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A. I've heard that my slow cooker is a haven for bacteria. Is it?
A. Not as long as it passes this two-step test. First, check the ceramic insert for cracks that could harbor germs. Next, make sure the appliance keeps food out of the danger zone in which bacteria grow rapidly -- between 40 degrees and 140 degrees. "Older models may not reach high enough temperatures," says food safety expert Missy Cody, PhD, RD, former head of the nutrition division at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Here's how: Fill the cooker halfway with water, put on the lid, and set to low heat. After eight hours, the water should be 185 degrees or higher (check with a food thermometer).
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, November/December 2009.