Why you should not lift the lid of a slow cooker

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Lift or do not lift the lid on a slow cooker, that’s the big question of our time.

On the one hand, you don’t want to slow down the cooking or let the moisture and taste escape out of the slow cooker, but at the same time, you want to check the magic and maybe add some last-second ingredients.

So what should you do?

Is it a good idea to lift the lid from the slow cooker if it is not done cooking the meal? Is it dangerous? Will it ruin the process? And what is actually happening inside the pot of your slow cooker?

Let me answer these and other questions that you might have below.

Lifting the lid before the meal is done

You can do it. BUT, do it at the end of the cooking. My recommendation would be about an hour before the end of the cooking cycle. 

The reason for this is that in the end, the biggest part of cooking is done, and the thing that is happening in the last hour is the melting and deepening of tastes.

This way, you are not going to ruin hours of waiting and overpowering your hunger and lust for that succulent meal. 

So what happens when you lift the lid early?

To answer this question, let me paint you a picture or two.

Heat circulating in a slow cooker

As you remove the lid, a lot of heat – about 10 to 20 degrees is released/lost immediately.

Heat being released from slow cooker when lid is lifted

So let’s go about it in detail.

I wrote here about how slow cookers work, so here it will be just a short version.

The whole magic of a slow cooker is in the gradual build-up and subsequent keeping of heat. 

So whenever you lift the lid too early, you release a tremendous amount of heat. As temp drops and moisture leaves the pot, whole cooking gets a massive hit, for which you have to compensate by extending the cooking time.

Since it hugely depends on a slow cooker, recipe, time, and temperature, it is hard to say how long to extend cooking precisely. Still, in general, the good practice is to prolong cooking by 5 minutes for every minute you have a slow cooker open. 

Add extra 5 minutes if you not only lift the lid but also stir the insides. The reason is similar. As you stir, you are letting more heat escape the cooking pot.

It is fair to mention that this rule doesn’t have to be kept every time. We are dealing here with a slow cooker after all and as such, it is pretty good at keeping the heat levels stable.

Is lifting the lid before the end dangerous?

Hell yeah, it is. 

You have to realize that as you lift the lid, you release a massive amount of scorching vapor and moisture.

So whatever you do, NEVER, EVER, keep your face or any other body parts above the slow cooker as you open it.

Best case scenario, nothing terrible happens. You might get a bit scared by heat and, at the most, drop and break the lid.

Worst case? You got 2nd and 3rd degree burns on your arms and face, not so good for just wanting to see something.

Also, if you live with someone else in your household and are afraid for their health and safety, tell them that you are cooking, and they should not open the lid. 

If they are younger, slap the sticky note on top of the lid, saying things like Danger! Do not touch!

And if you have a baby around, do him a solid. Still, the slow cooker in a safe space, and as an additional safeguard, put tape on it so that it connects the base and lid of the cooking pot, so your little angel can not open it.

Should you be lifting the lid of a slow cooker?

So lifting the lid is ok, as long as you stick to necessary safety precautions as discussed above, and remember to extend the cooking time by an appropriate amount of time.

I hope this little article helped you and I will see you next time. 

Until then, I wish you a happy and relaxed cooking.

Vojta Vevera

Combining a love for cooking and using all kinds of technological gizmos helps Vojta to bring the experiences and excitement to all his articles. He is always doing his best to serve you with great information. Mixing over 15 years of cooking experience with his analytical mind and love for all technological things.

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