The crock pot is a beloved kitchen appliance for its convenience and versatility. Also known as a slow cooker, the crock pot allows you to prep ingredients in the morning and come home to a hot, home-cooked meal after a long day.
However, leftovers are common when cooking in a crockpot. This leads many home cooks to wonder: Can you put a hot crock pot in the fridge?
The Dangers of Putting a Hot Crock Pot in the Fridge
Putting a steaming hot crock pot straight into the fridge is never recommended. Here’s why:
- It can raise the temperature inside the fridge. Crock pots can reach temperatures of over 200°F. Introducing an extremely hot item into your fridge will significantly raise the internal temperature. This creates an environment where bacteria can multiply rapidly and spoil other foods stored in the fridge.
- It can crack the crockery insert. Many crock pots have a ceramic or stoneware insert. Pouring something cold into a piping hot vessel can cause it to crack or shatter from the abrupt temperature change.
- It can warp plastic lids or knobs. The intense heat from a crock pot can warp and melt any plastic components on the lid.
- It can breed bacteria in the crockpot food. Some areas of the food may not cool down quickly enough as they continue simmering in the crock. This lingering heat breeds dangerous bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
So clearly, putting a hot crock pot directly into the fridge is risky. You should always let the crock cool to room temperature before refrigerating. But what’s the proper way to cool it down?
How to Cool a Hot Crock Pot for the Fridge
Cooling a crock pot for refrigeration takes some forethought. But there are easy methods to bring down the temperature safely. Here are some tips:
- Turn the crock pot off and remove it from any heat source. Unplug it if possible. The contents will start cooling on their own.
- Remove the lid. Never place a hot crock in the fridge with the lid on. Take the lid off so the heat can escape.
- Stir the contents. Stirring helps release heat and evenly distribute coolant.
- Transfer to shallow containers. Divide the food into several smaller, shallow containers. This gives more surface area to dissipate heat.
- Use an ice bath. Place crock inserts or containers into a larger bowl or sink filled with ice. The ice will draw out the heat.
- Use a cooler. An insulated cooler helps moderate the temperature change. Place the crock or containers in an empty cooler for 1-2 hours before refrigerating.
- Wait 1–2 hours before refrigerating. The crock’s contents need to cool to at least 90°F or below before going into the fridge. Wait patiently to allow proper cooling.
The key is taking gradual steps over 1-2 hours to bring the temperature down. Rushing the process puts your fridge and food at risk. Patience prevents potential problems!
Tips for Refrigerating Leftover Crock Pot Meals
Once your crock pot contents have cooled to fridge-safe temperatures, follow these tips for storing leftovers:
- Divide into smaller containers. Don’t keep large quantities together. Break into smaller, shallow containers for fast chilling.
- Allow space for air flow. Avoid cramming containers close together. Leave space for cold air circulation.
- Use shallow containers. Spread food out in wide, shallow containers instead of deep vessels.
- Chill within 2 hours. Refrigerate any leftovers within 2 hours of cooking, once cooled. Toss food left out beyond 2 hours.
- Eat within 3-5 days. Consume refrigerated crock pot leftovers within 3-5 days for best quality and food safety.
- Reheat thoroughly. Cook leftovers to 165°F when reheating. Bring the soup or sauce to a boil.
- Avoid reheating more than once. Only reheat leftovers once for optimal flavor and texture. Discard any leftovers beyond that.
Following the proper cooling, storage, and reheating guidelines will keep crock pot leftovers safe, tasty, and enjoyable all week long.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cooling and Refrigerating Crock Pots
Can you put a hot crock pot in the fridge?
No, you should never put a hot crock pot straight into the fridge. It needs to cool down to 90°F or below first, which usually takes 1-2 hours.
What happens if you put a hot crock pot in the fridge?
Putting a hot crock pot in the fridge can significantly raise the temperature and spoil other foods. It can also potentially crack the insert, warp the lid, and create an environment for bacterial growth.
How long does a crock pot take to cool down?
A full crock pot usually takes 1-2 hours to cool down to a safe temperature for the fridge after being unplugged and uncovered. Dividing into smaller containers can speed up cooling.
Where should you store a crock pot to cool it down?
You can cool a crock pot on the counter, in an empty cooler, in an ice bath, or even at room temperature. The key is gradually bringing the temperature down before refrigerating.
What temperature should a crock pot cool to before refrigerating?
Crock pot contents should cool to 90°F or lower before refrigerating. Measure with a food thermometer to be sure it’s cooled sufficiently.
How soon can you refrigerate leftover crockpot soup or stew?
Leftover crockpot meals should be refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking, once they have cooled to safe temperatures. Leftovers left out beyond 2 hours should be discarded.
How do you store leftover crockpot meals in the fridge?
Divide cooled crock pot leftovers into shallow containers, allow space for airflow, refrigerate within 2 hours, and consume within 3-5 days for optimal freshness and food safety.
Can you reheat crockpot leftovers? How many times?
It’s safest to reheat crockpot leftovers just once after cooking. Reheat thoroughly to 165°F and bring soups/sauces to a boil when reheating.
Key Takeaways: Cooling and Refrigerating Your Crock Pot
- Never place a hot crock pot straight into the fridge. Allow 1-2 hours to cool to 90°F or below first.
- Cool a crock pot slowly using ice baths, counters, and coolers. Rapid cooling can crack or warp the crock.
- Divide leftovers into small, shallow containers for fast chilling and leave space for air circulation.
- Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of cooking once they have cooled. Use leftovers within 3–5 days.
- When reheating crock pot leftovers, reheat thoroughly to 165°F and only reheat once for safety and quality.
With proper cooling methods and refrigeration guidelines, crock pot leftovers can be enjoyed safely for days without the risk of foodborne illness. Be patient when cooling, divide into smaller containers, refrigerate promptly, and follow expiration timelines.
Hi, I’m Julie, the passionate foodie and founder of Juliesfamilykitchen.com. I created this blog out of a drive to prove someone wrong, and then I realized how much I truly enjoy cooking and trying new recipes. In my free time, when I’m not running around after my kids or spending quality time with my partner, you can usually find me in the kitchen experimenting with new dishes.