Is It Safe to Use Frozen Meat in Your Crock-Pot?

THK Frozen Meat in Crockpot 2

With so many people using their crock-pot slow cookers as mega time-savers, this question is a surprisingly hot topic out there on the Internet:

Can you put frozen meat in the crock-pot?

Our short answer … DON’T DO IT!

For those of you craving a little more detailed explanation, here’s the scoop …

We’ve read a lot of buzz about this issue, and even fielded a great question about it from a reader back on our post for 3-Ingredient Crock-Pot Chicken Tacos. So, we know there’s tremendous confusion and debate surrounding this topic, and we wanted to try to clear up some misconceptions and help direct you to safe, reliable information sources.

THK Frozen Meat in Crockpot 1

There are really two questions here: 1) Can a crock-pot cook meat from a frozen state? and 2) Should you cook meat this way?

If you’re like us, then you no doubt have heard people say that it’s perfectly ok to put stone-cold frozen meat directly into the crock-pot. Maybe you’ve even tried it (and lived to tell the tale!). You can certainly find a shockingly large amount of recipes online that call for frozen meat in slow cooker recipes.

So, yes … a crock-pot can cook frozen meat. It will work.

That’s really not the point, though.

The real issue is whether cooking frozen meat in the crock-pot is safe. Reputable cooking sites, cookbooks and food safety resources agree that it’s not a good idea. No matter how many people tell you they’ve done it without a problem, we still urge you not to try it.

For us, it’s just not worth the risk.

THK Frozen Meat in Crockpot 4

Why? Because slow cookers don’t reliably get frozen meat up to a safe temperature (above 140°F) evenly enough or quickly enough. Your meat will likely spend too much time hovering in the danger zone (from 40°F – 140°F), which opens the door for bacteria to flourish. Not yummy … or safe!

This can be a particular problem for people who are considered at higher risk for food-borne illnesses: older people, pregnant women, little kiddos, and people with challenged immune systems (groups which we’ve seen estimated as comprising approximately 20% of the population).

There are numerous issues that you may see people debating in online chats, which they feel can affect how quickly a crock-pot cooks frozen meat: what heat setting you’re using, how old your slow cooker is, what model it is, how big it is, how full your crock-pot is for any given recipe, what the temperature of the other ingredients is when you start cooking, how much liquid is in a recipe … you get the idea. There are way too many variables. And the bottom line is that there’s just no guarantee whatsoever that your recipe will turn out to be both delicious and safe to eat.

We’re not willing to take that risk with our families, and we certainly don’t advise you to take the gamble with your own loved ones.

THK Frozen Meat in Crockpot 3

Instead, thaw your meat over a day or two in the temperature-safe zone of your refrigerator. Or, if you didn’t plan far enough ahead (egads – we’ve been there!), use your microwave’s defrost setting to gently thaw your meat (check it and rotate it to avoid cooking some parts while others remain frozen), and then immediately transfer it to your crock-pot to get it cooking and rapidly up to a safe temperature.

That tiny little bit of extra effort can save you and your family from a miserable bout of food poisoning. We think that’s well worth it!

Now, we know there will be plenty of you who swear you’ve used frozen meat for years with no problem. (Remember – we said this is quite the hotbed of debate, and we’re expecting plenty of controversy.) But after Gretchen’s food safety courses in her master’s program, and Shelley’s experience in professional and cooking school kitchens, plus all of our research, it’s our firm conviction that you’re taking an unnecessary and avoidable risk. That’s why all of our slow cooker recipes call for starting with fresh or thawed meats, and we just want you to be fully educated about the issue.

If you’d like to read more, check out these resources:

 Better Homes and Gardens Year-Round Slow Cooker Recipes by Better Homes and Gardens

• Slow Cooker Revolution Volume 2 by the Editors at America’s Test Kitchen

• American Heart Association Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook by the American Heart Association

• Betty Crocker’s Slow Cooker Cookbook by Betty Crocker

• Cooking Light Slow-Cooker Tonight! by the Editors of Cooking Light

 USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: Slow Cookers and Food Safety

• University of Minnesota Extension: Slow Cookers and Food Safety

• Ohio State University Extension: Reducing the Risk of Food Borne Illness

• Fix-It and Forget-It blog: Can you cook frozen meat in your slow cooker?

