Can Crockpots and Slow Cookers Get Too Hot?


I've cooked with a crockpot (slow cooker) all of my life. I have fond memories of my mother putting together oatmeal in the crock the night before the first day of school. I was surprised to learn a few important safety things about this hard-working kitchen appliance.

The timing of this article happens to coincide with a PR nightmare for the Crock Pot company. On the popular NBC TV series, This Is Us, the character Jack meets his demise due to a faulty switch on a Crock Pot. Good Housekeeping assures the public that "the chance of a slow cooker setting your house on fire is extremely slim.

Note: the terms "crockpot" and "slow cooker" are used interchangeably on this website. Crock-Pot® is a registered trademark of the Newell Brands Company.

Other articles in this series:

Is a crockpot/slow cooker supposed to get hot on the outside?

It's natural for someone to get freaked out when they encounter a hot crockpot/slow cooker. Just like overheated laptops or cars, we get worried. We wonder if we have a fire hazard on our hands.

A crockpot or slow cooker gets hot on the outside because of the design of the appliance. The heating source wraps around the cooking liner, providing even heat that surrounds the cooking vessel. The outside of most crockpot/slow cookers are made of metal, which as an excellent conductor of heat, resulting in a hot outside surface.

FYI, just for fun, I think I am going to saw in two my next dead crockpot. It would be fun to see what's in there. My understanding is that there is a liner with heated band in the base unit; this band transfers heat to the interior cooking vessel, travels across the bottom and up the sides so all parts of the food are cooked evenly.

crockpot slow cooker collection

My crockpot/slowcooker collection

Do crockpots get hot on the bottom?

I know exactly what you are thinking. You're worried about the bottom of your crockpot or slow cooker getting so hot it is going to damage your kitchen countertop.

Crockpots and slow cookers get hot on the bottom because a heated electric band runs across the bottom, as well as the sides. A crockpot or slow cooker bottom encased in plastic, or an insulated metal bottom will prevent damage to surfaces and prevent burn injury to the person using it. Some crockpots or slow cookers may prove to have extremely hot external surfaces on the bottom.

I know this because I just plugged in five slow cookers and tested them. Truth be told, I don't know how old any of them are, I would say 5-12 years old or more. Somewhere I had read that your crockpot can get hotter with age and not be as efficient as it was when you first purchased it. All I can say is the 1 qt. Rival Crock-ette was pretty darn hot! I wonder if that's because it's small size (there is 2/3 water in all of the slow cookers that I plugged in).

Does a crockpot heat from the sides?

The Hamilton Beach Slow Cooker FAQ site explains that crockpots/slow cookers start at the base heating up and then heat the sides:

"The three main pieces – the base, crock and lid – work together to create an even heat. The heat starts in the base, where the coils are located, and rises up to the crock. Because most slow cooker crocks are made of heavy stoneware, glazed ceramic, or even nonstick aluminum they absorb heat all over. Finally, the lid keeps heat and steam trapped inside, which helps the slow cooker reach and maintain cooking temperature. The lid continually captures steam and returns the moisture to the food, almost like a built-in baster."

Most crockpot / slow cookers have ceramic/stoneware inside vessels. Stoneware does an excellent job keeping heat constant - it has even since ancient times. In fact, the idea for the original Crock Pot came from Lithuania. The Jewish community, when observing the Sabbath, refrained from cooking during that time. Stone crocks of food were successfully left to cook in a heated stone oven, ready to eat when needed.

Can I buy a crockpot that doesn't get hot on the outside?

If you have small children in the house, pets, or elderly persons in the home and you are probably concerned about a hot-to-the-touch crockpot. Chances are, you have already looked for a crockpot that doesn't get hot on the outside.

Finding a cool-to-the-touch crockpot is a challenge. You would think that manufacturers would have an answer to this by now.

Never fear, there are some versions of a slow cooker or crockpot that can offer more protection from contact heat issues. NOTE: some companies claim a crockpot or slow cooker is cool to the touch - but it's not. It's only the handle that "protects" a person from getting burned. It's rather silly, because obviously the exterior of the crockpot/ slow cooker is still readily exposed.

The solutions for crockpots that don't get hot on the outside are usually specialty cookers and/or combination multicookers. Check out the crockpot and slow cooker offerings below and you will see what I mean.

