How long can the Slow Cooker stay on warm?

How long can the Slow Cooker stay on warm?

In this brief guide, we discuss topics related to the question, ‘How long can Slow Cooker stay on warm?’. We will also study how safe is to leave food in a slow cooker on the warm setting for a long time.

How long can Slow Cooker stay on warm?

The slow cooker can stay on warm for about 2 to 6 hours, depending on the brand and model. Usually, foods can be held between 2 to 4 hours on warming. 

Importantly, the temperature of the food over the entire period of warming must be above 60°C [1], to avoid risks of contamination. 

How long can you leave food in a slow cooker? (warm setting versus turned off)

If the slow cooker completely turns off, the food will stay safe for no more than 2 hours, according to USDA [1]. As the temperature changes more sharply from the cooking temperature to room temperature, we enter the Danger Zone.

The Danger Zone comprises temperatures between 4 and 60 °C, where spoiling and pathogenic microorganisms readily develop, putting your food – and health – at risk [2].

After this period limit, you should place your food immediately in the fridge or freezer.

If you activate the warm function, the temperature will be held constant at around 73°C. Foods can be safely maintained at this temperature for 2 to 4 hours because it is enough to inhibit the growth of most of the harmful microbes to our health [2]. 

Variations in temperature caused by manipulation (frequent opening of the slow cooker, reloading of food portions), or even natural temperature fluctuations can reduce safety, so it is not recommended to hold foods longer than 2 – 4 hours.

Leftovers of slow cookers should be sent to the fridge or freezer within two hours after cooking. Do not use slow cookers to reheat foods. It must be used only to maintain them warm [1]. 

One should also consider that many dishes will lose quality by being exposed to long heating periods and may suffer the loss of texture and succulence. 

For example, some food such as vegetables and chicken could become mushy if you leave them in the slow cooker for a long. 

Is it safe to leave a slow cooker on warm for extended periods of time?

It is generally safe to leave the slow cooker on warm for extended periods of time, as long as:

  • The temperature in the warm setting is at least 60°C, which is a lethal temperature for most harmful microorganisms [2].
  • You are able to secure that the warm temperature set is the real one in your food (in slow cookers, the warm setting is usually around 73 °C). You can control it with a thermometer.
  • You can perform frequent temperature measurements in the food, notably if you are using the slow cooker to warm foods in events, where there should have temperature fluctuations due to frequent manipulation.
  • You never go over 4 hours of storing
  • You respect the maximum warm time allowed by the manufacturer for the slower cooking model you own. To be sure of this, have a look at your machine´s user guide.
  • You are aware of how long your food can bear under heating without losing quality.
  • Your food has been prepared following hygienic practices.

What are the factors that affect how long a slow cooker can stay on warm?

The factors that affect how long a slow cooker can stay on warm include:

  • Slow cooker model: slow cookers have different specifications, with some models showing a more powerful heating element or better insulation, allowing them to maintain a warm temperature for longer periods.
  • Temperature setting: The “warm” setting on slow cookers is typically between 74-79°C, but depending on the model, this range may be higher or lower. Do not forget to check it before using your slow cooker on warm function.

          As a general rule, the higher the temperature, the safer will be your food from contamination.

  • Type of food: soups and stews with a higher liquid content may stay warm for longer periods than thicker, drier dishes.
  • Quantity of food: a larger quantity of food may take longer to cool down, allowing it to stay warm for longer periods.
  • Ambient temperature: If the room where the slow cooker is placed is particularly cold, it may need to stay on warm for longer periods to maintain the desired temperature.


In this brief guide, we answered the question ‘How long can Slow Cooker stay on warm?’. We also studied how safe is to leave food in a slow cooker on the warm setting for a long time.