This morning, I was supposed to prepare our chili recipe for tonight in the slow cooker, but I have forgotten. Now it's too late to start the recipe as usual and cook it on low.

However, it's not too late for my wife at home to prepare the ingredients and cook it on high for 4 hours instead.

I know it won't taste exactly the same if we make it now and leave the slow cooker on high for 4 hours instead of on low for 8, but will it still be a safe, edible meal if we switch the cook time in this manner?

Keep in mind, all the ingredients are either cooked or washed before being put into the pot, the only difference is the final cook time in the pot itself, and the temperature setting used on our slow cooker.

  • 4
    Hi Zibbobz, we frequently get versions of the "I forgot to turn my slow cooker on" question, and close them as duplicates. I assumed that I'll have to close this one too, until I paid more attention and noticed that you have not put the ingredients in the cooker in the morning. So I changed the wording, to make it very obvious that this is not the case and prevent others from making the same mistake as I did.
    – rumtscho
    Apr 14, 2015 at 15:12
  • @rumtscho You also broadened it a bit to make it a better question overall. Thank you. :)
    – Zibbobz
    Apr 14, 2015 at 15:28
  • I would leave it on the low heat. After 4 hours the ingredients will be safe to eat anyway, but using a high heat may dry up the meat.
    – algiogia
    Apr 15, 2015 at 8:27
  • possible duplicate : cooking.stackexchange.com/q/4890/67
    – Joe
    Apr 15, 2015 at 12:09
  • Possible duplicate of Crockpot recipe when converting temperature from low to high?
    – Luciano
    Mar 6, 2018 at 15:43

2 Answers 2


It will be safe and edible. It might not be quite as good.

Part of the appeal of slow cookers is just the convenience of leaving them unattended. The other appeal is low-slow cooking that blends flavors and melts connective tissue without burning anything.

Cooking things faster and hotter will not make the meat as tender as it would be- but it will still be cooked. If it is in small pieces the difference will not be as noticeable.
Obviously ground meat would be the same regardless of cooking time.

Beans (if you believe in beans in chili)
4 hours will be enough time to soften soaked beans. I'd say this is the biggest risk. Undercooked beans aren't fun to eat.
Soaked beans, canned beans, or no beans make this a non-issue.

Flavor melding
Chili benefits from time. Beans soak up flavors. Chili and onion balance out through the sauce.
I'll often make my chili a day in advance of serving it because it is so much better the next day. You're going to get less time so some of this will be lost.

  • 1
    Fortunately, it's ground beef and canned beans, so we should be good. Thank you.
    – Zibbobz
    Apr 14, 2015 at 15:29
  • The flavors won't have married so much.
    – Escoce
    Apr 14, 2015 at 16:04

If everything is pre-cooked, from a food safety point of view it doesn't matter - you could eat it with no cooking and be just fine. Taste, on the other hand would be improved by cooking, so...

The biggest difference between the two setting is how long it takes for the whole pot to get up to the set temperature. One of the key things it to minimize the opening of the lid, because that releases a whole lot of heat energy in the form of steam. It takes at least 15 minutes to get back up to temp after opening the lid! That is why so many recipes start on high and then go to low after a few hours.

From the Crock-Pot website (or at least old references to it, since their current website at http://www.crock-pot.com/CustomerService.aspx?id=faq&fgid=44#tabs doesn't seem to have it any more), basically "High" takes four hours less than "Low".

Q: What’s the difference between "Low" and "High" cooking?

A: Both "High" and "Low" stabilize at the same temperature; it is just a matter of how long it takes to reach the simmer point. Once food reaches the simmer point, total cook time is dependent on cut and weight of meat to reach the point of maximum flavor and texture potential. Most dishes can be prepared on either "High or "Low."

Q: What are the typical cook times for Crock-Pot® Slow Cookers?

A: Typical cook time for Crock-Pot® SlowCookers to reach simmer point is 209°F: Low: 7-8 hours to reach the simmer point High: 3-4 hours to reach the simmer point

Q: How do I convert cook times between "High and "Low?

A: Below is a conversion chart to illustrate the comparative cook times for "High" and "Low"* HIGH..........LOW 3 hours 7 hours 4 hours 8 hours 5 hours 9 hours 6 hours 10 hours 7 hours 11 hours 8 hours 12 hours

*** It is not recommended to convert recipes with cook times less than 7-8 hours on "Low" or 3-4 hours on "High."

So it depends on the length of time recommended in the original recipe as to how long to cook it on High.

  • One caveat: Some older slow cookers don't get as hot on the low setting as on the high setting. My mother-in-law has an old one she keeps because of that very reason. But any modern slow cookers will eventually reach the same temperature, whether on low or high.
    – mrog
    Mar 9, 2018 at 0:39
  • I'm not a slow cooker designer, but the simplest design I can imagine is having a single thermostat set to one temperature, then the "hi" switch just tuns on additional heating elements compared to the "low" setting - all done with very inexpensive thermo-mechanical switches like in a toaster. An "older" device I would think would be more likely to have a single set temperature. I guess the best thing to do is to measure the temp - maybe start with some hot water and see what it measures after a few hours for each setting.
    – j-beda
    Mar 9, 2018 at 16:45
  • Of course water never gets higher than boiling temperature, so that might be a limitation to measurement. 209°F is below the boiling at sea level (212°F dropping by about one degree per 500 feet). Since our pots do eventually get a few bubbles rising - doesn't that mean they reach 212°F? I guess I need to break out the thermometer the next time I use one.
    – j-beda
    Mar 9, 2018 at 16:47
  • 1
    This discussion seems to indicate that there are a WIDE range of temperatures for different slow-cookers: chowhound.com/post/cooking-temperatures-slow-cooker-725139
    – j-beda
    Mar 9, 2018 at 16:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.