The Slow Cooker, or Crock-Pot as it is more commonly known, has become one of the pillars of home cooks everywhere due to the degree of convenience it offers.
With a Crock-Pot, you can easily and effortlessly cook flavorful meals with a Set-It-And-Forget-It peace of mind, all the while lowering the costs of your cooking and promoting healthy eating.
Crock Pots are great, and in my experience, when people who have never used one before leap in and join the crockpot community, they instantly fall in love. However, if there is one common complaint from new crockpot users is that it can smell like burning plastic when heating.
Is this normal? Why does it happen? And, what can you do about it?
These are important questions, so allow me to answer them for you below.
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Why Does My Crock-Pot Smell Like Burning Plastic?
The most common sources of burning plastic smell in crock pots are the O-rings, the condensation collectors, and the safety valve or safety seal. This smell is normal and should go away on its own after you use the crock-pot a few times.
Less often, the inner surface of the slow cooker bowl itself will cause a burning smell. This is a sign of a low-quality cooker, and if you run into that then you are better off returning and asking for a refund.
New Crock-Pot Smell – Yuck!
In most cases and under normal circumstances, you will find that the burning smell coming from your crockpot is caused by two different things: minor manufacturing defects or lack of upkeep or cleaning.
In the case of the latter, you simply need to clean it more often. However, in these cases, the smell will be unpleasant but it will typically not smell like burnt plastic.
In the case of manufacturing defects, the smell of burning plastic will often emanate from brand-new crockpots. In these cases, the smell will typically disappear after two or three days of use because the defects are very minor and are mostly found in the plastic coating that covers components such as the wires, cables, and electrical circuits inside the cooker.
This is the reason why it is especially common on lower-end models. These cheaper appliances are built with lower-quality materials that when heated release volatile plastic molecules into the air, filling your kitchen with an acrid and unpleasant smell.
Higher-end models can still burn off during the initial use cycles, but the smell will normally fade after a while.
If your crockpot does start producing a burning plastic smell after many uses, you can take that as a good sign that there is something broken or damaged. Unplug the power cord as a precaution. Then it would be best to take it in for repair, or just return or exchange it.
Getting Rid Of The Plastic Smell
If we trust most crockpot manufacturers, any funky smells are caused by very minor imperfections in the manufacturing process, and simply waiting will suffice. And, this is mostly true.
Most of the time, the burning rubber smell is only present during the first few use cycles. But it is also true that the fact that the smell eventually disappears does not make it any more palatable. I don’t know about you, but I don’t appreciate any of my food smelling like burning tires!
Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to get rid of the odor a bit faster and more proactively.
Once the smell appears the first thing you want to do is air out the appliance. So, open the lid of the crockpot and leave it open while the smell dissipates.
My favorite method is to fill the crockpot with some water and add a couple of lemon slices to the container, then set the crockpot on for twenty to thirty minutes. The citric acid in the lemon slices will typically be enough to neutralize the burning plastic smell.
You can also use a few drops of vinegar instead of lemons but be advised that when heated vinegar can give off a very pungent smell.
Cleaning your crockpot properly and often is also very important. Making sure all the dirty foods are removed will do a lot to prevent funky smells produced by the buildup of bacteria and decomposing food particles.
To properly clean your crockpot, ensure the unit is turned off and unplugged. We do not want any accidents.
Once your unit has completely cooled off, remove the lid (this may not be possible on certain models), then remove the ceramic bowl and wash like you would the rest of your dishes.
To clean the base remove the silicone seal (if your unit has one), and wipe everything thoroughly with warm water and mild soap. Make sure to wipe dry to avoid rust damage.
Avoid using abrasive detergents, and certainly do not use abrasive sponges to scrub any leftover bits. Use a soft sponge or damp cloth instead.