A number of questions regarding crock pots were sparked by the post on FB Is Your Crock-Pot Leaching Lead?, so I went directly to Tamara Rubin (@Lead Safe Mama) for advice on how to answer. She responded to one commenter asking about the lead level of her 30 year-old Crock-Pot, “I have found lead levels to be very high in crock pots of that age – like 10,000 ppm and sometimes as high as 40,000 ppm.”
I value Tamara’s analysis on this and have made changes in my own kitchen based on her lead and heavy metal testing.
She uses the most accurate instrument currently available (that has accuracy in both the low ranges and high ranges when determining lead content) is the Niton XL3T, or XL3T GOLDD+.
So let’s do a breakdown of the three crock pots she says are the safest:
Click the link for more on #LeadSafe: Rival Brand Crock Pot Ceramic Liner, Pioneer Woman Instant Pot or the #LeadSafe: Crock Pot Brand Black Ceramic Oval Crock Pot Liner.
1. This Rival brand Crock-Pot stoneware / ceramic liner was positive for lead at 37 parts per million (ppm). [Tested in 2014, exact year of manufacture unknown.]. This is a level that is considered safe by all standards (United States and European.) It has also likely been leach-tested. That said I would personally not be comfortable cooking food for hours upon hours in a vessel that is positive for any amount of lead, especially when there are lead-free options out there.
If you have to use a crock pot or slow cooker Tamara recommends this one, because it has a stainless steel liner (even though the cooking element is not 100% lead-free, at least the vessel that contains the food is.)
2. This post has the XRF Test Results for a Pioneer Woman Instant Pot purchased from Walmart in December, 2018.
XRF test results for Pioneer Woman Instant Pot: Heating element positive for 443 ppm Lead (+ 642 ppm Cadmium). Instant Pot is the “Lead-safest” option out there!
- This amount Lead found in a heating element is the LOWEST detectable amount of Lead I have ever found in any similar heating element for any appliance of this type! This is likely because of the thick gray coating over the element (which appears to be some sort of paint or enamel.)
- The low amount of Lead (in this case) is also not in any of the food contact surface components of this appliance.
- The company has also been incredibly responsive — they are aware of the issue and working to reduce the (comparatively) low amount of Lead in that component (even though they are currently in full regulatory compliance with the current levels.)
- Here’s a link to a letter from them in response to when I initially published my findings two years ago.
- Here are some examples of other pressure cookers and slow cookers (and crock pots) that I have tested (most of which have been positive for Lead — many of which have been positive for Lead in food surface contact areas.)
As a result of the above set of considerations, it is my personal opinion that the Instant Pot is currently the safest choice for a slow cooker or rice cooker type appliance (“safest” from a toxicant perspective).
Tamara’s personal note: “after testing this Instant Pot, we promptly got rid of our other pressure cookers and our rice cooker (which were each positive for higher levels of Lead than the Instant Pot in one or more component), and now use a regular (not this pretty Pioneer Woman version) Instant Pot [this exact one] in our home.”
3. This Crock-Pot brand stoneware / black glazed ceramic liner was positive for lead at 42 parts per million (ppm). [Tested in July of 2014, exact year of manufacture unknown.].
This is a level that is considered safe by all standards (United States and European.) It has also likely been leach-tested. That said, I would personally not be comfortable cooking food for hours upon hours in a vessel that is positive for any amount of lead, especially when there are lead-free options out there.
Note: You CANNOT use a LeadCheck swab to test your CrockPot liner for Lead. The Lead levels are far below the detection limits for the swabs. Many bloggers have suggested this in their posts about Crock Pots and this is simply a waste of your money. You can read more about that here.
I do not (and will never) recommend any ceramic-lined crock pots because they almost always have lead either in the glaze or the substrate or in both locations. The batch variations (when it comes to the presence of Lead) are too variable and not reliable for me to recommend this type of product (even when one example from a brand appears to be Lead-safe or Lead-free) – especially given the nature of the product and the food cooked within (which includes food often has acidic bases – like tomato sauce or vinegar.)
If you must use a crock pot or slow cooker type appliance I recommend the Instant Pot (link), because it has a stainless steel liner (even though the cooking element is not 100% lead-free, at least the vessel that contains the food is.) The additional benefit of the Instant Pot is that the cooking duration is significantly abbreviated by the nature of the design of the appliance, reducing the potential amount of leaching of Nickel (or Chromium) or other concerns people may have about stainless steel.
See Jacque’s 3 Slow Cooker brand recommendations here.
Find Tamara (Lead Safe Mama) on Instagram.
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