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I put a beef stew recipe in to my crock pot this morning at 7 am and set it for 8 hours on low. At 1 pm, the power went out for a few minutes. When power was restored, the slow cooker did not come back on.

Also, at 4 pm my wife noticed the crock pot was off and turned it on for an hour. It is now 6:40 pm. The middle of the stew is 155 degrees F, but close to the outside is 140.

Is it ruined? Unsafe? Can I just cook it for the remaining 2 hours?

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    This is actually one of the huge complaints about the new electonic-controlled slow cookers ... they don't come back on in a power outage. (the second complaint being that many of them have a maximum time, after which they'll turn themselves off automatically) – Joe Oct 15 '14 at 1:30
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    @Joe HA! am glad you mentioned that. Power outages are common here, and I'm in the the market for a crock-pot. – Jolenealaska Oct 15 '14 at 3:11
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    @CareyGregory : no, not 5 hrs. It didn't instantly go into the danger zone when the power was cut. If the pot was turned back on at 4pm for 1 hr ... but 1:40 later, it's still at 140°F, that'd suggest that 3 hrs of the time (cooling off twice) was not in the danger zone. Of course, that '1 hr' might have been '1 hr on low, then switch to warm', which is why we'd have needed the temperature when the pot was switched back on to really calculate the total time. (and there's the time to heat up initially) – Joe Oct 15 '14 at 4:56
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    @Joe - Maybe, but you're making lots of assumptions. Specifically, you're assuming it was over 140F when the power went out and it was high enough to stay above 140F for some time. I don't see anything in the question to make me confident that's true. – Carey Gregory Oct 15 '14 at 5:14
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    @CareyGregory : yes, I assumed that the slow cooker was actually functional. (if it was, then 'warm' would be above 140°F, and 'low' would be higher than that ... so it'd have been above 140°F when the power went out). And I'm assuming that being a stew, it's mostly liquid, so there's a high thermal mass, which anyone would know takes quite some time to cool down. – Joe Oct 15 '14 at 12:46
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The important temperature would be what temperature it was at when the power was turned back on.

The official recommendations are to keep high risk foods out of the 'danger zone' of 40°F to 140°F for longer than 2hrs (cumulative). If portions of the pot were at 140°F after being heated for an hour, and there was the time for it to cool down. (and the time for it to have heated up initially), from a health department perspective, it may not be safe.

Personally, if it were me, I'd have turned it up to high to try to get it back up to ~200°F (about where most crock pot's 'low' setting is), and then depending on how close it was to done, either switched it back to low, or left it on high so it might be ready in time for dinner. (however, I've also been known to eat raw beef and things that have been in the fridge for longer than the health folks recommend)

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Isn't there still a movement afoot, longneck, which promotes the preparation of foods (including meats) at surprisingly low temperatures over longer periods of time instead of higher temperatures lickety-split? I think so. And I think it's got a pretty solid footing.

Room temperature seems to be the proverbial culprit, generally speaking. But the kind of circumstance you share is probably just fine. After all, beef is not uncommonly consumed rare. Pork and poultry are the ones we have to be so careful with, always cooking them all the way through.

Anyway, just for reference purposes, it doesn't sound like your stew ever made it back down to room temperature before your wife resuscitated the appliance. It's hard to be precise without knowing what the initial temperature was (the temperature the appliance was set for in the morning), but if in the past one and two-thirds hours the core has fallen to not below 155°F after only one hour's stewing, certainly after six hours' stewing a mere two hour lull couldn't be expected to yield results much different from the ones you were able to measure.

Gas rather than electric is normally the preferred mode for generating heat when it comes to preparing food. This is especially true on the stovetop where not only subtle but immediate (and visible) changes in temperature can be achieved. So too in the case of your crockpot I'd have to say that, yes, use of a gas appliance would have made it alternately possible for you to just yank that crock out of its base and shove it into the oven for the day. But I'm probably speaking out of line, as it's also preferable to have maid service and a hot towel with your shave.

I speak out of want more so than wont.

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    Things don't have to get down to room temperature to be dangerous. The danger zone starts at 140F. – Cascabel Oct 19 '14 at 17:11
  • I made an account here just to downvote this answer as it is contary to all scientific data regarding bacteria growth and temperatures. For your health safety please find online resources regarding USDA Danger Zone. – gm70560 Nov 25 '17 at 14:37

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