Thanks to the sealed chamber, slow cooking your food is an excellent way to retain the nutrients in your meals. We’ll start by talking about what slow cookers are commonly made from, and you may be surprised at the toxins your slow cooker leaches into your food.
Learning whether your slow cooker is harmful to your health may depend on where and what type of appliance you have. Although you may not notice any adverse symptoms immediately, like with food poisoning, toxic chemicals can take time to rear their ugly heads.
Lead is a neurotoxin heavy metal and is sometimes used in the glaze coating ceramic crackpots before they’re baked in the kiln. Although most high temperatures burn out the toxins, the ceramic can absorb the lead and add it to your weeknight dinners.
Although this heavy metal is less common in 20th-century products, food is the most likely source of cadmium exposure for non-smokers (10). The worst effect of long-term exposure to cadmium is full-blown kidney damage, but you may also see an increase in bone fractures and other issues (10).
Some people also want to try lining the crackpot with plastic or tin foil to make the cleaning process easier later. Mercury, commonly found in seafood, may also reach other foods in your slow cooker in specific recipes.
Studies link mercury exposure health risks, especially to kids and pregnant or nursing mothers, as adults tend to fall under low-risk (10). The Environmental Working Group marks lead as a 10/10 in terms of toxicity, with strong health concerns for human reproductive and developmental issues as well as cancer (1).
The poisonous effects are worse for children, who absorb more toxins and nutrients in proportion to their body weight than adults. A single serving of food made with toxic cookware won’t immediately kill you, but small amounts of the toxin can build up and become lead poisoning, which then causes an array of neurological issues.
In kids, lead poisoning is linked to learning disabilities, lower IQ scores, and developmental delays (2). You probably won’t know if you have lead poisoning until the toxins build up in your body, and the blood reaches dangerous levels.
Babies may be born prematurely, grow slowly, or have a low birth weight. Adults and kids may feel irritable, tired, sluggish, and have headaches or abdominal pain (3).
If you, regardless of age, feel weak and experience abdominal discomfort, you might suffer from lead poisoning. Kids may show behavioral issues, learning disabilities, and cognitive development in the early stages.
There is also limited evidence that lead is a probable human carcinogen toxic to the blood, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, liver, respiratory system, and sense organs. Depending on where you live, you may also increase your blood lead level by using tap water.
Another huge issue with using slow cookers are the liners designed to make cleanup fast and straightforward. Although they’re highly convenient for storing leftovers and cleanup, crackpot liners contain harmful plastics (BPA, BPS, or TPP) that are nearly as dangerous.
Most crackpot liners are made from a heat-resistant nylon resin, which studies show contain chemicals like: All plastic containers are dangerous, but the main problem with crackpot liners is the heat.
When the ceramic heats to around 78 degrees F, the appliance begins to release ten times the amount of lead than you may see when it’s at room temperature (6). Nylon resin, like plastic, contains chemical components that affect all food that comes in contact with the material.
You could also tear the liner with a fork or knife, or spatter the hot liquid as you spoon it out (5). Heavy metals like lead are often found in the glaze coating the ceramic pieces.
Use them to test any surface in your home, from slow cookers and other kitchen appliances to wood or drywall. However, it’s crucial to remember that lead levels change as the appliance heats, so your reading may not be wholly accurate.
Your lead test’s reading still doesn’t fully guarantee safety from the chemicals leaching into your food. Avoid Lead Slowpokes Look for a crackpot with lead-free glaze and some sort of proof to back up the claim.
Even if the slow cooker claims to meet the FDA’s requirements, it may not accurately explain the severity of your exposure to lead. Products made in China, especially crackpots, are much more likely to use lead glaze in cooking items because the country has fewer regulations on chemical contamination.
Likewise, some states have stricter laws on warning labels and toxin ingredients. California’s Prop 65, for example, calls for warning labels on products with much lower amounts of lead and other harmful chemicals than the FDA requires.
This means a slow cooker that can pass Prop 65 leaches less than 1 milliliter of led (7), which is a much safer way to know the amount of lead than FDA mandates right now. Look for Prop 65 labels for safer slow cookers, particularly if you live or buy appliances from California.
Clay, glass, cast iron, or stainless steel slow cookers are the best options. Glass, for example, comes with no risk of lead exposure and is a great alternative material for glazed ceramic.
Cuisinart claims all their options are lead-free slow cooker 2019 products, while Vita Clay makes an excellent organic clay crackpot that’s 99.99% lead-free. The double-lid design Vita Clay offers makes it my favorite non- toxic slow cooker because it cooks the food faster and saves energy compared to regular options on the market today.
Acidic foods contain a pH balance of below 4.6 (where 7 is neutral) and absorb lead faster, so avoid citrus fruits (8). Fatty foods also absorb chemicals from the liner faster because they increase the temperature of the appliance, and you can combat this by cutting off any extra fat from meat or avoiding them in your crackpot meals altogether.
You should also keep food safe by avoiding red kidney beans, as they contain natural toxins that grow when cooked at low temperatures like a slow cooker. However, no food is safe from lead exposure in a slow cooker with ceramic glaze.
Increased energy Better digestion Increased nutrient absorption Rejuvenated skin and bones Fewer hunger cravings Decrease in allergies Reduced inflammation and pain Aid with skin issues, arthritis, and infectious disease Faster recovery from illness or surgery Recovery from autoimmune and digestive disorders Temperatures between 170-280 degrees F are ideal for cooking over several hours to prevent bacteria and toxins from your food.
Now that you know what foods to cook and which material to avoid, you can make healthy, non- toxic choices for your entire household. If you have kids, it’s essential that you check what toxins could be hiding in your slow cooker and other kitchen appliances.
While slow cookers are a fantastic way to create delicious meals with minimal to no effort, there have been a lot of concerns surrounding the possibility of contracting food poisoning. This food safety concern primarily comes in the form of internet warnings around salmonella poisoning and botulism.
While lead is a naturally occurring heavy metal, it is also a toxic one that has a low melting point and can cause some severe illnesses if ingested. In children, lead can impact brain development, cause behavioral disorders and mental retardation.
Almost all mass-produced slow cookers are marked as safe in so long as there is no chipping, cracking, or haziness to the glaze. If your slow cooker is an older model, it is suggested that you do not leave food in it overnight.
So, if you have a programmable slow cooker, make sure to have it set accordingly for the amount of time you will be leaving it unattended for. Food cannot last for longer than 2 hours at room temperature before bacteria growth starts.
If you find that your slow cooker has shut off during the night or has been unplugged accidentally and has been sitting for longer than an hour or two at room temperature, do not eat. If you do choose to leave food in the slow cooker overnight, do not place on the “keep warm” setting.
Once you are done eating your food, any leftovers that you have should be placed into the fridge or freezer within two hours of being cooked. Cool the leftovers on the countertop down to about room temperature before placing them into the fridge or freezer for storage purposes.
Instead, reheat your food in a microwave, on the stove top, or in the oven until it reaches at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. While it is not advised to do so, there is no reason why you cannot store your slow cooker or Crackpot in the fridge with food in it either before or after cooking.
You can prepare all of your food the night before, place it in your slow cooker and then store in the fridge before cooking in the morning. If you notice that the glaze is cracking on your crackpot or slow cooker because you are putting it into the fridge, immediately stop.
You do not want to risk any type of food or potential lead poisoning from the damaged glaze. You may run into an issue with food spoilage depending on what recipes you are leaving in your slow cooker, in the fridge.
Other than this, always preheat your slow cooker before adding in ingredients, as this shortens the time that foods are in the temperature danger zone.