Never Do This Again With Your Crockpot

We like to think of Crock Pots as just our go-to “set it and forget it” mode of cooking, right? There’s nothing much to it. You can whip up pork chops, a pot roast and veggies or even chicken tortilla soup in a snap! Is there much that can really go wrong with a Crock Pot??

A recent episode of a very popular show on TV right now (which I won’t name so I don’t give any spoilers away!) re-emphasizes the importance of remembering to turn your slow cooker off, and not only that but UNPLUG IT. Trust me. Just unplug it. I’m gonna stop there before this cute little article gets a little heavier than it’s supposed to. (RIP Rocky Balboa Jr. Rest in Peace!! ADDDDRRRIIIIIIIAAAAANNNN!!!! :) )

Anyway, there are a couple other no-no’s when it comes to safety with these beauties.

I grew up watching my mom throw frozen chicken breasts or a frozen roast in there time and time again and I never thought twice about it. Until recently. According to the “Slow Cookers and Food Safety Guidelines” from the USDA, you should always thaw meat or poultry before putting it in a slow cookers.

They recommend storing the thawed meat in the refrigerator before adding it in. “The slow cooker may take several hours to reach a safe, bacteria-killing temperature. Constant refrigeration assures that bacteria, which multiply rapidly at room temperature, won’t get a ‘head start’ during the first few hours of cooking.”

The primary concern is that putting frozen meat in the slow cooker increases its chances of entering the “danger zone,” the temperature range between 40° and 140°F where harmful bacteria grow exponentially.

Slow cookers operate at temperatures between 170°F and 300°F—well above this zone—but it takes longer for frozen meat or poultry to reach those temperatures than thawed meat, giving it more opportunity to sit in the danger zone.


Here’s where things get a little murky. The guidelines for the Instant Pot, which can function as a slow cooker, say there’s “no need to defrost the food in the microwave prior to preparing.” They recommend increasing the cook time if beginning with frozen food, but do not address any potential hazards. This is perfectly fine advice if using the pressure-cooker function, because a pressure cooker can cook frozen chicken or meat fast enough to avoid the “danger zone.” But the Instant Pot’s website doesn’t specify which function the guidelines are referencing.

Honestly, food experts have differing opinions about this frozen debate. But ultimately, they recommend following the USDA guidelines to help reduce the possibility of the development of harmful bacteria. It’s better to be safe than sorry. If you tend to meal plan at the beginning of the week, it shouldn’t be too hard to remember to defrost your chicken breasts or roast in fridge a day or two ahead of time.

Now I know what I’ll be having for dinner: (in two nights haha!) French dips. I guess I’ll have to go get one from Arby’s in the meantime. After all, Arby’s has THE MEATS!


    Mary Richardson
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2014
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