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I was wondering if I can put meat directly from the freezer into a slow-cooker. I want to be able to put chicken in the slow-cooker without having to let it defrost for a whole day in the fridge.

It is possible?

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If you're going to risk it at all, I'd risk it on beef or lamb. Chicken, fish or shellfish is just asking for trouble. –  starsplusplus Jan 20 at 16:56

9 Answers 9

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Per the USDA guidelines, frozen chicken should not be cooked in a slow-cooker or a microwave. It can only safely be cooked in the oven or on the stovetop.

A similar warning is given for beef as well.

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Huh... We just put frozen chicken in our crock pot today at lunch on low and cooked all afternoon for supper. We also put roasts (beef and pork) in the morning and let it cook all day for great tasting roasts. –  Mike Wills Mar 13 '13 at 3:56
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@MikeWills the USDA guidelines are to prevent foodborne illness, not to ensure the tastiness of the food. The issue is that if one starts with frozen ingredients, slow-cookers are unable to quickly heat the contents past the "danger zone" of temperature at which bacteria multiply most rapidly. Even if the food is heated well past the danger zone afterward, thus killing bacteria, tasteless toxins produced by the bacteria will still remain. –  ESultanik Dec 13 '13 at 16:15

According to the makers of Crock-Pot, "Frozen meats: Can be cooked in a slow cooker, however, it is best to use the following guidelines: Add at least 1 cup of warm liquid to the stoneware before placing meat in the stoneware. Do not preheat the slow cooker. Cook recipes containing frozen meats for an additional 4 to 6 hours on Low, or an additional 2 hours on High."

I've done it successfully with smaller amounts of meat, but I once cooked a roast that was probably at least 4 pounds without defrosting it and that did not go very well (nothing terrible, but my husband and I both got a bit sick after eating it).

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Between your experience and the USDA guidelines, it seems like the Crock-Pot folks are being pretty irresponsible here, recommending unsafe cooking methods. –  Jefromi Mar 2 '13 at 2:07
    
Interesting because my crockpot cookbook says it is not safe to cook frozen meat, to make to thaw it out before. –  Hudson Feb 20 at 17:31

http://amath.colorado.edu/~baldwind/sous-vide.html

is your best source for the ways in which meat can be cooked safely at low temperatures. Look at the tables in section 2 to see how long it takes for tender meat to come directly to temperature at various heats, then later tables for time to pasteurization for meat held at various temperatures (for chicken, table 4.7).

I would tend to recommend against whole chickens in the slow cooker because of the large thickness, but just breast or something should be ok as long as you're on a relatively high setting and you leave it in for at least eleven hours.

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The sous vide tables are for a relatively small portion of meat in a large amount of water, and that water having enough heating to keep it at temperature. A slow cooker temperature drops substantially from just taking off the lid—much more from putting in frozen meat. They have much smaller heating elements, and no large thermal mass (water) to absorb the shock. –  derobert Nov 20 '13 at 23:23

Slow cookers now cook at higher temperatures than the original ones. When I was first married, if I cooked frozen meats in my crockpot, the safety of the meat always seemed questionable and I got sick a time or two. With the slow cookers I have purchased in the last ten years, I have been able to cook frozen meat on high without a problem and even low heat cooks hot. In fact, I have burned food trying to cook foods on keep warm (not recommended by manufacturer).

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I am not sure this actually answers the question.... –  SAJ14SAJ Aug 9 '13 at 0:02

I have cooked frozen chicken breast in the crock pot for years. No one has ever been sick from eating it. I make pulled buffalo chicken for 5 hours on low and then 2 hours on high. I think the important rule to remember is to cook the meat to the recommended USDA temp for whatever meat you cook.

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USDA guidlines indicate that you should not put frozen meat directly into the crockpot. That being said I have no problems putting frozen london broil into my slowcooker on low for 10+ hours. Makes for an easy no fuss, no thought meal and I have had no ill effects.

Personally I would not be comfortable doing a whole frozen chicken because of how dense they are and how long they take to defrost.

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Crock pot cookbooks says yes. Should be boiling water so can equalize heat. I've cooked both frozen chicken and frozen beef, 9 hours on low. Done for years for large parties and family.

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Can you cite what cookbook you are referring to? Especially in light of the accepted answer which states USDA regs... –  lemontwist Mar 2 '13 at 1:17
    
@lemontwist: Rebekah's answer cites a link to the Crock-Pot manual that says the same thing. –  Carey Gregory Mar 2 '13 at 1:27
    
I've edited your answer to remove the stuff about specific recipes; however good they may be, this is a Q&A site, not a recipe-swapping site. –  Jefromi Mar 2 '13 at 2:02

Who do you trust, the US govt, or a person who really cooks?

As long as the pot is covered, and the meat is not previously contaminated, this should be totally safe. Safer than, say, thawing meat in water, then grilling it. Or at least equally safe. There are other factors involved.

To minimize risk, I just thawed the meat in a microwave a little, but not enough for it to begin to brown on the outside. That seems to be a fair compromise.

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I think the safest way to be sure is to microwave a little first

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Is there a reason you believe this? What does the microwave oven offer that the slow cooker doesn't? –  Mien Feb 8 at 21:56

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