Can Your Crock-Pot Really Catch on Fire?
If you’re a fan of NBC’s This Is Us, the most recent episode may have you questioning how safe your Crock-Pot or slow cooker is.
Spoiler alert: This Is Us fans have been waiting since season 1 to find out the tragic circumstances around Jack’s death, and now we may know why. The episode takes place on Super Bowl Sunday, and Rebecca makes chili in an old Crock-Pot slow cooker that was gifted to her and Jack.
As the day ends, Jack cleans up the kitchen and turns off the Crock-Pot. But—as we saw from one of the show’s flashbacks—the switch is defective. The slow cooker turns itself back on, causing an electrical short to spark a nearby towel.
The flames quickly become an inferno, catching the house on fire. And in a previous episode, viewers saw the Pearson’s smoke detector was missing its batteries—obviously not a good combination.
Which brings us to an important question: The This Is Us Crock-Pot fire scene is every home cook’s worst nightmare—but how likely is it to happen? While rare, it’s not impossible.
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In a phone interview with Cooking Light, Crock-Pot customer service said it's safe to leave your slow cooker unattended on a low setting for several hours—even if you're not at home.
Their FAQ section confirms this. "Crock-Pot® Slow Cookers are safe for countertop cooking for extended periods of time. If holding food on the warm setting for a long time, cut back on the cook time accordingly to reduce overcooking."
That being said, it’s always best to follow safety precautions. Crock-Pot recommends filling your slow cooker between one-half and three-quarters and placing your unit on a hard, flat surface. It’s also important to keep the power cord away from the edges of surface areas.
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However, if your Crock-Pot is as old as Jack and Rebecca's, you may want to think twice before leaving it unattended.
Stephanie O'Dea, New York Times best-selling cookbook author and slow-cooking expert told NBC News, “If your slow cooker is old enough to have an electric cord surrounded by fabric, it’s time to toss it. Fabric cords do not meet today’s safety standards and are a fire hazard.”
The bottom line: The chance of your Crock-Pot setting itself on fire is very small, but it’s always better to err on the safe side. And the most important thing? Make sure your smoke alarm is working.