# Do I need to adjust slow cooker recipes for high altitude?

I live at a high altitude and love to use my slow cooker, but I don't think the meals are coming out as expected when I follow the recipes. Do I need to adjust the recipes for high altitudes?

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Welcome to Stack Exchange cooking! – Derrick Boudwin Apr 8 '12 at 4:36
Thanks! This should be fun. – challen Apr 10 '12 at 2:52

It really depends on the length of time recommended. Due to the usual long length (>4 hours) of slow-cooker recipe cook times most elevation differences would be negligible. However if a recipe calls for a cook time of less than 4 hours you may see some foods not cooking as usual. Legumes might especially be sensitive to this as they take a very long time to cook completely. Below is a table from Wikipedia on elevation vs water boiling temperatures.

Altitude, m Boiling point of water, °C

(0ft) 100 (212°F)

(984.25ft) 99.1 (210.3°F)

(1968.5ft) 98.1 (208.5°F)

(3280.8ft) 96.8 (206.2°F)

(6561.68ft) 93.3 (199.9°F)

(13123.36ft) 87.3 (189.1°F)

(19685.04ft) 81.3 (178.3°F)

(26246.72ft) 75.5 (167.9°F)

You may need to experiment with longer cook times for foods that you are having trouble with.

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I imagine this depends a lot on what you're cooking. I have no idea how temperature-dependent various cooking processes are, but I could imagine breakdown of connective tissue being completely different from softening legumes. – Jefromi Apr 10 '12 at 4:54
A slow cooker ideally does not boil its contents, so I'm not sure why the boiling point would be relevant (well, until you get high enough that the water does boil, but that looks like ~15k feet from your table) – derobert Apr 10 '12 at 12:14

The first adjustment you can make for altitude is to cook something to a desired internal temperature rather than just "time and temperature". Your pot roast is done at an internal temperature of 160°F regardless of your altitude.

Internal temperatures for various meats. Always use a meat thermometer.

Ground Meat and Meat Mixtures:

Ground beef, pork, veal, lamb -- 160°F Ground turkey, chicken -- 165°F

Fresh Beef, Veal, Lamb:

Medium rare -- 145°F Medium -- 160°F Well Done -- 170°F

Poultry:

Chicken & Turkey, whole -- 180°F Poultry breasts, roast -- 170°F Poultry thighs, wings, legs -- 180°F Duck & Goose -- 180°F Stuffing (cooked alone or in bird) -- 165°F

Fresh Pork:

Medium -- 160°F Well Done -- 170°F

Ham:

Fresh (raw) -- 160°F Pre-cooked (to reheat) -- 140°F

Eggs & Egg Dishes:

Eggs -- Cook until yolk & white are firm Egg dishes -- 150°F Leftovers & Casseroles -- 165°F

The real impact of a 'low and slow' technique is that at altitude your liquid will evaporate more quickly at the same temp, since that liquid is a heat transfer medium for most slow cooking, you will need more of it. You should add more water at the beginning or be prepared to add more water throughout the cooking time.

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Does adding more water apply to recipes that don't call for it? – challen Apr 9 '12 at 1:34
Does the recipe call for another liquid? (Do you have an example?) Regardless, the internal temp would apply, the liquid is just a medium. – Cos Callis Apr 9 '12 at 2:32
This doesn't make sense to me. Slow cooking is rarely about internal temperature - I believe even large cuts of meat essentially reach the same temperature as the surrounding liquid well before they're done. It's about, well, slowly cooking: for meats, slowly breaking down connective tissue; for beans, slowly cooking until soft... – Jefromi Apr 10 '12 at 4:53
Cooking is always about raising the internal temperature. DONE is when it is 'the right temperature' Slow cooking is just using a vessel and heat source that slow that process down so that other things happen at the same (or 'over the same') time. "Low and slow" will allow for effects like the breaking down of connective tissues in meats, absorption of liquids (and often flavors) into beans. If you allow the beans to soak at room temp they will eventually get 'soft'. My point to OP is that if you monitor internal temp you factor out the effects of altitude except for the loss of liquid. – Cos Callis Apr 10 '12 at 20:09