Can You Reheat Food In A Slow Cooker?

A little safety reminder.

Red Slow Cooker
Photo: Devrim_PINAR/Getty Images

We all know slow cookers (and multi-cookers) are great for big-batch cooking, but what if you end up with more food than you know what to do with? Save it, of course. Many slow-cooked dishes, like soups and stews, taste even better a day or two later, and also freeze beautifully. If you store them properly, of course. Read on for why you shouldn't rewarm food with your slow cooker.

Don't Reheat Food in a Slow Cooker

There is a right way and a wrong way to save slow-cooked leftovers. The wrong way is the easy way. It might be tempting to simply lift the insert out of the slow cooker, let the contents cool off a bit, and store it, covered, in the refrigerator. Then, when it's time to eat, pop the insert right back on the pre-heated slow cooker base to warm the food back up. No storage containers or additional pots and pans to wash. Don't do this, experts say.

This is a bad idea for two reasons. Firstly, it will take hours for the leftovers to reheat, which can create a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Secondly, placing a chilled slow cooker insert on a hot base may cause the insert to crack. (Never store a slow cooker in the freezer, which can damage the insert.)

According to the experts at Crock-Pot: "It is recommended to use an instant-read thermometer when cooking with chilled stoneware and chilled food to ensure food temperatures reach well above 165°F and food becomes tender. Never place your stoneware (whether it has been refrigerated or is at room temperature) in a preheated slow cooker base."

How to Save and Reheat Leftovers

The best way to save leftovers? Simply transfer leftover food from the slow cooker into resealable containers and store in the refrigerator or freezer. Reheat on the stovetop, in the oven, or in the microwave in a microwave-safe dish to 165°F. We're all for doing less dishes, but safety in the kitchen still comes first.

Is Stoneware Microwave Safe?

Now, some brands have stoneware inserts that have been declared microwave safe, which means it could be possible to pop the insert into the microwave for reheating. Check with the manufacturer to see if your slow-cooker insert is microwave safe before trying this (check for the lid too—even if the insert is microwave safe, the lid may not be). The safest bet always is to transfer your food to another container instead.

When to Use a Slow Cooker for Leftovers

If you're looking to keep your leftovers hot for later, that's when the slow cooker comes in handy. After bringing your leftovers to a safe temperature in the microwave or on the stovetop, you can transfer them back to the slow cooker, with the temperature set to WARM or LOW. A slow cooker needs to be at least half full to heat evenly, so don't use this method for small portions, which could easily dry out.

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