Oftentimes, the food we prepare for family gatherings gets cold before the arrival of our guests.
Well fortunately, you can set your crockpot on the warm temperature setting to avoid this.
The Warm Setting of most slow cookers will reach 170°F (76.7°C) on average which is enough to keep a meal warm without overcooking it for a certain period. How long a meal heated to that temperature remains edible will depend on the type of food it contains and when the Warm mode has kicked in.
In essence, you can’t keep food warm in a slow cooker indefinitely.
How long can you keep a crockpot on the Warm temperature setting?
Finding out how long I can leave a slow cooker on warm, prompted me to do some research. And the results I found were quite interesting.
Firstly, it turned out that the “Low” and “High” temperature modes on slow cookers functioned entirely differently than “Warm”. See, when you use the Low or High settings on your crockpot, it heats up to 209°F (98°C) and then cycles to a lower temperature.
The only difference between these heat settings is the time it takes a slow cooker to reach a simmer point of 209°F.
The Warm temperature setting, on the other hand, starts heating your crockpot until it gets to a temperature between 165°F (74°C) and 175°F (79°C). Unlike the other modes, however, Warm maintains a stable temperature once it peaks.
Unsurprisingly, the temperature difference between these modes also means Warm can’t be used instead of Low for cooking.
The Warm temp setting’s only purpose is to keep food warm, not cook it.
At the same time, however, this doesn’t mean food stops cooking when a crockpot is set to Warm.
This is why there’s a set amount of time for keeping food warm in a slow cooker.
Most modern crockpots allow you to keep food Warm for more than 14 hours. However, exposing already cooked foods to heat continues to gradually break down their structure. Therefore, keeping the Warm temperature setting on a crockpot for more than 4 hours isn’t advised.
You should bear in mind this is the upper limit which applies to foods that take longer to cook like tough pieces of meat or root vegetables.
Try to leave a piece of fish in your slow cooker overnight and you’ll come back to a pot full of white mush.
In fact, leaving any food past its recommended cooking times in the slow cooker with the Warm setting overnight will likely result in a ruined meal.
Anyway, once you get accustomed to this setting, you’ll be able to keep most of your meals warm without much thought.
I often use it when I’m making a juicy pot roast and it does wonders.
On that note, you can check this article to learn the difference between some of the most popular beef cuts for pot roast.
How to use your crockpot to keep food Warm on Thanksgiving? (and other family holidays)
Not so long ago, my mind used to go into overdrive when Thanksgiving was around the corner.
Figuring out the perfect menu, organizing my family and relatives, and the sheer thought of having a kitchen full of steaming pots overwhelmed me.
Thankfully, my newfound fascination with slow cookers helped me find some creative ways to make Thanksgiving prep a more bearable experience.
One of the things I realized was that using my crockpot is the best way to keep all of my Thanksgiving meals warm.
I even discovered I can use it to cook some of my side dishes, but I’ll get to that later.
Thanks to these discoveries, I was finally able to keep everything on my Thanksgiving dinner table warm for once!
But before I tell you how you can achieve the same results, I should make something clear.
Slow cookers should absolutely, never, ever, be used to reheat food with the Low or High temperature settings! Reheating food in a slow cooker on those settings creates the perfect breeding conditions for bacteria.
Most bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses double their growth in the temperature range 40 – 140°F (4.4 to 60°C). The USDA also advises that you should not use the Warm setting for cooking.
This, however, is somewhat contradictory since the Keep Warm setting reaches, or goes well above, the recommended temperature that kills foodborne disease – 165°F or 74°C. Also, it’s obvious you’d sometimes want to keep food warm that wasn’t cooked in the crockpot.
This means that a slow cooker set on the Warm setting should reach the temperature almost immediately. Most models reach it in a few minutes to an hour. According to my research, there are just a few exceptions.
So technically, depending on your Crockpot model and how fast it reaches the “warm” temperature, meals may continue cooking in that mode.
