Just when I thought it was safe to resume cooking in my slow cooker, I heard this—a colleague's mom was cooking dinner when her Crock-Pot cracked. Wow, how did that happen? And what should you do if it happens to you?
Why the crock cracked
Although slow cooking is very safe, a few things can cause a ceramic or stoneware crock to crack.
1. You cooked something that started out frozen.
Always thaw poultry or meat before you add it to the Crock-Pot. Once the crock is heated, the temperature change initiated by the frozen meat can cause it to crack. Besides, it's not a good idea to cook frozen meat in a slow cooker, since bacteria can proliferate when food spends too long in what the USDA calls the "Danger Zone", 40°-140°.
2. You refrigerated the food in the crock before cooking.
I know it seems easier to prep the meal in the crock and stash it in the fridge overnight. But once you turn the slow cooker on, the change in temperature can cause a crack. Workaround: Mix all the recipe ingredients in a large bowl the night before, and use a rubber spatula to scrape it all into the crock in the morning.
3. You heated the crock on the stove.
Your crock may be microwave or oven safe without its lid. But it will probably crack if you place it directly on a burner. Check the user guide. If it doesn't say it's safe to use on the stovetop, assume it isn't.
4. A hairline crack developed in the pot.
You may not notice a minor crack in the pot until it becomes a serious crack. Hairline cracks can develop if you fill a hot crock with cold water. Wait until the crock cools down before attempting to clean it. And although you may have heard that you can repair a surface crack by boiling the pot in milk, we believe that would be a very temporary fix.
What to do if it happens
Once you notice a crack, your first thought might be to throw the pot and the food in the trash. That might not be necessary.
1. For a hairline crack, serve the meal before throwing out the crock.
2. If you used a slow cooker liner in the cracked pot, dinner is saved.
It's okay to pour the meal into a big soup pot and finish cooking it on top of the stove. The liners make for easy cleanup, so they're worth using, all the time.
As long as the outer metal pot is intact, you can purchase a replacement crock for your slow cooker, often for under $20. That's the best long-term solution for your cracked crock.