Can You Reheat Leftovers In A Slow Cooker?

Of all of our must-have cooking appliances, the slow cooker is definitely a top contender. Since the first iteration of this appliance hit the American market in the 1950s (via CNET), it's become a steadfast presence in many home kitchens, helping to prepare gently cooked pork carnitas, creamy butter chicken, and juicy barbecue brisket, to name a few dishes. The slow cooker is handy for unexpected uses, such as making creamy oatmeal and serving warm mulled wine and cider at holiday gatherings, too.

Although the Instant Pot is most likely the trendy set-it-and-forget-it appliance most of us think of first, slow cookers are quite popular, too: According to Food & Wine, they are found in more than 80 percent of American homes. And though they are whizzes at cooking soups, stews, and even desserts such as cheesecake, there's one thing you should never use your slow cooker for, and that's reheating leftovers. But why?

Reheating in a slow cooker leaves food in an unsafe temperature range

Although it might seem logical to reheat leftovers in a slow cooker, it's actually not a good idea at all, perĀ Southern Living. The very slowness of the appliance is what makes this inadvisable: As the food comes up to temperature, it spends too much time in a temperature range that can be a breeding ground for bacteria. This "temperature danger zone," as it is referred to by the USDA, runs between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and though the slow cooker will eventually get food to a temperature of 170 degrees and up (via University of Minnesota), it can take too long to safely reheat leftovers.

"Do not use a slow cooker to reheat leftovers, even if you originally cooked the food in the slow cooker," nutritionist Allie Echeverria told Southern Living. "The low temperatures can allow prepared foods to spend too much time in the unsafe food temperature zone." In this instance, you'll want to opt for the classic leftover-reheating options of the microwave and the stovetop. Still, while you may not want to use the slow cooker for leftovers, don't rule it out for your favorite stews or other classic meals. It can still handle those just fine.