Transporting a slow cooker can be a pain — they're heavy, unwieldy, hot, and prone to spills. But if you've made a meal for a potluck or a dip for a tailgate, it's often easiest (and healthiest, from a food-safety standpoint) to keep the food in the slow cooker instead of transferring it to another container.
Slow cooker manufacturers heard consumers, and a few years ago started introducing latches onto their appliances to keep the lids on tight. Yay! However, this relatively new introduction led to some confusion: Are the latches just for transport, or for cooking, too?
I reached out to a spokesperson from Crock-Pot for background. The short answer is: Do NOT latch the slow cooker while it's cooking. The latches not only hold the lid in place, but they also press then lid down against extra gaskets that (when used for transport) seal the top to prevent spills. When the latches are used during cooking, the excess steam gets trapped inside the slow cooker.
Do NOT latch the slow cooker lid while the appliance is cooking.
Naturally my next question was: Will it explode? Or perhaps, will the lid pop off the slow cooker, Champagne cork-style, when you take off the latches?
No, the Crock-Pot rep said, probably not. (Phew!) There is still a vent at the top of the lid to allow some steam to escape. The main risk, really, is that by keeping more steam in your slow cooker than you want, it's going to ruin your food by trapping in too much moisture. So, if you're making something like a chili where you're hoping the liquid would burn off over time and thicken the mixture, it would stay in there instead.
The takeaway: Don't use the latches while cooking. You won't burn the house down, but you also might not get the results you were hoping for. Just use them when it's time to transport your appliance and unhook them again when you go to reheat the food.
What other slow cooker questions do you have? Leave them in the comments below and we'll try to answer them in future posts.