Can I reheat it: okay to reheat leftovers in a mini crock pot?
February 18, 2020 8:38 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to get a mini crock pot for meals at my desk. Can I use it to heat leftovers? (The USDA says no.) Do I have to fill it to a certain level? Do you like yours? Please share all your tips.

I'd like warm meals at my desk, even when there's no microwave available. I've tried a thermos, and it didn't keep food hot enough or work long enough.

So I'd like to reheat leftovers - mostly with beans or tofu, but maybe occasionally with meat - and a mini crock pot looks perfect. I may also try oatmeal.

Main question: Can I use a mini crock pot to reheat leftovers?

The company advertises using it for leftovers, but the USDA and the Mayo Clinic say not to use a slow cooker to reheat leftovers. That seems over-cautious to me, and apparently lots of people do use mini crock pots to reheat leftovers. What say you, hive mind: can I use it for leftovers?

Secondary question: Do I have to fill it to a certain level?

Can I put 8 ounces of food in a 24-ounce mini crock pot without problems?

All the other questions:

Do you have a mini crock pot? How well does it work? What do you use it for? Do you have a favorite brand or model? Can I move the insert directly from the fridge to the crock pot? What else should I know?

Thank you!
posted by kristi to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you are smart about it, yes. But you need to view it as a magic food-poisoning-making cauldron. Your food is going to spend longer in the danger zone than if you were refrigerating it until ready to serve and then heating it quickly in a microwave.

This is not addressing whether or not the issuing food smells will be irritating to your coworkers.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:50 AM on February 18, 2020 [16 favorites]

I suspect the warnings are because crock pots, mini or otherwise, are for slow cooking, not reheating. It simply isn’t going to get your leftovers up to a safe temperature quickly enough.

And, as fiercecupcake says, your coworkers might have an issue with cooking in the office like that.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:53 AM on February 18, 2020 [5 favorites]

One of the things I like best about cooking in a Crock-Pot is that it fills my house with rich food smells. That would not be nice in an office.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 8:56 AM on February 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Just to clarify: there are no co-workers, so odor shouldn't be a problem. (The reviews tend to say that the device doesn't give off odors, but regardless, no co-workers, so not an issue.)
posted by kristi at 8:56 AM on February 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In this case I think you're okay - the brand is Crock Pot but it's not a slow cooker. In the questions on the Amazon product page, the manufacturer even chimes in to say it's specifically NOT for use with uncooked food so this is not like a regular slow cooker. It probably comes up to temp faster thanks in part to its smaller size.
posted by misskaz at 9:03 AM on February 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

I’d do it. Then again I am confident that I could live healthily by eating exclusively food that violates USDA danger zone guidelines, indefinitely. Those rules are meant to be idiot proof and are indeed highly conservative. I agree that model and size looks like it comes up to heat faster than classic slow cookers.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:05 AM on February 18, 2020

I have a mini crockpot and if you tried to use it like a slow cooker you'd be eating molten char. It heats up REALLY FAST. It is excellent for reheating things, I wouldn't use it at all for cooking things initially.

Seriously it heats up really really fast and hot and stays there. I bought it for fondue but it turns out fondue isn't great when the cheese starts to turn black around the edges shortly after getting melty. Don't leave it unattended, I cannot overstate how fast and hot it heats up, it would be very easy to start a fire with the thing.
posted by winna at 9:17 AM on February 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

It sounds like there won't be an issue with it heating up quickly, but if there is -- could you microwave the food first to get it out of the danger zone, then put it in the crockpot to maintain temperature?
posted by tivalasvegas at 9:22 AM on February 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Alas, microwave is not available.
posted by kristi at 9:24 AM on February 18, 2020

Best answer: I use this item for this purpose, and I am in an office with coworkers. Can confirm it gets hot fast; I haven't had an issue with anything scorching, but I'm pretty exclusively using it for soups/stews. Can also confirm that it contains smell pretty well - there are two lids, one fits snugly in the pot and the second screws over the assembly. I actually found I had to leave the inner lid off when I experimented with using it for potpourri - I couldn't smell it at all!
posted by solotoro at 9:32 AM on February 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This is what you need. I have one and LOVE it. You put raw food in and 20-50 or so minutes later you have a hot meal. There are two stainless steel bowls inside so you can make a main dish, and a smaller bowl in which to make rice, noodles, etc. Today I put a piece of frozen salmon, swiss chard, cherry tomatoes and herbs in the large bowl, and raw barley and rice grains with chicken broth in the little bowl. At 10 am I turned it on and 45 minutes later it was done, the grains were soft and perfect and the fish was perfect. I like that there are two compartments so you can cook things separately so it doesn't feel like a casserole or stew every time. It automatically turns off when the water on the burner evaporates. It's really small and portable, too.

So, for leftovers you can definitely use it to reheat. You put a little water on the burner below the bowl and the steam will reheat the food quickly.
posted by waving at 9:37 AM on February 18, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: The item you linked to is literally called a "lunch food warmer". It's really not a 'crock pot' other than in name-brand only. What you've chosen is perfect. It's made to do what you want it to do. Buy it and enjoy!
posted by hydra77 at 9:52 AM on February 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I’d also suggest checking out this product?
posted by stefnet at 9:56 AM on February 18, 2020

I did this regularly, including with animal proteins, for reheating of leftovers. Never even occured to me that it might be unsafe. I used a mini crock pot. Never got sick. Can't speak to what you "should do" however.
posted by crunchy potato at 12:13 PM on February 18, 2020

Ihydra77 makes a critical point. This is a product sold under the Crock-pot brand. It is not a crock-pot in the generic sense, which is also known as a slow cooker. It is a completely different appliance, which by all accounts reaches a higher temperature more quickly.

It looks like it's probably safe to heat up leftovers in this -- it probably wouldn't be legal for the manufacturer to advertise it like this if it were unsafe. If you read the booklet you will probably find a scary list of warnings about what not to do, which probably includes "leaving chicken standing around in it all day" and the like.

I would strongly advise anyone against reheating leftovers in an actual slow cooker.
posted by confluency at 5:41 PM on February 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Geez, I was SURE I had marked best answers on this before now.

Thank you all for all the very helpful thoughts - especially waving for linking to an actual product you use and like.

Thank you all!
posted by kristi at 8:56 AM on March 19, 2020

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