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Style & Living Food and Drinks

Why Are This Is Us Fans Are Freaking Out About This Common Kitchen Tool — And Is Yours Actually Safe?! (SPOILERS)

Last night's episode has people devastated — and worried, too.

By Aly Walansky

As fans of This Is Us, we’re used to having a good cry every Tuesday night — but nothing prepared us for last night’s shocking ending.

Prior weeks had warned us that last night’s episode would finally reveal a major clue as to how everyone’s most beloved character, Jack, ultimately died. And the reveal was devastating.

Throughout the series, we’ve known that the Super Bowl is Jack’s favorite night of the year. It was this night that killed him — via a vintage Crock-Pot — which was used to cook chili for the family to enjoy over game night.

The final scenes of last night's episode show Jack cleaning the kitchen at the end of the night, and turning off the slow cooker. He leaves it plugged in, though, and throws a rag against the machine as he walks out of the room. The screen then flashes back to 18 years earlier when Jack and Rebecca were gifted the machine, then already a hand-me-down from an older couple. The couple warned them at the time at the pot's controls were a bit finicky — but suggested that it still had a lot of years left in it. Then, flash back to current day.

The off lever switches back to on, and a fire begins. The fire spreads from the pot to the rag to the rest of the kitchen, then engulfing the kitchen in flames.

We’re over here comforting ourselves with this bit of data: The crock pot was vintage — already several decades old when this fateful night occurred, and the scene was set in the '90s — and not exactly a fresh one out of a modern box up to modern safety standards and regulations. But could something like this happen today?

Ultimately, like any other electric equipment, a slow cooker can indeed malfunction. If you, like Jack and Rebecca on This Is Us, are gifted a vintage pot, you’ll want to “check the legs, handles, and lid for tightness. You want to make sure the hardware is completely secure to avoid any potential safety hazards when handling hot food,” according safety guidelines from NBC News.

If you are using vintage pot from the ‘70s (as they were) that has the insert firmly attached to the heating element, instead of a removable insert, then it’s time to upgrade,” said Stephanie O'Dea, New York Times best-selling cookbook author and slow-cooking expert, in the same article. “All of the newer pots have a removable cooking pot, which is dishwasher safe.”

If your slow cooker is a current model and in good condition — then yes, it is safe to assume it can be left unattended as is one of the main benefits of the appliance. However, make sure to give it room to breathe — don't put it flush against the wall, for example — and keep the power cord away from the edge of the appliance or anything flammable. 

Ultimately, slow cookers are safe to use — and even to leave on while you head out for the day — but don't use yours at all if you have any reason to doubt its perfect working order. We all love our game night chili, but it’s not worth any undue risk.

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