Slow cookers and crockpots are an easy and convenient way to cook food. However, although commonly used, this cookware can be a fire hazard. When you leave your slow cooker on too long, temperatures can rise to dangerous levels. Not only can the handles melt, but a fire can start. While crockpots are a great tool to have in the kitchen, it’s important to not take them for granted.
How a Slow Cooker Fire Starts
The most common way a slow cooker fire starts is when the grease drips onto the heating element of the pot and catches on fire. Other ways a fire may start are from over filling the pot, using too high heat, and leaving the crockpot unattended.
How Bad Can a Slow Cooker Fire Be?
Cooking is the number-one cause of U.S. home fires. According to a study by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), between the years of 2011 and 2015, “an annual average of 70 cooking fires involving slow cookers resulted in two civilian injuries, no deaths, and $3.3 million in direct property damage”. From these statistics, the chances of a fire starting from your slow cooker or crockpot are slim, but possible.
Once a slow cooker fire occurs in your kitchen though, the damage can be equivalent to an oven fire. The heat and flames from the unit and outlet can spread to the walls, cabinets—affecting the entire kitchen. Since these kitchen tools are plug-in’s, your overall electrical system may be affected as well.
Even after the fire is out, damage can continue to impact the rest of the house. Soot, smoke stains, and mold can spread throughout the rest of your home. At this level of severity, contacting fire cleanup and restoration services would be needed.
Ways to Avoid a Slow Cooker Fire
Slow cooker fires are rare but can be extremely dangerous and damaging. Following safety precautions and keeping your slow cooker in top condition can help avoid this scenario.
Slow cooker usage safety:
- Inspect the plug to assure it is not frayed or broken
- Keep the slow cooker away from the edge of the counter and away from the wall
- Use the right amount of heat and food/liquid when making your meal—following the manufacturer's user guide
- Filling one-half to three-quarters is recommended on most models
- Avoid leaving flammable materials such as paper and dish towels nearby
- Have someone keep an eye on the slow cooker if you need to leave the house
- Replace your slow cooker if it has an electric cord surrounded by fabric, it does not meet today’s safety standards
- Keep the slow cooker unplugged while not in use
- Be sure your smoke detector is in good working condition
Can Slow Cookers be Left on Overnight?
Yes, as long as the crockpot is in good shape, alarms are set, and smoke detectors throughout your house are working properly. Reading the instructions for your specific model can also let you know how long it can be left on and plugged in.
Can I Leave the House with My Slow Cooker On?
In general, yes, if the cooker is set on a flat surface away from flammable objects, filled properly, and kept at a low temperature. Recipes with a low heat requirement and long cooking time are okay. Recipes running on a high heat should be saved for when you can stay at home.
Can I Leave a Slow Cooker on for 24 Hours?
Most crockpot recipes call for cooking times between six to eight hours. There are also new models programmable with 24-hours cooking instructions and automatic shut off systems. Never operate your slow cooker outside its recommended temperatures and cooking times.Taking care of your slow cooker and monitoring it throughout usage can prevent disastrous kitchen fires. By following manufacturer recommendations and best practices, you can safely enjoy the convenience of crockpot cooking.