Wondering if you can leave food in a slow cooker overnight? It is a common practice, but is it safe to do so? The answer is yes and no. In this article, we will discuss the risks associated with leaving food in a slow cooker overnight and what you need to know to keep your family safe.

Slow cookers are great for busy families, but there are a few safety tips for using your slow cooker properly.

4 different types of slow cookers and the words slow cooker safety questions and answers

By following these safety tips, you can make sure that your slow-cooked meat and other dishes are perfectly cooked the first time and that leftovers are safely stored for the next day.

After you learn the safest way to prepare meals in your slow cooker, be sure and try my 5 Ingredient Crock Pot Soup, How To Make Navy Bean Soup, and my reader’s favorite, Marry Me Chicken In A Slow Cooker.

If you are in the mood for snacks using your crockpot, then be sure to make Slow Cooker Chex Mix and a southern favorite, Crock Pot Boiled Peanuts.

Does meat get more tender the longer it cooks in a slow cooker?

woman eating tough meat on a fork

No, not if you use a leaner cut of meat in the slow cooker, such as chicken breast or pork chops. Reduce the cooking time to 2-4 hours to help preserve the moisture in these slices.

Can you overcook in a slow cooker?

woman covering her mouth looking sick with thought bubble, can you overcook in a slow cooker?

Although slow cookers are made specifically to cook food for extended periods of time, if something is left on the wrong setting for a longer period of time than it should be, you can still overcook it.

What happens if you slow cook too long?

When the temperature ranges between 40 and 140 degrees F, bacteria begin to multiply. Because of this, if you leave food out too long after it has finished cooking and the temperature hasn’t been maintained due to frequent lid opening and closing, the food may rot.

Can I leave a slow cooker on for 24 hours?

lady sleeping with thought bubble, can i leave a slow cooker on for 24 hours safely

On the warm setting, most appliances will turn themselves off after around 20 hours. Still, you shouldn’t cook food in a slow cooker for an extended period of time. The maximum amount of time you should leave food in a slow cooker on warm is often two to four hours.

Can I Leave Food In A Slow Cooker Overnight?

It’s simple to prepare your food in advance if you have to leave for work and the morning is hectic. The night before, prepare your ingredients and brown any meat that needs to be done. Then combine broths, veggies and cooked meats in the slow cooker dish, cover it, and refrigerate overnight.

Then the next morning, you can put your slow cooker on with its programmable settings and have it cook for you while you’re at work.

Raw Meat In a Slow Cooker Safty Tip

If you want to make your recipe the night before and keep it in the fridge to cook in the morning, do not put raw meat in the crockpot and refrigerate. Wait until you are ready to start cooking to add any raw meat. This will help prevent salmonella.

How to safely store leftover slow cooker recipes

🆒 Cool Down Quickly

When storing leftovers, make sure to cool them down quickly. Put the food in shallow containers and store it in the refrigerator as soon as possible.

⏱ Room Temperature Under Two Hours

It’s best not to leave food at room temperature for more than two hours. If you have a lot of leftovers, freeze them in airtight containers or bags to reduce bacteria growth and ensure safe storage.

⏳ Avoid Leaving Food On Warm To Long

To ensure your slow cooker meal is cooked properly and doesn’t contain harmful bacteria, always remember that it’s best to avoid leaving food in a slow cooker on warm for more than 8 hours.

🌡 Food Must Stay Below 40 Degrees F

When cooking on the low setting, such as when using a crock pot overnight setting, be mindful that the food must stay below 40 degrees F for optimal safety.

📆 Don’t Use An Old Slow Cooker

For longer cooking times, use a newer model programmable slow cooker so that you can adjust the cooking temperature and length of time. This will help reduce your food safety concerns while still allowing you to prepare delicious meals with minimal effort.

🌡 Use A Kitchen Thermometer

Finally, when in doubt, use a thermometer to ensure the food is cooked to its safe internal temperature before eating. The USDA provides general recommendations on minimum temperatures for different types of food. See my favorite recommendation below.

🎖Safe Temperatures For Slow-Cooker Food

Generally speaking, hot food should remain hot (above 140°F), and cold foods should remain cold (below 40°F). Foods held between 40 and 140°F can quickly become contaminated with bacteria to the point where you or your guests may become ill.

General Recommendations For Safe Meal Preparation

Safety Tip #1

When preparing your favorite slow-cooker recipes, you want to make sure to do so the safe way. The general rule of thumb for safely cooking with a slow cooker is to always maintain the correct temperature range and ensure that foods are cooked for the recommended time.

Safety Tip #2

Keep in mind that raw meat needs to be cooked at a higher temperature than other types of food, and make sure there is enough liquid in your slow cooker so that it doesn’t burn or get too hot.

Safety Tip #3

Additionally, try not to open the lid while slow cooking, as this can cause abrupt changes in temperature, which can lead to foodborne illness.

Safety Tip #4

Finally, use a thermometer to check the internal temperatures of any meat dishes you prepare when they finish cooking. Following these few simple steps will help you enjoy delicious home-cooked meals without worrying about food poisoning!

I have used this meat thermometer for over 10 years. I have only changed the batteries a few times. I like that it tells me exactly what temperature meats should be.

What can not be cooked overnight in a crock pot?

pasta, couscus, rice and diary with text avoid cooking these food to long in a slow cooker

Some meals should not be cooked too long in a slow cooker that has pasta, couscous, rice, noodles, and creamy recipes like potatoes au gratin. These types of foods usually become pasty, mushy, and unappetizing if cooked too long in a slow cooker.

They are also far more prone to becoming contaminated with bacteria if left cooking for hours on end.

Some dairy products tend to curdle when you add them to a slow cook that has a lot of liquid. This makes for an unpleasant texture. If you use dairy in your slow cooker then choose recipes that are thick such as Cracker Barrel Cheesy Hash Brown Crockpot Recipe.

💡TIP: To avoid problems with pasta, couscous, rice, noodles, and some dairy, add them after the majority of your recipe’s cooking time is over.

Best meals in a slow cooker overnight

Some meals are great for cooking at longer periods of time in a slow cooker, such as a pot roast, beef stew, or whole chicken.

These types of meals typically benefit from longer cooking times and develop more flavor as the ingredients slowly simmer together overnight. If you cook a meal over night and it seems watery, be sure and read Tips For How To Thicken Chili In A Slow Cooker.

Be sure to keep an eye on these types of dishes so that they don’t overcook and become dry. Also, make sure to take food safety measures such as using a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of any meat dishes before eating.


In conclusion, it is possible to leave food safely in a crockpot overnight. However, it’s a good idea to use a programmable slow cooker with digital timer features so that you can set a maximum length of time for cooking.

Also, make sure the food reaches the safe temperature zone while avoiding the danger zone where bacteria growth thrives.

Finally, store leftovers in airtight containers and refrigerate them as soon as possible for best results. With this advice in mind, you can enjoy delicious home-cooked meals with minimal worry.

You will get to savor delicious dishes with ease and confidence! Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Recipes