How long can you keep food warm in the slow cooker?

In this article, we will answer the question “How long can you keep food warm in a slow cooker?”, and how does a slow cooker work?

Read on if you want to know whether you can leave the food overnight in the slow cooker or not. 

How long can you keep food warm in the slow cooker?

The slow cooker is a good option to keep the food warm for many hours. To be exact, you can keep food warm for about one to four hours in the slow cooker.

The key is to keep the food out of the ‘Danger zone’, which ranges from 40℉-140℉. Bacteria grow exponentially at this temperature range. 

You can also leave your breakfast slow cooking in the slow cooker but it is only recommended for some specific models as many of the slow cookers cannot be left on for as long as 24 hours. 

How does a slow cooker work?

A slow cooker consists of two parts or shells. They are specially designed to cook food at low temperatures for longer periods of time. 

The first is the main shell that gets very hot when the cooker is turned on. This shell then transmits the heat to the other shell slowly. The upper shell becomes hot with time but not too hot. This process is called conduction.

This phenomenon keeps the texture consistent, thus, helping in keeping the food warm and safe for hours.

The danger zone of slow cooker

When you are cooking, storing, or doing any sort of processing always be aware of the temperatures, termed as danger zone temperatures. 

The range of the danger zone is from 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (5-60 degrees centigrade).

Between these temperatures, bacteria can grow easily and exceptionally. 

If your food is anywhere at this temperature range, for more than 20 minutes, there are greater chances of its spoilage. 

All food must be stored below 5 degrees or above 60 degrees after cooking or else there will be exponential growth of bacteria leading to food-borne illnesses, food poisoning, or even death. 

If you want to store your food for a long time, try to freeze it or store it at the refrigeration temperature. 

The warm setting in the slow cooker is enough to only warm the food and not to cook it.

Is a slow cooker the best option to warm food?

It all depends on your use and the food placed in the slow cooker. If you use it properly and follow all the guidelines, then there is nothing best than the slow cooker to warm your food. 

The safety of food depends on one thing only, that is, it must be kept out of the danger zone otherwise it will become a threat to your health.

If you know you will consume your food within hours or so then a slow cooker is the best option. 

The lowest temperature setting on the slow cooker is about 165 degrees centigrade. At this temperature, with the lid on, the food will remains safe and warm as long as the machine is running.

However, there are some disadvantages of long periods of slow cooking as well. The continuous heating of food in the slow cooker can considerably change the quality and texture of your food.

The prolonged heating of food could also lead to dryness of the food making it tough and less palatable. 

If you are keeping a bowl of soup or stew in the slow cooker then the contents may become mushy if left in the cooker for a long time.

Can you leave food in the slow cooker overnight?

Overnight slow cooking should always be done at temperatures at or below 165 degrees. Slow cookers mostly consume upto 300 watts of power. So, leaving them on overnight is a risky business anyway. If you take proper precautions and follow the instructions then chances of fire are minute. 

A slow cooker is designed to simmer food over a more extended period rather than quickly as on a stovetop or in an oven. When you leave a crockpot overnight, it likely is not much longer than 8 hours. 

Some of the recipes or food ingredients can not withstand heat for a prolonged time. That means that warming this food overnight can deteriorate the quality of food greatly. 

So the best practice is to keep the food in a slow cooker for only about 4 to 6 hours.

Other FAQs about Slow Cooker that you may be interested in.

Are slow cooker liners safe?

Can you stop and restart a slow cooker?

How long can you leave a slow cooker on low?


In this article, we answered the question “How long can you keep food warm in a slow cooker?”, and how does a slow cooker work?


Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.