It brings me great sadness to report that not only will we see Jack Pearson, beloved father on This Is Us played by Milo Ventimiglia, come to his untimely death on Feb. 4, but that a slow cooker is the reason behind his tragic demise. Now, anyone who watched or heard about the Jan. 23 episode of This Is Us, “That’ll Be the Day,” is probably wondering if Crock-Pots are dangerous, or if this was this just a classic example of heart-wrenching creative license. (Shoutout to NBC for making me feel super paranoid about stepping away from my slow cooker for even the tiniest of seconds.) Call me dramatic, but this isn’t the first time I’ve been nervous about the safety of slow cookers, and Jack being ripped away from his family in the name of cooking utensils just added fuel to the fire (too soon?).
UPDATE: In a response to Elite Daily's request for comment, a Crock-Pot spokesperson sent the following statement:
Crock-Pot understands the concerns brought up by last night’s episode of This Is Us, and we too are heartbroken by the latest development in Jack’s storyline. However, it is important that our consumers understand and have confidence that all Crock-Pot slow cookers exceed all internal testing protocols and all applicable industry safety standards and regulations as verified by independent third-party testing labs. For nearly 50 years, with over 100 million Crock-Pots sold, we have never received any consumer complaints similar to the fictional events portrayed in last night’s episode. In fact, the safety and design of our product renders this type of event nearly impossible.
In addition, and most relevant to the concerns consumers are having after watching the recent This Is Us episode, our Crock-Pot slow cookers are low current, low wattage (typically no more than 200 or 300 watts) appliances with self-regulating, heating elements. The product is designed to cook foods over a longer period of time at low temperatures and the switches connect to only one side of the power line voltage, so there is never a high voltage applied directly across our switches. The switches within our slow cookers are subjected to additional internal testing, which includes a Rotary Knob Endurance test, Rotary Knob Force Test and Flame Burning Test and constructed of self-extinguishing, flame resistant material.
Our hope is that the team at NBC’s This Is Us will help us spread factual information regarding our product’s safety. While we know their primary mission is to entertain — something they have continued to excel in — we also feel they have a responsibility to inform. Just like many fans, we will be watching next week’s episode to see how Jack’s story progresses and, regardless of the outcome, we want consumers first and foremost to know they are safe when using their Crock-Pot.
EARLIER: I think what really resonated with people about this specific episode of This Is Us is the fact that the Pearsons, and fans of the show, are losing Jack to something as ordinary as a slow cooker. The final scene of the Jan. 23 episode captures Jack cleaning up the kitchen after the Super Bowl, seemingly turning off the slow cooker (the the brand of which is not shown) and heading to bed. But, of course, there's a brief flashback during the episode where we learn that the slow cooker was a gift from a neighbor who warned that the switch was defective, foreshadowing the very old device turning back on and causing the fire.
Now, I have some questions. First of all, why the hell would someone knowingly give someone a defective gift in the first place? Am I the only one who sees a problem with this? Secondly, there’s the issue of Jack and Rebecca's smoke detector, which could have alerted them of the fire had it not been missing its batteries. Granted, I’m not a parent, so I don't know what it’s like to deal with three whiny teenagers and still remember to pick up a fresh pack of batteries at the store. However, the whole point of making a shopping list is to remember everything you need — specifically, the important things, like batteries for a smoke detector! Come on, Jack and Rebecca. I expected more from you.
The combination of a dead smoke detector and an old, faulty slow cooker was a recipe for disaster, and Twitter is flat-out shook.
For the record, slow cookers are generally safe. You just need to know how to properly use and clean up after them.
Before you (irrationally) toss your slow cooker in the trash in the name of a fictional character, let’s think this through, shall we?
Any home device (i.e. your phone, laptop charger, hair dryer, etc.) that uses electricity and plugs into the wall has the potential to start a fire. It’s something we are all subconsciously aware of, but maybe don’t think about enough. For instance, would you swear off using your flat iron because there’s a fragment of a chance that, if you leave it sitting on your carpet long enough, the heat will spark a flame? Possibly, but probably not.
Slow cookers aren’t dangerous if you a) use them correctly and b) fix it, rather than use it, when it’s faulty (I'm talking to you, Jack Pearson). Whether or not it’s safe to leave these appliances unsupervised while you’re at school or work, though, is still up for debate. Also note that, on This Is Us, the slow cooker was unknowingly left on while it was empty, which could potentially be even more problematic, as it's heating up a dry surface. This is clearly just speculation, but it does seem to make sense when you think about it.
Elite Daily reached out to Crock-Pot for comment on this story, but did not hear back by the time of publication. However, if you log onto Crock-Pot’s website and skim through their FAQ section, unsurprisingly, one of the most popular questions touches on whether or not the device can be used unattended. While the brand ensures their slow cookers are "safe for countertop cooking for extended periods of time,” public information director of the New York Fire Department, Jim Long, disagrees.
“It’s not safe to leave any appliance on without someone in the house,” Long told Fox News. “When and if using any cooking appliance, be in the area. Be available to operate it safely.”
So, what is the safest way to use a slow cooker?
Personally, I love my slow cooker; it was the first thing on my bridal registry. I love the convenience of not having to feel shackled to the stove when I’m making dinner, and I love that it’s extremely versatile and really easy to use. However, I try my best not to leave the house when it’s on because I feel safer knowing that, even though I don’t necessarily have to keep an eye on it, I’m in close enough proximity should something happen.
Aside from making the conscious decision to leave your slow cooker on when you're out of the house, there are a few basic protocols to keep in mind so that you don't run into any problems. According to The Kitchn's safety tips, slow cookers should be used on either a countertop or any other flat, heat-protected surfaces that are far away from clutter (like dish towels, for example — ahem, JACK).
Additionally, you should always check the electrical cord before each use, as well as ensure that the lid's vent hole (where the steam comes out) is positioned outward toward the kitchen, not the wall. If you feel safe turning on the device and running errands for a few hours, consider using a programmable slow cooker so that you have better control of the heat settings. And, last but not least, learn from Jack's mistake and never invest in or accept a vintage slow cooker unless you've tested it out or have had it looked at by someone knowledgeable in the space, because it's always better to be safe than sorry.