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The recipes I have read call for 3 hours on Low temp, then 1.5 - 2 hours on High.

Do I start the timer as soon as I turn on the crockpot, or let the crockpot come up to temp before starting the timer?

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Generally speaking crock pot recipes require preheating the empty pot (for how long depends on the model, but it can be as much as half an hour, and usually on high even if cooking on low). This isn't included in the cooking time. Then the time normally starts when you put the food in, at the temperature specified in the recipe.

If you don't have time to fully preheat you can generally start with hot ingredients, and add the preheating time to the cooking time - the contents will cool at first, but not dangerously so. In this case, with the unusual process of starting low then turning on to high, I wouldn't do that.

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This is probably covered in the manual for your crockpot (if you bought your crockpot used, without a manual, or no longer have your manual, they are often available online for download), but in general you fill the room temperature crock with cold, room temperature, or partly pre-cooked food and follow the times given in the recipe without any preheating of the crockpot before or after adding food.

Most manuals I have seen, including this random Rival manual, caution against preheating either the base or the crock.

If the stoneware has been preheated or is hot to the touch, do not put in cold foods. Do not preheat Crock-Pot® slow cooker before using unless specified in the recipe. The stoneware should be at room temperature before adding hot foods.

Manuals also tend to note that a wide variation in times is possible.

This is due to voltage variations which are commonplace everywhere; altitude; or even extreme humidity. The slight fluctuations in power do not have a noticeable effect on most appliances; however, it can slightly alter the cooking times. Allow plenty of time, and remember, it is practically impossible to overcook. You will learn through experience whether to decrease or increase cooking times.

In some slow cookers, such as the Crock-Pot, the difference between low and high is the speed of getting up to temperature, not the maximum temperature, which is the same for both settings.

Crockpot™ Slow Cookers reach the simmer point and stabilize on both "High" and "Low" at about 209°F.

Your particular make and device may vary, of course. But in general you will use the times given without any extra preheating, and then verify on your own that the food is ready for whatever purpose you are creating it.

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