Is It Really OK to Leave Your Slow Cooker on All Day?

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

You wouldn’t leave the oven or stove on when you leave the house to run errands or head to the office, so why is the slow cooker an exception? Is it really OK to leave it on all day on your kitchen counter when no one is home?

People do this all the time, but many aren’t truly confident that it’s 100 percent safe — I, for one, am one of those people. So I did a little digging to get the hard facts. The truth is, yes, leaving the slow cooker on and going about your day is safe, as long as you are using the appliance properly. Here are some helpful safety tips.

1. Set it on a heatproof surface.

Be mindful of where the slow cooker is hanging out all day. A wooden table or countertop isn’t completely heatproof. Instead place it on a granite or tiled surface. You can also place a trivet underneath for added protection.

2. Pull it away from the wall.

The majority of the heat in a slow cooker is coming from its sides, so you want to give it plenty of room to breathe. Keep it at least six inches away from any wall or other object. Also be sure to keep the power cord away from the edges of the appliance.

3. Fill it properly.

Always be sure the slow cooker is filled one-half to three-quarters of the way with ingredients. You don’t want it to be so full that it will overflow, but you also don’t want to run the risk of all of the liquid evaporating if there’s not enough. That also means keeping the lid on tightly the entire time.

4. Keep it on low.

If you’re planning on being out of the house while the slow cooker is running, choose a recipe that calls for the appliance to be on low heat and cooking for a long time, about eight hours or so. Recipes that run at high heat should be saved for when you’re in the house, since not only will the slow cooker be hotter, but the dish will also finish cooking faster.