THK Signature Gretchen & Shelley cropped

To get more healthy, delicious recipe ideas, be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest. Plus, be the first to get our newest recipes by simply entering your e-mail in the box at the top right corner of our page!

Trying to Decide What to Make in Your Slow Cooker Next? How About …

Attention Commenters (Update on 10/29/14):

Because we’ve begun to get many very detailed questions on this post, which require (and deserve!) thoughtful, longer, and more researched and detailed answers from us, our policy regarding comments on this particular post is different from all of our others. Comments on this post will be held in moderation until we are able to answer them as thoroughly and thoughtfully as we always strive to do. Your comments are so important to us and always appreciated! In the interim, you might also find it helpful to contact the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline toll free at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). The specialists there are friendly, helpful and very knowledgable! Thanks so much, friends! And keep those comments coming!


Is It Safe to Use Frozen Meat in Your Crock-Pot? — 82 Comments

  1. I just started searching this topic. I actually stuck 2 lbs of frozen hamburger meat into the crock pot for chili, it was in there less then an hour. Upon reading this I removed the frozen meat and cooked it on the stove until brown then placed in back in the crock pot. I am wondering If I still should be worried.

    • Hi Lorraine! Just to be sure, I think you’d feel most confident checking in about the safety issue with the experts at the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline (it’s toll free at 1-888-674-6854). They’re great about answering food safety questions, including ones about the safety of frozen meat in slow cookers. The couple of times that I’ve called to double-check questions, the specialists there were helpful and friendly. Good luck! ~Shelley

  2. Ok, I’m barely setting foot in a kitchen as a newlywed- SO glad I came across your blog. I thought I was going to sound way dumb by asking if the meat should be frozen or thawed :/ cuz none of these recipes I find ever specify- so thank you! A quick question if u have time, I was planning on making pulled pork for a family in need tonight and sadly my pork is frozen solid. I have exactly 12 hours until it would need to be done, would you recommend defrosting in the microwave completely? Thanks for your help!!

    • Oh, Misty – never fear! No dumb questions here, EVER! It’s a true joy to help others if I can, and I often think of how I want to be able to help my own kids as they grow up and move out on their own, so they will know how to cook healthy meals for themselves and their families. I’m really so happy if I can help you, too! 😀 Having said that, though – I’m terribly sorry that I’m so late responding to your comment! You’re so sweet to be making a meal for a family in need – how lucky they are! For what it’s worth at this late date, I would probably have done just what you proposed, and thawed it in the microwave if I was out of time for letting it thaw in the refrigerator. Here is what the USDA has to say about safe thawing (microwave, as well as other techniques):

      Thank you so much for popping by! Best of luck in your new marriage! And really – if there are ever any other questions I can help you with, I’d be happy to do so, and will really try to be more timely! ~Shelley

  3. I was wondering if frozen cooked and smoked meat; such as a smoked turkey could be put in the crockpot, while it was still frozen.

    • That’s a great question, Cindi! I rarely work with smoked meats, and I’m not comfortable advising you on how that would affect the food safety aspects you’re asking about, regarding whether it’s safe to use frozen meat in the slow cooker if it’s already smoked. Just to be sure, I’d advise you to check in with the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline about those nuances, and whether or not the fact that the meat was already smoked would make a difference for you. You can contact them toll free at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) – they’ve always been super-helpful when I have a question. Thanks, and good luck! ~Shelley

  4. Uh-Oh! I need help!
    I looked this up after creating a fabulous crockpot dinner for tonight. Its all set and already started cooking. WHAT DO I DO NOW?! I don’t want to throw it all away 🙁

    • Hi Catherine! I absolutely apologize that I am just now reading your comment. We were away last week on a big, extended family vacation, and for once I actually stepped away from comments, etc. for a few days. I’m really sorry that I wasn’t there to help you out. I hope everything turned out all right for you. ~Shelley

  5. This question was asked awhile back and not answered: if you’re cooking the meat anyway to a temp that kills any bacteria anyway, what difference does it make??

