Ham is a versatile meat that tastes great whether it's cold or heated up — but you'll want to take caution before warming a precooked ham in your slow cooker.
The USDA explains that Crock-Pots, or slow cookers, rely on direct heat from within the pot and the steam trapped by a tightly covered lid to do their magic. In fact, slow cookers use less electricity than convection ovens and the low heat helps tenderize meat with less shrinkage.
The University of Minnesota notes that slow cookers cook food at a low temperature, usually between 170 and 280 degrees Fahrenheit, over many hours.
Is It Safe to Warm Food in a Slow Cooker?
The USDA cautions against heating up leftovers in a slow cooker. In fact, heating up any type of meat in a Crock-Pot is not recommended because if you put cold meat in the Crock-Pot, it could spend too much time heating up, giving bacteria a chance to multiply within the meat.
Temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit and below 140 degrees Fahrenheit are the danger zone where bacteria multiply rapidly.
And consuming harmful bacteria could make you fall sick. Salmonella, a type of bacteria that is sometimes found in pork, among other foods, can cause acute infections with symptoms like fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, notes a March 2019 study in the journal Diseases.
Instead of trying to heat up a pre-cooked ham in a Crock-Pot, it is recommended that you reheat the meat on the stove, or in the microwave or convection oven, until the meat crosses 165 degrees Fahrenheit. You can then place the ham in the Crock-Pot to keep it warm until you’re ready to serve it. The Crock-Pot's temperature should be above 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Note that cooking uncooked ham in a slow cooker from scratch is a different matter altogether.
In that case, the USDA recommends ensuring that the meat is completely thawed and then tossing the uncooked ham into the slow cooker along with some liquid like broth or water. The uncooked ham in the slow cooker should cross the threshold of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to be safe for consumption.
Warming a Precooked Ham in a Crock-Pot
Follow these steps to warm a precooked ham in a Crock-Pot, provided that the ham fits:
- Use the stove, microwave or convection oven first: Heat the ham either on the stove or in the microwave or convection oven. Use a meat thermometer to ensure that the thickest and innermost parts of the meat are hotter than 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place the ham in the Crock-Pot: Place the ham in the Crock-Pot, along with the amount of liquid recommended by the manufacturer. Set the temperature above 140 degrees Fahrenheit.If the Crock-Pot has a warm setting, you can use that to keep the ham warm, according to the University of Minnesota.
- Serve the ham: Serve the ham when you're ready to eat. A 2-ounce serving of uncured ham offers 80.1 calories, 12 grams of protein, 3 grams of fat, 39.8 milligrams of cholesterol and 600 milligrams of sodium.
- Refrigerate leftovers: The University of Minnesota cautions against leaving cooked food in the Crock-Pot to cool down; it is recommended that you either eat it immediately or refrigerate it.
- University of Minnesota: “Slow Cookers and Food Safety”
- USDA: “Cook Slow to Save Time: Four Important Slow Cooker Food Safety Tips”
- Colorado State University: “Crockpot and Slow Cooker Food Safety”
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Effects of Climate Change on Salmonella Infections”
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Salmonella Infection in Chronic Inflammation and Gastrointestinal Cancer”
- USDA: “Uncured Ham”