Presto Nomad Traveling Slow Cooker

I just happened to see this traveling slow cooker model at my local farm and home store a few days ago. It's not the first time I've heard of it. In fact, I've been trying to figure out if I need one, it looks so cool!

The Presto Nomad traveling cookers are encased with heavy plastic. The Presto company points out that it is a "picnic basket" style design - the easy-carry-handle with locking lid is easy to transport. It even has a whiteboard section on the front to label what's inside.

This is really geared for a catering business, tail gaiting, meals-on-the-go, or if you attend a lot of potlucks. I'm really struggling to justify this purchase. I take meals out to my guys in the field on our Iowa farm. The meals are mostly individual servings, it's not often we are all out in the field eating together. It wouldn't makes sense for me to haul it for that.

Let me point out that this slow cooker has an 87% rating on Amazon. That is high. Customers are so in love with this product. Comments include, "easy to carry" "well thought out product" "doesn't spill a drop when transporting" "easy to clean".

Regarding the "easy to clean" comment, the liner is made of a nonstick material. Nonstick is easy to clean, and lightweight, thus a good material for a portable slow cooker. Some people don't care for nonstick, I've cooked loads of meals in my nonstick slow cooker with no problems. I;ll point out that slow cookers with traditional, ceramic liners are heavy to carry.

It's mostly rosy, but I don't want to mislead you. There were some big concerns that the product melted when in use or didn't cook well. Since this is 1% of the users, they must have gotten a lemon. No one wants that, but judging on the enthusiastic customer reviews, it is a tempting product.

Do not get confused and think that the Presto Nomad plugs into the car's cigarette lighter and cooks the meal as you travel 6-8 hours. It doesn't work that way. You cook the meal in the slow cooker at home and then transport it. There really is not any product that can cook in your car, unless it is tiny. The draw on the car's battery would be too much.

I'm a 6-qt crockpot gal. Old farmwives find it almost impossible to do anything small-scale after quantity cooking their whole lives! However, crockpots should be sized to the amount of food - that is when they are most efficient. Empty nesters may not need the big crockpots or slow cookers they had when they were raising their families.

Other cool touch slow cookers

I hesitate to recommend any "cool touch" slow cookers. I am just not impressed with what I see. Out of curiosity, I just plugged in all of the five crockpots/slow cookers that I own. They were all pretty hot to the touch, except one: The GE Digital Slow Cooker Model 169200. 

GE-slow-cooker-model-169200-protection-hot-surface

Example of a slow cooker with thick, plastic exterior that provided (almost) cool-to-touch feature (no longer available).

Unfortunately, I don't think GE makes this model anymore. This particular one was only offered through Walmart. It is encased in a fat layer of plastic. The front panel is metal where the digital controls are and runs a little warmer than the sides. I noticed in the reviews one person didn't like it because it was a nonstick liner (they were a stoneware purist).

I've used this nonstick slow cooker and slow cookers with stoneware liners -both worked well. I would recommend the GE as a cool touch slow cooker solution in a heartbeat if I could find an active link.

If you come across a cool touch slow cooker, it probably performs multiple functions. I never was a fan of any multicooker device. The Aroma Steam/Cooker puts a heavy emphasis on steaming rice, not the function of slow cooking. Immediately, I was suspicious. There was hardly any mention of using it as a slow cooker.

It seems multicookers can do one thing well, and other features are secondary. I would rather buy the right device for the right job from the start. I might acquire a few extra small appliances on my pantry shelves, but I don't care. It's a quality issue for me; there is no room in my kitchen for substandard appliances.

In Conclusion

Someday, I can only hope, that more safe choices for crockpots and slow cookers will appear. I will happily add the winning slow cooker to this website when it does! If you know or use one, please leave in the comments below.

About the author 

Renee Matt

Renee is a former kitchen designer, home remodeling enthusiast (having lived through several DIY projects), and an Iowa farmwife. Renee is passionate about preparedness, garden skills, and knowing where her food comes from. Years of being a stay-at-home mom and supporting the family farm with hearty meals has been key to Renee's pantry readiness. She uses her professional IT background and expertise to bring the Everything Pantry website to life.

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