    • Hi Jen! Great question! As we replied to Richard’s inquiry, beyond simply killing any bacterial growth (and you’d have to be sure that all of the meat was actually cooked to an appropriate temp, not just part of it), there’s a deeper issue with the harmful toxins produced by certain types of bacteria, not all of which are killed by the temperatures that kill the bacteria themselves. Again, the exact science of it is far, far beyond the scope of this article, but the experts at the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline would be a great resource for you. You can call them toll free at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). Thanks so much for popping by today! ~Shelley

  6. If you prefer to use microwave to defrost your chicken meat, then make sure not to put too many chicken meat pieces inside of your microwave.

    • Thanks for that suggestion! I totally agree, specifically because, when defrosting meat like frozen chicken breasts, putting too many in the microwave at once can lead to some of them cooking partway through and even beginning to get overcooked and tough while parts of others remain frozen. To help with this, I also usually microwave-defrost frozen chicken breasts in small time increments, rotating them throughout the defrosting time so they defrost more evenly. It’s really about the quality of the chicken at the end of the microwave defrosting time – and having chicken in which portions are overcooked and dried out already, just isn’t very appealing, is it?!? Thanks again for stopping by, and for offering the great suggestion! ~Shelley

  7. There is a lot of misinformation contained in this post, and most of it is made possible by omission. The article isn’t wrong that food (meats especially) left at 40-140deg F will develop bacterial colonies at rapid rates, but an important detail is ommitted. This same thing happens as your meats are prepared, especially if the meat is ground. So why don’t you get sick?

    Well, the reason 40-140deg is called the “danger zone” is that many live bacteria varieties grow quite comfortably in that range. Below that range, they tend to slow down. At freezing, most bacterial cells go dormant. Freezing meat doesn’t kill bacteria that are already there. It just stops them from reproducing as quickly.

    When you cook food, though, you raise it above the 140deg ceiling. Many of you have probably read lots of meat cooling tips that say to use a meat thermometer and ensure the center of your cut is at least 160 or so degrees. The reason for this is that 160 degrees is a temperature that reliably kills bacteria. It doesn’t slow it down or put it to sleep. It kills it.

    A Crock Pot cooks food by raising the temperature internally to roughly 180 to 200 degrees, depending on your model. It holds food at that temperature for an extended time so it can heat evenly, killing bacterial growth with the heat. This will happen no matter how much bacterial growth has occurred, provided you let the pot cook long enough to bring the temperature up throughout the *whole* cut. This will take longer with a frozen cut because the cut is dense. If you cook with frozen food and leave it in the pot for 8-10 hours (depending on your pot model) or more, you’ll likely be ok. You can test the meat with a meat thermometer just like you do when roasting. If it holds at 160+ for an hour, you will almost definitely be totally fine. That’s enough heat and time to kill whatever is alive in there. This works especially effectively if your frozen meat is surrounded by liquid. And the larger your piece of meat, the longer cooking will take. Use a thermometer to check both internal temperature and the temperature of exposed food surfaces!

    But it does take longer to cook frozen food, no matter your method of cooking. You can cook frozen food just fine using almost any cooking method if you understand that heat kills bacteria and work with a thermometer to ensure proper heat levels.

    • Thank you for adding this–I think common sense should apply, and people shouldn’t be afraid to cook from frozen if it’s not a freakishly warm day and the cooker is set to a high enough temperature, for long enough, to kill the bacteria. This article puts the Fear Of God into people, unnecessarily–hurrah for science.

      • Hi, Mathilde! We apologize if we scared you – we actually tried to make our article about as friendly and non-scary as we could, while still answering an excellent question posed by a reader, regarding whether we use frozen chicken in a recipe. Knowing what we do about safe food handling, we can’t, in good conscience, recommend it, and we wanted to give readers some information and resources we thought they’d find helpful. Of course, what each person chooses to do with respect to food sanitation in their own kitchens – regarding frozen meat or any other sanitation issue – is definitely up to them. As we suggested to Richard, if you’d like to delve more deeply into the science behind the issue, you might call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). They can go into more detail with you if you’re interested, and they’ve been friendly and tremendously helpful to us when we’ve had questions. Thanks so much! ~G&S

        • The article says cooking meat in a slow cooker is risky. Your reply here says not to be scared. Does increasing the slow cooking time for frozen meat eliminate the risk or not? And, no, I don’t want to call the hotline.