It’s just that it’s a very slow process (even slower than when on the Low setting). You only risk overcooking foods on the Keep Warm mode if the meal was already close to being overcooked and has no source of moisture such as juices.
Thankfully a well-cooked Thanksgiving meal always has a good amount of juice.
Also, and again that’s “technically”, it should be possible to use the Keep Warm setting to reheat food. However, everyone seems to discourage that, and after giving it a good thought, I’m not sure why. Anyway.
Let’s proceed to some of the Thanksgiving dishes you can keep warm with a crockpot.
If you’re going to prepare your turkey on Thanksgiving day, then you simply need to transfer it to the slow cooker once it’s done cooking and cover it in some of its drippings so it doesn’t lose moisture.
You can keep it resting there for about 2 hours or until it starts to dry out.
If, however, your bird was made the day before, you’ll have to take a slightly different approach.
Here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Cut the turkey into 1-inch pieces to prevent it from drying out.
- Place the pieces on top of each other in a tray. Store in the fridge.
- Take the turkey out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature.
- Reheat the turkey in an oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F or around 74°C.
- Transfer the turkey to the crockpot.
The two-hour rule from above applies to this method as well.
Just be sure to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t get dry.
If you follow this approach you can be sure that…
…your turkey won’t be yesterday’s news!
Mashed potatoes are a staple dish for any Thanksgiving dinner table.
And if you want them to remain creamy and buttery, then you’ll have to keep them warm until your guests arrive.
Fortunately, you can cook mashed potatoes straight in the crockpot and leave them on warm until it’s time to serve.
To make crockpot mashed potatoes, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- 5 pounds russet potatoes
- 3 cups of whole milk
- 1/2 cup butter
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tsp salt
- ground black pepper
And follow these steps:
- Peel the potatoes and chop them into small pieces. Add the potatoes to the slow cooker.
- Season the potatoes with salt, pepper, and garlic.
- Pour in half of the milk.
- Set your slow cooker on High and cook until the potatoes become tender.
- Melt the butter and combine it with the rest of the milk. The milk should be lukewarm.
- Mash the potatoes with a potato masher.
- Stir in the dairy mixture.
Once the mashed potatoes are cooked, they can be kept Warm in the slow cooker for as long as four hours.
The only downside to this method is that the milk may begin to caramelize and make your mashed potatoes seem a bit unappealing.
However, you can easily fix this by scooping it with a spoon.
Ahhh, is there anything more pleasant than freshly baked bread rolls?
There’s just something simply magical about the yeasty aroma that entices you to give them a bite.
And there’s no better way to show your hospitality than by serving your guests some warm bread rolls.
Keeping the rolls warm is easy if they’re prepared shortly before the feast, but we can’t always afford such a luxury.
Fortunately, your trusty crockpot can help with that, while you go about your other Thanksgiving chores.
Here’s how to use your crockpot to keep your bread rolls warm:
- Place a clean, damp towel at the bottom of your crockpot.
- Lay the bread rolls on top of it.
- Cover the top of your crockpot with another damp towel.
- Turn the crockpot on Low for 30 minutes, then switch to the Warm temp setting. Rolls can be kept Warm for roughly 2 hours.
Author’s note: Don’t forget to place the lid on top of the crockpot before turning it on.
Crockpot mashed potatoes are great, but you know what’s even better?
Crockpot turkey stuffing!
By making your stuffing in the crockpot, you’ll save some valuable oven space for your other delicious Thanksgiving treats.
You’ll also be able to keep the stuffing hot by using the warm temperature setting.
To do this, simply switch your crockpot to warm once the stuffing is ready.
…Or Maybe Read This Recipe Idea Next: Crockpot Buffalo Wild Wings Garlic Parmesan Chicken Pasta
In case you prefer to stick to tried and true stuffing recipes, then you’ll need to either transfer your stuffing to the crockpot once it’s done or warm it up in the oven if it was prepared ahead of time.
You can keep stuffing on the Warm temperature setting of your crockpot for about 3 hours before it begins to dry out.