What could be nicer than coming home on a cold winter’s day than to be greeted by the inviting smells of chicken noodle soup, chilli or beef stew?

A slow cooker can be a wonderful helper in the kitchen. Instead of wondering what to eat for dinner with the family five minutes before you eat it, a slow cooker can save you time by planning ahead and making life more comfortable. Using a slow cooker also uses less electricity than using an oven.

The slow cooker heats food slowly at a low temperature – generally between 170 and 280 degrees Fahrenheit. The low heat helps it stay less expensive, leaner cuts of meat become tender and less shrinky. The direct heat from the pot, the long cooking time and the steam generated in the tightly sealed container all together destroy bacteria and make the slow cooker a safe process for making food. This is much safer than cooking food in a traditional oven at a very low temperature for long periods of time.

Here are some common questions about using a slow cooker:

Question: I put my meat in the slow cooker and then forgot to turn it on. It was off for 6 hours before I discovered it. If I cook it, does it destroy bacteria and make it safe?

Reply: Unfortunately, even if you cook the meat, the meat is not safe. Perishable foods that are left in the “hazard zone” (between 40 ° F and 140 ° F) for more than 2 hours should be discarded, even if they may look and smell good.