              • Hi again, Stourley! These are great questions about frozen meat safety, and I know it can all seem pretty confusing. And you’re exactly right – the portion of the USDA’s site that you quoted does seem to be in direct conflict with the USDA’s other statement (that it isn’t safe to cook frozen meat in the slow cooker). So, I called the USDA’s hotline (the one we list above – 1-888-MPHOTLINE) for you, and asked them to clarify, in their own words, why those two statements seem to be in conflict. I spoke with a very helpful Food Safety Specialist named Claire, who explained that the document you’re mentioning (the one entitled “The Big Thaw — Safe Defrosting Methods for Consumers”) is NOT intended to address slow cookers, and that’s why they created the separate document (which we reference above – the one entitled Slow Cookers and Food Safety at The USDA intended “The Big Thaw” document you were reading to pertain to cooking on the stovetop or in the oven. It would definitely help clarify things a bit if their document stated that, though – I definitely agree! At any rate, I hope my discussion with Claire helps you understand the differences better and sheds some light on why those two statements seem to be in direct conflict with each other. Thanks again! And although I know you said you didn’t want to call the hotline yourself, I really do recommend it if you still have questions or would like to discuss all of these nuances in greater detail with a Food Safety Specialist. ~Shelley

    • Hi there, Richard! There is definitely a lot more to the story here – people make entire careers out of studying microbiology, bacteriology and food safety. The deeper issue has more to do with the harmful toxins produced by certain types of bacteria, not all of which are killed by the temperatures that kill the bacteria themselves. The exact science of it is far, far beyond the scope of this article, but the experts at the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline would be a great resource for you. You can call them toll free at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). Thanks so much for adding your thoughts to this great conversation! ~G&S

    • I have been cooking frozen pot roast in a crock pot (low setting for 10 hours) for over 40 years (or you can cook it at 250 in an oven wrapped tightly in aluminum foil). I have never ONCE gotten sick and the meat always comes out super tender, succulent — falling part! When I take the meat out of the crock pot, the juices are simmering and the meat is completely cooked and flakes apart. It melts in your mouth. I vary the recipe from time to time but generally this is what I do: I put in the pot roast, then whisk 1 can of cream of mushroom soup with 1 soup can of filtered water and 1 packet of Lipton French Onion soup mix – and pour this all over the roast. I grind a healthy amount of fresh ground pepper (a tblsp. is good), a tblsp. of sea salt, 3 sprigs of fresh thyme and 2 fresh bay leaves (tuck the bay leaves under the roast). Add a carton of thoroughly washed button mushrooms (keep them whole so they will burst with flavorful juice when you bite into them – yummy!), 6 small red or gold potatoes, 4-5 organic carrots cut into 3 pieces each (I love carrots in a pot roast), 8-10 organic brussel sprouts (you can substitute peas or whole green beans if you don’t like them). My mother was from New England and always added a peeled, diced turnip (optional). Make sure the veggies are submerged in the liquid as much as possible. You can add a little wine if you like too but not necessary (if you do add wine, cut back on salt). Or, you can cook your roast like this at 250 in your oven. Make sure you cover the roast pan tightly with aluminum foil. I love coming home to the smells of pot roast waiting! All you have to do is throw your favorite rolls in oven or make some cornbread 9serve with butter and honey) to go with it. It’s good to treat yourself and your family to a nice home cooked “comfort” meal on a work night. Nothing is easier than pot roast and you can safely cook it this way. Just cook it long enough and, before serving, cut in center to test doneness or use a cooking thermometer in center of meat to see if it registers at 165). I worked in food service for several years and received extensive training on food borne illnesses, etc. You will not get sick cooking meat from frozen if you follow these simple instructions. In fact, I cooked a 3 lb. angus pot roast on Friday this way and it was absolutely succulent with a texture like filet mignon (LOW setting in crockpot for 10 hours). Meat is so much more tender when cooked from frozen. I’ve done this with all cuts of meat – chicken, beef, pork (Boston butt is phenomenal cooked this way) – doesn’t matter. Just use a cooking thermometer and enjoy!

