Is There A Risk To Using Plastic Liners In Your Slow Cooker?

If you're a fan of slow cooker meals, then you already know these devices can save significant time and hassle when you are too busy to stop your day and cook dinner. Unfortunately, for as much time and cookware as they save, slow cookers are not mess-free, often requiring significant scrubbing or soaking to clean off the baked on food from the inner pot. Enter the slow cooker liner! According to Crystal's Cookware Hub, slow cooker liners (or slow cooker bags) are plastic bags specially formulated to withstand the high heat of a slow cooker and fit inside the device's inner pot so you don't have to scrub off stubborn, stuck-on food remnants ever again.

While these handy dish sleeves are definitely convenient, many people have wondered, "are they safe?" The exact answer to that probably depends on your personal definition of "safe," but from a nutritional, chemical standpoint, the answer is generally yes. 

EatingWell reports that while the bags do contain a number of synthetic chemicals, in order to be sold for cooking purposes in the U.S., they must meet FDA guidelines for the use of additives. Additionally, per the outlet, many brands of liners — including the popular Reynolds brand — are free from BPA and its substitute BPS, which the Mayo Clinic notes have been linked to multiple health concerns in high quantities.

Other concerns regarding slow cooker liners

With a low risk of chemical-related illness and a big reduction of cleanup time, slow cooker liners may seem like the perfect kitchen addition; however, there are some other pros and cons to consider before purchasing a box. For one, they aren't the cheapest. A four-count box of the aforementioned, standard-size Reynolds liners costs $9.99 at Walmart. While this may not break the bank, it could add up if you use your slow cooker regularly, especially considering a BBC report noting that a significant piece of the slow cooker's appeal is its cost-effectiveness.

Another major concern people have about slow cooker liners stems from a different kind of safety: environmental safety. There's no getting around it, slow cooker liners are single-use plastics, which means they end up in landfills, or worse, in the ocean. Crystal's Cookware Hub notes that not only are the liners single-use, they are non-biodegradable since they are made of nylon. This material allows them to withstand heat of up to 400 degrees, but unfortunately makes them a pain for the planet.

If you have found other ways to reduce your carbon footprint and are comfortable using a little more plastic for the sake of convenience, there are other benefits to using these bags. Especially, as per The Family Freezer, if you like to give pre-made meals to your friends to cook at their convenience, or if you have a disability that limits mobility in your hands, making the lack of necessary cleaning an even bigger bonus.