Slow cooker cooking at high altitude

Asked December 25, 2016, 5:56 PM EST

I live at 8500 ft. How will this altitude affect recipes using a slow cooker? What temperature settings (low, medium, high) are best? Do I need to cook foods longer? Add more liquid? How about food safety?

Jefferson County Colorado food safety high altitude food preparation

1 Response

The FDA has some good guidelines for keeping our food safe when cooking at high altitudes:

In regards to slow cookers, they advise: "Always thaw food thoroughly before putting it in a slow cooker (at any altitude). Remember that when cooking at high altitudes, water boils at a lower temperature. Water is essential to slow cooking. The water and the steam conduct heat throughout the food in the slow cooker. At high altitudes, the slow cooker simmers at a lower temperature, making it more difficult for the food to reach a safe temperature and for bacteria to be destroyed. Check the manufacturer’s instructions. If your slow cooker has an adjustable temperature control, select a setting that will maintain the food at 200 °F or higher. If your slow cooker has both a high and low setting, start the food cooking on high for the first hour; then either continue to use high or turn it to the low setting for the remainder of cooking. The low setting may also be used for keeping food warm. Allow longer cooking times at high altitudes. Do not remove the lid from the slow cooker; it can take 20 minutes or longer for the lost steam and heat to be regained. It may be helpful to place aluminum foil on top of the foods being cooked in a slow cooker and under the lid. The aluminum foil will reflect the heat downward into the food. Use a food thermometer to ensure that all food in the slow cooker has reached a safe temperature of 165 °F."

Keep in mind that high altitude may extend the cooking time of your food by one hour on low for every 4,000 feet, so at 8,500 feet, you may be cooking for a little over two hours.