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Do you leave your crockpot on while you are at work all day? I'll be gone about 9 1/2 hours and something about leaving it on that long bothers me. I grew up with a firefighter dad and while I haven't heard a crockpot fire story, I've heard probably every other kitchen fire story.
I have never heard a fire story from a crockpot either. But I am a cautious person, so I will make sure my sink is empty and nothing is on the counters nearby and place the crockpot in my clean/dry sink while I am gone. That may not make any difference, but I feel better about leaving the crockpot on for several hours when I know that if it should explode (?) while I am gone, there is a chance the damage will be minimal!
I routinely left mine on and felt extremely safe doing so...until this last spring. I was home doing a school project and knew that I wasn't going to have time to fix a dinner, so I was made a stew in my crockpot. Later, I went into the kitchen for a drink, and as I turned, I heard a "POP", saw a flash of light and a stream of smoke coming straight up from the middle of my crockpot. I immediately pulled the plug, but it left an acrid, burning smell that lasted for a long time. I wondered what might have happened if I hadn't been home to immediately pull the plug.
In all fairness, my crockpot had what looked like a hairline crack in the glazing. It had been there for years. Nothing ever leaked through and it didn't cause any problems. Several repair men told me that that happens over time (from the heat), and they are still safe to use. This incident has really scared me. I'm not sure I'll use mine when I'm away anymore.
I have left my crockpot on while at work all day and as long as there is plenty of liquid in it, its fine. A low setting is best so it doesn't boil over. If you have left it while you were at home with no problems, I would not worry about an older one being left alone.
The first time I left a roast in the crock pot all day, in my very first crock pot in my very first apartment I came home to a hockey puck! Live and Learn :)
I have left my crockpot on for as long as 15 hours on low, both when at home and gone. Never had a problem with either my 6 year old Rival, or my 5 year old Proctor Silex. Have also done so with my previous Rival.