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Can Your Crock-Pot Catch Fire?

If you're an avid watcher of "This is Us", then you might be joining the troves of internet fans who have vowed to swear off their slow cookers forever. The cause of Jack's death, or the cause of the fire that caused his death, was a faulty slow cooker. This has left fans across the country both sobbing into their coffees and taking a closer look at their Crock-Pots. So we decided to answer the question, can your Crock-Pot actually catch fire?

In the episode, the switch on the Crock-Pot is broken and doesn't turn off. When the slow cooker comes back on after Jack goes to bed, it sparks a nearby towel and thus begins the end. So here's the deal. The possibility of your slow cooker catching fire is extremely slim, but it's not impossible.

In 2012, Fox News Lifestyle looked at the safety of slow cookers. They spoke to Jim Long, then the public information director of the New York Fire Department who said that, "It's not safe to leave any appliance on without someone in the house." Of course, that just isn't always possible with slow cooker meals so we checked one more resource.

However, on the Frequently Asked Questions of Crock-Pot®, here is their answer on if slow cookers can be left unattended. 

Yes. Crock-Pot® Slow Cookers are safe for countertop cooking for extended periods of time. If holding food on the warm setting for a long time, cut back on the cook time accordingly to reduce overcooking.

The seal of approval from Crock-Pot® is positive, but it's not the full answer. Here are a few ways you can ensure that your slow cooker is safe enough to be left unattended in your home for a long time without the risk of electrical fires. 

1. Check the hardware.

Check the legs, handles, and lid for tightness and security. If you have a slow cooker model with a fabric-wrapped cord, it's time to get rid of that baby because cords with fabric no longer comply with safety standards and are considered fire hazards.

2. Inspect the cord.

More than the cord, check the body of the slow cooker at the base of the electric cord. Be sure that there are no fraying or broken wires, and that there are no wires visible at all. A slow cooker with a short circuit is a fire hazard in the home, whether on a low setting or a high setting.

3. Confirm the temperature.

This is good slow cooker maintenance, but it's something we rarely think to monitor. To be sure that your slow cooker is heating properly, follow the advice from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Safety Inspection Service and test it.

Your Crock-Pot® or other slow cooker model should reach between 170 and 280 degrees when cooking. To test, fill your slow cooker about 3/4 full with room temperature tap water. Set your slow cooker to low and after eight hours, check the temperature with a food thermometer to confirm it's at least 185 degrees. 

For further safety precautions, you should always make sure your smoke alarms have proper batteries (sorry, Jack fans), and that you're regularly replacing older models with new ones. Keep your slow cooker away from fabric material on your kitchen counter, be sure the heating element functions and smells properly, and always set it up on a flat surface.

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