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I was following a recipe for slow-cooked meat and potatoes. The directions say to cook on "high" for 4 hours.

My slow-cooker, however, has a temperature range which ranges from "warm", to "150", to all the way beyond "500" degrees Fahrenheit. After some internet research, I determined that "high" usually translates to the 300 F setting, while "low" is less than 200 F.

So I set the temperature to 300 F, but within an hour, I could smell that it was starting to burn! Does this simply mean my slow-cooker runs hotter than others? Moreover, is there a definitive answer to the difference between "high" and "low"? I can't see how any recipe would actually exceed 212 F if the food is cooking in a liquid (water-based) broth.

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    You won't get water to 212 F on the low setting. More of a sub-simmer. – Batman Sep 28 '17 at 1:19
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When I started researching sous vide cooking some years ago, I created a little database of slow cookers on the market and researched the temperatures of different devices. Interestingly, slow cookers are wildly different: low temperatures ranged from 190F to 275F and high temperatures were correspondingly wacky. There is no "industry standard" and depends entirely upon what the manufacturer thinks is a good idea.

One issue you may find interesting is what the real difference between "low" and "high" switch is: it governs the speed with which the cooker gets up to temperature (whatever the manufacturer thinks is a good, poorly-controlled temperature). If you're planning dinner in 5 hours then "high" is the appropriate switch, whereas if you're planning dinner in 9 hours then "low" is the appropriate switch. In both cases, the cooker will get up to the same temperature.

Note that I have been speaking about both the "low" and "high" switch on the slow cooker AND the range (low and high) of temperature which the cooker produces.

  • How were you testing the slow cookers? Empty, or with food or water in there? I suspect that the style with just a switch set the amount of current being used and not temperature. (if they worked off temperature, they should set them so they stop when they get over 100°C, as that's a sign that all of the liquid has boiled off). – Joe Oct 5 '17 at 2:57
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    For the set temperature(s), I got that information from the various manufacturers. For the variability in "acceptable" temperature, I did a lot of reading, and got some information from manufacturers. For only two of the machines did I use empirical observation. – TdeV Oct 5 '17 at 12:55
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The temperature settings (and how well heat is distributed to the food) depend on the particular model of slow cooker.

Typically, you have a low temperature of 190 F and high temperature of 300 F.

That being said, follow your recipe. You'll have different flavor development due to the different cook times and temperatures with low and high settings. The rate at which you come up to temperature is affected by the high and low settings and you're pumping more energy into the crockpot on the high setting. I generally opt for the low temperature setting when I use mine, if a recipe calls for both -- usually the timing works out to be more convenient when the thing is done.

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