Slow cookers have become a beloved appliance in many kitchens, renowned for their convenience and ability to turn simple ingredients into hearty meals with minimal effort. However, a common concern among users is the safety of leaving a slow cooker unattended for extended periods. Whether you’re at work, running errands, or simply letting a meal cook overnight, understanding the safety aspects of leaving a slow cooker on its own is crucial. This document will explore the mechanisms that make slow cookers safe, offer practical tips for their unattended use, and address common misconceptions that surround this handy kitchen gadget.

Reasons to Safely Leave Your Slow Cooker On

Can Slow Cookers Be Left Unattended?

It’s safe to leave a slow cooker on when you leave the house. The purpose of a slow cooker is to allow you to cook while you aren’t home. Slow cookers simmer food slowly, killing bacteria and raising meat to the perfect internal temperature. Slow cooker recipes are often designed for an eight-hour cook so that the food is ready when you return home after a long day.

Is it safe to use a slow cooker for an extended period?

Yes, you can use your slow cooker for longer than eight hours, as long as you keep an eye on it. Many slow cookers do have an automatic shutoff after 24 hours, providing an added layer of safety. This feature ensures that even if you’re delayed, your food won’t overcook or pose a fire hazard.

Tips for Safely Using Your Slow Cooker When You’re Not Home

Select the Low Heat Setting

Using the low heat setting will ensure that the slow cooker doesn’t get too hot, which helps prevent liquids from bubbling or spilling over. The low temperature maintains a steady cooking rate, making it ideal for recipes that benefit from long, slow cooking processes. This not only enhances the flavors of the ingredients but also ensures that your meal is cooked evenly without the risk of burning or overcooking.

Maintain a Secure Environment

Make sure that nothing flammable is close enough to the slow cooker to catch light or melt onto it. This also means securing the slow cooker on the counter, tabletop, or wherever you place it. Positioning the slow cooker away from the edge is important to avoid accidents, especially if there are kids or pets around who could potentially knock it over. Safeguarding your cooking environment not only prevents hazards but also contributes to peace of mind when leaving the slow cooker unattended. It’s also vital to keep the cords clear and separate from liquids and spillages to prevent electrical hazards. Ensure that the cables are properly managed and not in a place where they could be accidentally pulled or tripped over.

Utilize a Timer

Using a timer is an essential tool for leaving your slow cooker unattended. Set the timer to the appropriate cooking time and make sure it switches off automatically once done. This will prevent your food from overcooking and also give you peace of mind knowing that your slow cooker is not left on indefinitely. The best way to do this is to use a smart plug, which allows you to program the cooking duration and remotely monitor the slow cooker through a mobile app. With a smart plug, you can even turn off the slow cooker from wherever you are, adding an extra layer of safety and convenience to your cooking routine.

Maintain Your Slow Cooker’s Cleanliness

Maintaining the cleanliness of your slow cooker is crucial for both safety and hygiene. After each use, ensure you thoroughly clean the inner pot, lid, and any other removable parts. Use mild dish soap and warm water to scrub away food residue and grease. Allow all components to dry completely before reassembling them. A clean slow cooker not only helps to prevent the buildup of bacteria and unpleasant odors but also ensures that your appliance functions efficiently. Regularly inspecting and cleaning your slow cooker can also help you spot any potential issues early, extending the lifespan of your appliance.

Other Appliances Designed to Be Left On

Just like slow cookers, several other appliances are designed to be left on for extended periods to enhance convenience and maintain essential home functions.


Refrigerators are essential kitchen appliances that are designed to run continuously to keep food fresh and prevent spoilage. They operate by cycling on and off to maintain a consistent internal temperature, ensuring perishable items are stored safely.

Hot Water Heater

Hot water heaters are another critical appliance that many people leave on full-time. They work by maintaining a reservoir of hot water, ensuring that you have a ready supply for showers, washing dishes, and other household needs. Modern hot water heaters often have energy-efficient settings to conserve power while still providing hot water as needed.


Furnaces are designed to keep homes warm during the colder months, operating for long periods to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. Many systems have programmable thermostats that allow homeowners to set specific heating schedules, ensuring efficiency and comfort without constant manual adjustments.

Air Conditioner

Air conditioners, particularly central air systems, are meant to be left on to manage the indoor climate, especially during hot weather. They help to regulate temperature and humidity, enhancing comfort and air quality. Most air conditioning systems are equipped with thermostats to help maintain the desired temperature efficiently.

Garage Door Opener

While not necessarily “on” in the traditional sense, garage door openers are plugged in and ready to operate whenever needed. They provide the convenience of remotely opening and closing your garage door, improving home security and accessibility.

These appliances, like slow cookers, are built with safety mechanisms that enable them to function continuously or whenever required without posing significant risks.