  8. Hey. This is good to know. I’ve been gathering freezer type recipes to try out when I have to work and such. I don’t think I would have put raw frozen chicken and everything into a crockpot, but I do have a couple questions since you guys seem very knowledgeable.

    Is it okay to do if the meat is cooked beforehand? (I don’t think I’ve seen recipes saying to cook anything before freezing in terms of crockpot meals, but in case I try making up my own recipes it might come up.)

    Also, is it okay in an oven setting? Like for a casserole that’s frozen to go straight into a preheated oven. Everything I’ve made so far the meat has been cooked as well. Which might not matter much if it’s not raw. I honestly don’t know.

    Just curious if anyone had any thoughts on this stuff, too? Time savers are great, but I just want to see if I’m learning good techniques so when I just start making everything on my own, it’s good to go and I don’t tell anyone it’s okay if it’s not. I have a strong stomach myself, but I know a lot of people don’t.

  9. Hello,

    What about a pork loin that you’re using for pulled pork? It may start out frozen, but it’s going to be cooked until fully cooked and falling apart. Wouldn’t that be safe in this instance? I’ve done it before and it’s smoking hot when done and fully cooked. Thank you!

  10. Thank you for this article. I have never cooked chicken frozen (not in an over, nor a slowcooker), but… was looking for dinner ideas. It makes PERFECT sense not to frozen meat at temperatures that never goes high enough to eliminate potential bacteria. It’s not worth the risk, no matter how minimal.

    I guess slowcooker chicken will be for tomorrow (will thaw out the chicken first).

  11. Pingback: Freezer Cooking for the Busy Woman | The Sugar Ribbon Blog

  12. I’m in England and I buy frozen chickens and cook them in a slow cooker (that’s what we call them here). My slow cooker has a low and high setting, always using the high setting no matter what I cook. On the packaging (of the frozen chicken), it states that the chicken can be cooked from frozen in an oven for just under 3 hours. In my slow cooker, I cook a frozen chicken for just over 4 hours until it’s piping hot. Never had any problems with any meat I cook in my slow cooker, but when it comes to frozen meat, I’ve only ever cooked frozen chickens. I suppose it’s best to read the packaging first. So even though the packaging states to cook a frozen chicken in an oven, my slow cooker does the job.

    • Gary, they have been saying that it’s not necessarily safe just because many people have done it and haven’t had any issues. If you think about it, anyone who has had issues with it wouldn’t ever try it again and wouldn’t come to a site like this, so we wouldn’t hear about it. It was also stated that people that have a greater risk of food born illnesses have a much higher risk (makes sense). Just because you don’t get sick the first 100 times, doesn’t mean that the next time or two you won’t. It’s like playing Russian roulette. It could also be that if your immune system is fighting off something else, it could lead to a higher risk. By the way, they’re called slow cookers here too. Crockpot is just a popular name brand of slow cookers so people call them that sometimes.

  13. Pingback: Frozen Vegetables In Crock Pot | All Documents

  14. oh my word…I had no idea! I’ve been cooking for 20 years and this is the first time I’ve heard this. So thankful for your blog post. I’ve had food poisoning, it’s not something worth risking just to save a few extra minutes. Thanks so much!

  15. I completely understand about not using frozen raw meat, but what about pre-cooked frozen meat such as frozen meatballs? I use the frozen meatballs quite often, so just wondering.

    • Ed, I was wondering the same thing. We often cook a big batch of “taco” meat and freeze in smaller batches. I am curious if I could reheat meat from a frozen state in the crock-pot. I see you have not received a reply and I wonder if you have tried it yet?

  16. Thank you for this! I was so hoping to have dinner ready for my son and I tonite and I don’t own a microwave to defrost. I put the chicken back in the fridge to thaw properly. Perhaps we would’ve been fine, but why chance it. Thank you for a clear and concise explanation. Much appreciated!

