most slow cookers run on 50-300 watts. If you take the right precautions, then the risk of fire is minute. Most recipes would not call for a crockpot to be left on high for more than 4 to 6 hours because the food would overcook.
If you’re a worrier by nature, what kinds of things can you do to ease your mind? Are some slow cookers safer than others? Does the location where you’re using your crockpot raise or lower safety levels? Read on to reveal the answers to these questions.
Can You Leave a Crockpot Overnight?
A crockpot is designed to simmer food over a more extended period rather than quickly on a stovetop or in an oven. When you leave a crockpot overnight, it likely is not much longer than 8 hours. The average adult sleeps 6.8 hours a night. That’s less time than a child is at school or an adult is at work. So why not leave your crockpot to do its thing overnight so you’ll have nourishing food to pack in the morning for lunches?
Is It Safe?
Most crockpots range between 50 to 300 watts. Where it falls in that range depends on its size. Let’s compare the wattage of a crockpot to that of the average convection space heater. A space heater ranges from 400 to 1500 watts. Burns and fires are a concern when space heaters are left unattended. The risk of burns and fires is a small fraction of that with crockpots used in a household kitchen.
When using a crockpot someplace that is not a traditional kitchen, such as a dorm room or RV, there are factors to consider. Students must plug them directly into a wall outlet connected to a circuit breaker in dormitories that allow slow cookers. The appliance must also be clean, in good working order, and must not contain anything combustible, such as alcohol.
There is no substantial fire hazard related to slow cookers and campers when using a crockpot in an RV during a camping or road trip. To be extra cautious, you could not use the crockpot while the RV is in motion or use the crockpot on a picnic table outside of the parked vehicle. Leaving a slow cooker running overnight in your RV’s kitchen while you’re parked is just as safe as using it in your kitchen at home.
There are some steps you can take to lower the risk of burns or fire further when leaving your crockpot on overnight. Some of these are just no-brainers that you might already do.
- Be sure the electrical outlet you’re using is safe and in good working condition. This safety measure goes for any small appliance. Avoid using outlets that spark when you plug the unit in or have exposed wiring.
- Place the slow cooker on a heat-resistant surface by itself. Avoid placing anything flammable near the unit or anything that can get ruined if the crockpot overflows.
- Be sure your slow cooker is clean inside and out before using it. Any traces of food from previous cooking sessions could burn overnight.
- Keep the crockpot out of the reach of children and pets. I know I always use an oven mitt to lift off the lid to protect myself from the heat and the hot steam. Don’t run your slow cooker in a location where unsuspecting children or pets can receive a painful burn.
- If you get up in the middle of the night, check on the crockpot. You might wake up during the night for several reasons, such as using the bathroom, checking on your child, or letting the dog out. Take two minutes to check on the slow cooker and stir the contents.
Can You Leave a Crockpot on Low Overnight?
You can leave a crockpot on low overnight because it is only hot enough to keep your food on a simmer. The wattage on a crockpot, especially smaller ones, are very low. Remember that simmering your food on low heat is what a slow cooker is designed to do.
Can You Leave a Crockpot on Warm Overnight?
For someone who works the night shift, keeping dinner warm in a slow cooker is a very smart thing to do. As the warm setting gives off even less heat than the low setting, it should be perfectly safe to leave your crockpot on warm overnight. Likewise, it should be fine to set your unit to cook on low on a timer and then switch to warm until morning.
Can You Leave a Crockpot on High Overnight?
Since most slow cooker recipes would not call for you to cook the food on high for such a long time, it should never be necessary to leave your crockpot on high all night long. You would run an increased risk of the contents overcooking or even burning. A slow cooker was not designed to cook on high for long periods.
Top Low-Wattage Crockpots
The wattage of a slow cooker depends on its size. Consider opting for a programmable slow cooker if you plan on leaving your unit turned on overnight. Having a programmable crockpot will allow you to switch from a couple of hours on high to warm for the rest of the night or for a longer time on low or low transitioning to warm.
- The Hamilton Beach 7-Quart Flexible Easy Programmable Slow Cooker runs on 340 watts. You can mix and match the temperature settings with timers that range from 2 to 10 hours in increments of 2 hours. This crockpot has a wraparound heating element that cooks its contents evenly, meaning you won’t need to stir your food while it’s cooking, making this slow cooker a great candidate for cooking overnight.
- The Crockpot SCCPVC600AS-B 6-Quart Digital Slow Cooker with iStir Stirring System runs on 240 watts. This slow cooker is especially fitting for overnight cooking because it automatically stirs the contents after cooking for 2 hours at 30-minute intervals. The stirring mechanism comes with multiple paddles to use with different recipes and runs on 4 watts.
- The Calphalon Digital Sauté Slow Cooker is 5.3 quarts in capacity and runs on just 200 watts. The nonstick ceramic crock in this unit can sear or sauté your meat or veggies on the stove before starting the slow cooking process. You can also reheat the food right in the same crock in the oven. This slow cooker comes in a sleek and modern dark stainless steel finish.
Crockpots are low enough in wattage to be low risk when using overnight while on low or warm. It’s best if you did not leave slow cookers on high all night long. However, you can program your crockpot to cook on high for a few hours and have it automatically switch to warm.
Leaving the crockpot on high all night would overcook or burn its contents. Choosing a low wattage slow cooker and taking a few simple precautions will help you have a safe and positive experience.