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I really want to make the SW coke gammon in the slow cooker, but I'm going to be out of the house for around 6 hours is it safe to leave it unattended?

  • Hi Jennie! I am not sure what you mean by "is it safe". Are you asking if you can leave a slow cooker unattended for 6 hours? Are you afraid of the carbonation in the coke damaging the cooker after heating? Something else? – rumtscho Apr 4 '17 at 17:38
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    I've seen a few recipes for braising in soda ... and many of them specifically say not to use diet soda. I don't know if it's the sweeteners breaking down under heat, or what. – Joe Apr 4 '17 at 18:16
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    Sorry didn't explain fully. Yeah to leave it unattended – Jennie Apr 4 '17 at 18:33
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    @Joe Is there something that's unsafe with diet soda specifically? I'm happy to reopen if so, but the closest I see here is that it foams when you boil it - but slow cookers don't bring things to a boil rapidly. (It might need clarification before reopening, though, because it's gotten answers about the quality of the recipe instead, and even health.) – Cascabel Apr 5 '17 at 1:24
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    OP states clearly that the focus in on cooking time, not diet soda, so I think this is a dupe. – Stephie Apr 5 '17 at 10:25
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We've slow cooked gammon in (full sugar) coke before, and what happens is that all the CO2 comes out in the first few minutes as it comes up to temperature. So if you start (as we do and most recipes suggest) by bringing the cooking liquid to the boil the foaming will happen while you're standing over it.

This makes sense as gases are less soluble in hot liquids than cold; in fact I've used heating in the lab to drive off dissolved gas.

Most of the sugar is poured away in the cooking liquid, so there's not much benefit (in terms of calories) from using diet. If you plan to finish the gammon off with direct heat for browning, sugary coke is likely to give a nicer finished item (colour, flavour and smell). Some sweeteners go bitter when cooked too hot (and the reaction products may not be good to eat), while sugar caramelises.

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If you're asking in reference to the artificial sweeteners, I'd say it's probably not a great idea, but not necessarily for safety reasons.

Aspartame is the most common artificial sweetener, and the one used in most varieties of Diet Coke (apparently there are some, less common that use Splenda).

There are a lot of claims about health risks of aspartame, however, the general laboratory-tested medical and scientific consensus is that it's relatively safe. When aspartame breaks down, it breaks down into Phenylanaline, aspartic acid, and methanol, mainly, and also formaldehyde. The ratio of the first three are something like 4:5:1. Keep in mind what makes a sweetener "low cal" is the fact that much less of it is needed to attain the sweetening. Overall, as it breaks down, the exposure, though daunting to read or hear what it breaks down into, is really fairly trace and does not cause harm. I suspect people would never eat if they realized all the by-products we are regularly exposed to.

So, this "break down" happens in our natural digestive processes, and we are exposed to the components. When aspartame is heated, it starts breaking down, without our digestive systems getting a chance to work on it. Does this somehow expose us to MORE of those substances? I don't believe it does, it just happens before initial ingestion if it's already breaking down.

However, if the heat is making it break down, that means what is in the heated solution is no longer aspartame, but, rather, phenylanaline (an amino acid), aspartic acid and methanol. That combination probably does not deliver the flavor sweetening because it is no longer, molecularly, aspartame, the sweetener that gets its sweetening characteristic from its molecular structure.

I suspect your taste will be markedly different if any significant amount of the sweetener breaks down (which usually happens after it's traveled past your taste buds and into your digestive tract) into its component parts before you ever get a chance to put it in your mouth. If you slow cook it, that's a long time heating and breaking down the sweetener.

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  • Asking about the health effects of the artificial sweetners might not be on topic. The question seems to be phrased in regards to an unattended slow cooker. – Catija Apr 4 '17 at 21:44
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    @Catija - You'll see the my recommendation is focused on the taste of the ingredients and possible unintended consequences of using an artificial sweetener on the final taste. – PoloHoleSet Apr 4 '17 at 21:48
  • That information has no bearing on the question, though. You don't even address whether it's safe to leave it unattended or not. This is likely useful info but it doesn't answer the question. Also, your third paragraph is specifically about health. – Catija Apr 4 '17 at 21:54
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    It's sort of a nonissue because this is a duplicate, so the answers to the actual question exist elsewhere, but Catija does have a point here: yes, you wrote something that'd be a good answer to "is it a good idea to use artificial sweeteners in a slow cooker recipe like this", but that wasn't the question. – Cascabel Apr 4 '17 at 23:19
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    People often don't pick great titles, especially new users, and it's important to look at the whole question and see what they actually ask. I do try to edit titles a lot because people tend to put a lot of weight on them; you can suggest edits too. – Cascabel Apr 5 '17 at 14:13

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