  17. I have thrown frozen chicken in a time or two. The last time I did it though, the chicken came out a grey color that I was scared to eat. Today I started googling, and found out it is indeed, not safe! I am glad to see articles clearly stating that this is not ok. There are so many freezer crock pot ideas that at least imply that it is fine to do this. I wish more people would get the correct info and put it out there along with their recipes!

  18. This article makes it CRYSTAL CLEAR now. My mind set was always that my meat is always (temp)done and never did think about or have much knowledge about the danger zone. I thought that if it was at the right temp…we were good. I have even told people how easy it is to just open the pkg and throw it in the crockpot for the day. I know some of them have started doing this too! Geez!!! I just took my venison roast out of the freezer and will put it in thawed. Thank you so much for info. I will certainly start spreading the word!!

    • Hi Jennifer! Thanks for stopping by! We’re so happy you found us … and especially this post! It’s so important to get everything up to temp and out of that danger zone!
      Now, when you share your yummy venison roast recipe with friends, you can remind them to wait until the meat is thawed!
      Thanks for spreading the word! 😀 ~G&S

  19. If we should not use frozen meat in a crockpot, how would you adapt most of the recipes in the Crockpot Freezer Meals category that so many people are excited about it, including me? One thought I had would be to freeze everything in the recipe together but leave the meat separate.

    • Hi Val! Thank you very much for your question! This is a great topic – and one that is often discussed!

      Several months ago, I actually called the USDA regarding this very issue! There just wasn’t tons of info out there, and I wanted to make sure that we were giving the absolute best info possible. Here’s what I found out: as long as the food is handled properly before freeing, and is totally and safely thawed before cooking it in the crock-pot, then it’s ok to freeze the meat and veggies together. The key is to thaw the food properly prior to cooking. (Several times throughout our conversation, the gentleman from the USDA re-emphasized the importance of thawing the food completely, safely and thoroughly before adding it to the slow cooker.)

      Hope that helps, and thanks so much for the awesome question! ~Gretchen

      • I had a follow-up question to this. If a recipe calls for placing the freezer meal directly into the crockpot still frozen and I don’t want to risk doing that, how should I adapt the cooking time for the dump chicken I have thawed? For example, if the recipe calls to place the frozen meat and veggies into the crockpot directly from the freezer and cook for 6-8 hours on high (4-6 on low), how long should I cook the food if I have thawed it ahead of time? Thanks for the helpful article and links!

        • Hi Jenny! If I understand your question correctly, it sounds like you’ve already thawed the entire slow cooker meal, and are placing the completely thawed ingredients into the slow cooker to begin cooking. Right? I’ve honestly never done that, and the appropriate cooking time could vary from recipe to recipe, so it’s a little hard for me to say for sure what amount of cooking time would be appropriate for your exact recipe. However, I would start by testing your recipe at the lowest end of those cook-time ranges, or even slightly less. If you’re home during the day, definitely plant to check the recipe sooner to see how it’s progressing. Luckily, though, one of the beauties of crock-pot recipes is that they tend to be rather forgiving in terms of exact cook times, with relatively large ranges that will work well, so you have a lot wiggle room. Also, I found a couple of articles with charts of slow cooker cook times, that I thought might help you. Check these out: and–1273/cooking-with-a-slow-cooker.asp Lastly, I notice that the recipe you mention is specifying 6-8 hours on high and 4-6 on low. That’s highly unusual – typically the cook times would be the opposite (the longer cook time of 6-8 hours would be for the low setting, and the shorter cook time of 4-6 hours would be for the high setting). I’m betting the recipe just has a little typo in it there, and you probably want to flip those times, as it just doesn’t make sense to cook longer on high. I hope all of this helps a little. Good luck!! 😀 ~Shelley

  20. I noticed nobody has replied in a long time but just wanted to add my comment! I am one of those who is frequently throwing frozen chicken in the crockpot and luckily nobody has ever gotten sick. I am not even sure what made me think to google it this time before I started my meal, but I’m glad I did! I have a toddler and would absolutely never consciously put her in harms way with my cooking. Thanks for putting this out there.

