So I am making a pot roast in a slow cooker. There is a lot of food mass mass in it, so it takes my slow cooker a decent amount of time to get to simmering/boiling. When the recipe calls for 4 hours, is that 4 hours at boiling? In other words, do I need to get it to boil first, before I start the timer?

  • You should consider using better processes to have the food hotter before turning the job of taking it from cold to hot over to a slow cooker, for one thing...
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Jul 2 at 2:29

2 Answers 2


As well as I can tell, most recipes are assuming that you’re using mostly room temperature ingredients other than the meat. And the crock is at room temperature (vs. assembling everything the night before in the crock, then putting that in the fridge). But it does not include extra time for pre-heating unless they specifically mention it.

Slow cookers are a rather imprecise cooking method. Many just put out a constant amount of power, rather than attempt to hit a constant temperature. As such, using the wrong sized cooker than what the recipe was designed for can result in a bad result (such as the liquid boils off in a larger cooker with more surface area and heat input)

A good slow cooker recipe will specifically mention what size cooker to use, and may give slightly different times for other sizes.

I personally prefer to start my slow cooker on high to get it up to temperature, and then switch it over to low if that’s what the recipe calls for. You can also brown the meat on the stovetop while everything else is coming up to heat, so it’s also warmed up (and using two heat sources to heat everything more quickly).

  • I recently saw a slow cooker that had two timers on it… I assume so you could tell it to cook on high for 30-45minutes, then switch over to low for a few hours, then switch to warm. There are also ones with temperature probes so they’ll switch to warm when the probe hits a set temperature
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 6 at 19:13

With chicken, the most feared and dangerous bacteria present is salmonella and is present throughout the meat. I would never just throw chicken into a slow cooker. With beef, the concern is more about ecoli and others, but is generally only present on the surface of the meat. You want to get the surface temperature to a certain point within a certain amount of time for a certain amount of time. For instance, 120 degrees Farenheit might be acceptable if held at that temperature for hours, but for rapid cooking and consumption 140 degrees is considered safe. Since you are indeed holding for a long time I would just recommend a simple browning in an oven for 10 minutes and then slow cook for 4 hours, but I bet even if you didn't it would be fine because modern slow cookers minimum settings are food safe temperatures and you'll certainly get it there within 2 hours.

With large cuts of meat (several pounds) the temperature difference throughout the whole cut of meat will not change much in 20 minutes of cooking so it doesn't matter much. Just brown it first and cook for 4 hours. It will taste better from the maillard browning anyway.

  • 1
    Pot roast is usually beef, not chicken
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 6 at 19:03
  • Yeah I knew it this time! I started with an example contrary to beef. You would have to make it to the 3rd sentence to understand why, but I guess I've lost TLDRs. Commented Jul 7 at 16:05

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