    • Hi Leslie! So glad you found us – and it seems like you read this post just in time!

      We love our families so much, and like you, want to provide the absolute best for them. Although many people think that it saves time to simply toss frozen meat into the crock-pot, it just isn’t safe. In order to make sure the meat properly gets out of the danger zone, only thawed meat should ever be used.

      I actually had a call with the USDA a few months ago, and they couldn’t stress enough the importance of never using frozen meat – it was said multiple times!

      Thanks for letting us know you found our post helpful – and now your sweet girl will happily enjoy a delicious dinner! 😀 ~Gretchen

  21. Hi, sorry if this question has been asked before. But I have just found some slower cooker recipes that freeze the chicken and vegetables together. So going off your advice to defrost, you would then defrost in the fridge. Do you think there would be a problem with the chicken and the vegetable in the same bag?
    Many Thanks

    • Sorry just making sure I was clear. The recipe gets you to put raw chicken, vegies and a few other ingredients together in a container and then freeze. Then when you needed it, you would defrost the container in the fridge and then place in slow cooker with other ingredients as per instructions. I guess I am asking is it ok to have the chicken and the vegies in the same container in the freezer and then in the fridge.

      • Hi, Liesel! That’s a really excellent question! We wanted to do a bit of research and make sure we had solid sources to back up our answer before we responded to you … and we’ve gotta admit – it wasn’t easy to find reliable sources offering a definitive answer on this. But, we persevered and are excited to pass along what we found! Basically, as long as the food is handled properly and thawed completely and safely before cooking it in the crock-pot (as you said it would be), then it’s ok to freeze the meat and veggies together. The Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education addresses this briefly on their Be Food Safe web site. In addition, we called the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline and spoke to a very nice gentleman who confirmed this for us, as well. Again, though – the key is to thaw the food properly prior to cooking. (Several times throughout our conversation, the gentleman from the USDA re-emphasized the absolute importance of thawing the food completely, safely and thoroughly before adding it to the slow cooker.) Hope that helps, and thanks so much for the fantastic question! ~G&S

  22. This is by far the best-written article I have seen in many years. I took the food handler’s course and all the information you have covered in the article is spot on from the course. So glad to see somebody has a career that you love because you do it so professionally. (100 % accurate on information) Safe eating 🙂

    BTW, If you get sick from any foods prepared outside from your home, Please report it to the authorities. They send out a food safety inspector to the establishment to find out “Why” and “How” was a customer allowed to become ill.

    • Wow, Joanne! Thank you so much for all of your kind words! You made us blush! 🙂

      Thank you for sharing an extremely important tip about reporting being ill from eating out. Hopefully we will never need to worry about this, but it is a great reminder to keep in mind!

      Thank you, again, Joanne for the wonderful feedback! ~G&S

  23. Interesting article. However, I was wondering if it matters what type of meat you’re using. All the pictures seem to be of chicken, but what about beef, as that is safer to eat at lower cooked levels?

    • Hi Jacqueline! Thanks for the great question. Yes, most of our pics did have chicken in them – it’s what we had on hand that day! 🙂

      No, it isn’t safe to put any type of frozen meat (beef or chicken) in the crock-pot. This isn’t really a question of how well-done the meat will be, it comes down to how long the meat spends in the danger zone. While some people prefer their red meat to be more rare, the crock-pot won’t achieve this with frozen meat the same way a grill would with fresh meat.

      Simply stated, putting frozen meat into the crock-pot doesn’t let it heat up fast enough, and it will spend too much time in the danger zone – which is the range of temperatures between 40°F- 140°F. Based on the research I’ve seen, bacteria such as e-coli, staph, and salmonella can double in as little as 20 minutes when in the danger zone. So instead of acting as a cooking device, the crock-pot suddenly becomes a thawing device. With frozen meat, it could literally take hours to get out of the danger zone. This, of course, lessens the amount of time that the meat actually spends cooking. Additionally, the bacteria could spread to any vegetables or other foods you’ve added to the crock-pot.

      Our rule – be safe, and only used completely thawed meat! 🙂 ~Gretchen

  24. Pingback: Menu Plan Monday ~ Feb 17/14

    • Kelly, thanks so much for your comment! It’s interesting what a big issue this is! So many people just don’t realize the inherent risks here, but as a blog focused on helping people to feed their families healthfully, we realized it might help our readers if we addressed this issue, so they were at least aware of the risks. Hopefully it helped at least one person and kept an unsuspecting family from getting sick! We really appreciate your supportive comment – thanks for taking a moment to weigh in on the topic! 😀 ~G&S

  25. Thank you for this. I have taken multiple food safety classes and it is absolutely not okay! It is hard to convince people who have tried and never gotten sick.

    • Hi, Tara! Thanks so much for your vote of support here! 😀 I do agree – it seems like people who’ve tried it before don’t really want to hear that’s it’s not a great idea. They’re disappointed to find that their shortcut might not be such a good strategy after all. You know how we are at THK – we’re all about the shortcut and love a good time-saving strategy! But this just isn’t one we wanted our readers to try. Thanks a million for taking the time to weigh in on the issue. Hope you’re having an awesome week! 😀 ~Shelley

    • Thanks, Erin! It does seem tempting, but it’s totally not worth the risk! I really try to plan ahead, but sometimes those plans don’t always work out the way I had hoped. (Like when I forget to take the meat out of the freezer! It’s happened more than once!) But that’s when I have to come up with another idea – I just can’t gamble with my family’s health! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂 ~Gretchen

    • Hi Tina! No – you aren’t the only one! We’ve actually seen quite a few recipes where it’s recommended to use frozen meat! It’s not a good idea – in fact it’s totally unsafe! We’re just trying to get the word out … and help our readers stay healthy! We’re glad you found this helpful! 🙂 ~G&S

  26. I don’t even have a crock-pot and I think this is so interesting. I’m sure that with my cooking-skills everything is totally dead by the time I’m done with it, but it’s really nice to have someone bring this up! People should be more aware of what and how they cook. Thank you again, you’re two amazing mommies!

  27. My hubby is a food safety officer and he agrees totally with your article. The length of time a product is in the danger zone is the important factor. You could inadvertently be using your crock pot as an incubator of bacteria if the meal spends too long in the danger zone.

    • Thank you, Julie, for the wonderful comment! Wow, an incubator or bacteria – if that doesn’t stop people from putting frozen meat in the crock-pot, I’m not sure what will! In all honesty, thank you very much for taking the time to share this post with your husband! 🙂 ~G&S

  28. Very informative! I don’t have a slow cooker but I have chopped up frozen chicken and tossed it in the soup pot. I never would have thought to do it but was told by a professional chef it was safe. Is there a difference between stove top or crock pot? I certainly don’t want to risk anyone getting sick…

    • Hi, Sharon! Great question! So, judging by what you’ve described with small, frozen cubes of chicken in a soup, it sounds like there’s one very important difference: timing. The big problem with using frozen meat in the crock-pot is the length of time that some or all of that meat may linger in the danger zone (by definition, a crock-pot is a SLOOOOW cooker!). It sounds like the difference with your soup scenario is that your small pieces of meat are going into a (probably already boiling?) environment in which they will very QUICKLY pass through the danger zone and come up to a safe temperature. If I understand correctly what you’ve described, then I would say that difference is very key to the safety of the method the chef taught you. Hope that helps! ~Shelley

  29. Great idea, ladies. I like this post idea of answering some important questions out there. Love your research. I, myself, do not do this but never really thought of why I didn’t :). But, now you have made me more aware of this issue. I offer my thanks for that!

    • Thanks, Lori! When we first received the question from one of our readers about using frozen meat, we realized there were probably a lot of other people wondering about the same thing! So glad you found this helpful! 😀 ~G&S

    • We really hope this info is helpful to everyone! We continue to see recipes that give instructions to just ‘toss frozen meat’ into the crock-pot … and it just isn’t good advice. We want to feed our families delicious foods that don’t take all day to prepare, but certainly aren’t willing to sacrifice food safety! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂 ~G&S

Please Leave Us a Comment! We Love Hearing from You!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *