Slow Cooking FROZEN Meat – It’s NOT safe!!

In short… No!!

This is a very hotly debated topic that we see in our group Slow Cooker Recipes 4 Families on Facebook nearly every single day.

Some people choose to take this risk. In fact many people will tell you that they have done so for years and “it’s never hurt me!’.
However according to the experts this may be more due to pure luck than anything else.

It really is up to you to make an educated and informed risk assessment for yourself!
I’m hoping by providing this information more people will make the SMART choice 🙂

For food safety reasons you should bring your food to temperatures of 60 degrees C (140 degrees F) as quick as possible.
This is why it can be a good idea to start the cooking process on high (or auto) to assist the food to reach this safe temperature as quick as possible.  However this isn’t mandatory to do!  I usually do this for large roasts etc but not much else.

Cooking with frozen food significantly increases the amount of time it takes for your food to reach this safe temperature and thus significantly increases the chances of you and your family getting food poisoning 🙁
I for one WILL NOT take that risk with my loved ones.
But you are free to weigh up this risk for you and your family.

Cooking from frozen also increases the risk of your ceramic slow cooker bowl cracking due to the sudden temperature changes between frozen food and the heating bowl. If the bowl cracks your slow cooker is then unusable!

(On a similar note you should always remove your food from your slow cooker dish prior to refrigerating it. The nature of the thick ceramic bowl means it retains heat and thus takes a lot longer to cool down to safe refrigeration temperatures, once again leaving your food too long in the danger zone)

But don’t just take my word for it!
Here are the qualified experts telling you exactly the same thing >>

  • “Always thaw meat or poultry before putting it into a slow cooker”  (United States Department of Agriculture – Food Safety and Inspection Service)
  • “Do not put frozen ingredients in the slow cooker; defrost meat and poultry thoroughly in the refrigerator before slow cooking” (Web MD)
  • “It is safe to cook frozen meat or poultry in the oven, on the stove, or grill without defrosting it first; the cooking time may be about 50 percent longer. Do not cook frozen meat or poultry products in a slow cooker.” (Meat
  • “Always thaw meat or poultry before putting it into a slow cooker. If frozen pieces are used, they will not reach 140° quick enough and could possibly result in a food borne illness” (University of Minnesota)
  • “If frozen meat has to be used at short notice it should still be thawed before cooking” (CSIRO)

And that’s just a sample.  Look around for yourself and you’ll find the same information out there 🙂

Reminder: Safest defrosting method is putting your frozen meat in a bowl in the fridge.  Overnight will often not be long enough so ideally choose your meat for the following night the day before and defrost it in a bowl on a lower shelf of your fridge for 24hrs.

Hoping this helps and that you never have to be one of those to learn the hard way to never take risks with food safety x

38 thoughts on “Slow Cooking FROZEN Meat – It’s NOT safe!!”

  1. This is advice that needs to be reinforced and followed by everyone. i am really impressed how serious slow cooker central is about slow cooker cooking, I’m a HUGE fan of my slow cooker since I joined the page I am amazed and inspired everyday by Slow Cooker Central 🙂

  2. I will not advocate for or against it, but until my boyfriend mentioned it, my mother, and now I, have always used frozen chicken in the crock pot. Yes, it “never hurt me”. But I also had no idea.

    What would the difference be if you thawed it in the microwave and then slow cooked it?

  3. Wow from generation to generation now to me I have always thawed my meats on the counter or in the sink is that not a good idea

  4. Angelica Berglund

    I don’t know how it is in other manuals but I read my manual for my slow cooker and it simply says that NO FOOD AT ALL is allowed to be cooked from frozen due to health risks and that is can damage the slow cooker but maybe this vary from cooker to cooker.

  5. Hi all,
    I am very new to slow cooker,i just want to clarify some doubts before buying.

    Some slow cooker having small vent hole in the lid other models dont have.Please let me know which one is good to prepare Soup/Broth.

    If i prepare soup by using the cooker with vent hole lid,will it be drained out all liquid?

    Thanks for you time.

  6. Will keep this mind. I do my best to defrost my meat first. Sometimes i forget to get it out of freezer. Will be looking after our health from now on.

    1. I use my microwave on defrost setting ..from frozen to defrosted in about 10 minutes …the meat doesn’t get ” cooked ” on defrost …so I Dont worry about not taking out my meat from the freezer ..I just defrost right through and then cook in slow cooker ,

  7. Can i put meat and veg in the slow cooker that is thawed but with stock/liquid was frozen in cubes?? I was rushed for time and now I’m wondering whether we are okay to be eating it. The cubes were not fully defrosted 45 minutes into cooking which is what got me wondering/googling…

  8. I am very new to cooking with a slow cooker and am so glad that this page is here as I was going to put frozen chicken into my curry but after reading the comments I decided I wouldn’t. I left the curry for tea last night to give my chicken time to thaw in the fridge. Pleased to say it was curry for tea tonight and it was lovely, the meat was so tender and juicy. Also I didn’t need to worry about the health of my family. Thanks so much for the great advice. I will definitely be visiting this page again if I have any questions xx

  9. Can I take out the chicken dish that was cooked with frozen chicken tenders and put it in the oven to bake and kill the bacteria? If so, at what temperature.

    Thanks for your help.

  10. What about thawing the meat (I did) in the fridge for the 24 hrs, and then putting in slow cooker…..but because I have to leave for work, that means it will sit in the slow cooker until the thing turns on (on timer) about 3-4 hrs later. Isn’t that also bad? What do you do in that instance? The recipe only calls for 5.5 hrs on low for cook time, hence the timer (so it’s done when we get home from work in evening).

    Thanks for your insight!

  11. Oh, just checked the USDA source you quoted, and there seems to be allowance for commercially-prepared frozen meals with meat:

    “Thaw Ingredients

    Always thaw meat or poultry before putting it into a slow cooker. Choose to make foods with a high moisture content such as chili, soup, stew or spaghetti sauce. If using a commercially frozen slow cooker meal, prepare according to manufacturer’s instructions.”

  12. I am wondering about a partially thawed chicken roaster. I left it in the refrigerator for two days to thaw; however, when I went to put it in the crock pot, it was still pretty frozen. I added about 1.5 Liters of warm/hot water to the crock pot and put the temp on high. stupid question, but can you kill the bacteria by cooking longer or hotter? maybe I botched the whole meal by using the hot water. I was hoping that would help thaw it and get it to a proper temperature sooner. Normally I would not cook a frozen or partially frozen chicken. thanks,

  13. I put my frozen chicken breasts into the crockpot with some chicken broth, and then before turning it on, was talking with my sister who said that was dangerous. So I put the crockpot, chicken, and broth in the refrigerator to thaw. I was going to turn on the crockpot today and cook the chicken. But is it safe, since the chicken thawed in the broth? Thank you, I hate to throw out 6 chicken breasts, but don’t want to get sick.

  14. Regardless of how slowly the meat comes to temperature, if it reaches temperature for the required time duration, any bacteria is killed. The issue is that people will cook from frozen for only the duration called for by a recipe that is assuming they cook from effectively room temperature (or below, recently out of the fridge), and not check internal temps. That results in under-cooked meats and a high probability of bacteria and food poisoning.

    Basically, the guidelines from all the sources listed are dumbed-down instructions for people who can’t understand or remember that frozen food takes longer to cook, and internal temperature is critical for reliable food safety.

    And yes, I’m a scientist.

    1. Exactly 🙂
      This is why we advise people NOT to do so because as you say it “results in under-cooked meats and a high probability of bacteria and food poisoning”
      Glad you can understand 🙂
      …. though I wouldn’t be so rude as you to call it dumbed down for any non “scientist” reading this – we all start somewhere, even scientist like you 🙂 We cater to all levels of understanding here 🙂

  15. How does this reconcile with recipes that suggest preparing bundles for the slow cooker in advance and storing them in the freezer?

  16. “you should bring your food to temperatures of 60 degrees C (140 degrees F) as quick as possible.”

    Surely putting a frozen piece of meat straight into a slow cooker is a much faster way of achieving this than thawing it on the side for 12 hours first?

    1. Umm no??
      Firstly defrost it safely in the fridge
      No one should be leaving meat sitting “on the side” for 12hrs 😉

      Then you start with a defrosted piece of meat which comes up to temp MUCH MUCH faster than a solid hunk of frozen meat will 🙂

      Glad I had this opportunity to clarify for you so you can cook safer 🙂

  17. Freezing stops bacteria growth, but doesn’t kill bacteria. As the meat thaws, during the “danger zone”, bacteria are alive, and create “toxins”. As the temperature rises, the bacteria is killed, but not necessarily these “toxins”. So if one person doesn’t have problems with meat thawed in a slow cooker (or on the kitchen counter), then they may have a stronger constitution or different preparation to someone who may get food poisoning or otherwise reacts negatively. Note that you *can* thaw meat in an Instant Pot, for certain meals (particularly soup and stew), since the meat is cooked quickly. So while I wouldn’t have grandma eating the chili from meat thawed in a slow cooker, if there’s no work around the house for hubbie and the teenagers to do this weekend, go for it. 😀

  18. How does this work? I’m thawing frozen chicken in the fridge for 24- 48 hours first. Doesn’t that also pose a risk of bacteria growth and have a longer time for said bacteria to grow then it would thawing in a crockpotwhile the crockpot is heating up? How is it safer to thaw for the longer period of time where more bacteria can grow then it would be to thaw and cook over a couple of hours?

    1. Because thawing in fridge is safe temps (cold) then cooking by normal means (hot and fast) is safe.
      Trying to slow cook frozen meat takes MUCH longer and therefore longer in the risk zone.
      Fully thaw in fridge THEN slow cook 🙂

  19. Quick question on this one – I am always using either fresh meat or making sure I’m defrosting meat before putting it in the slow cooker and have been very diligent of late being pregnant to make sure my husband and I are both careful on this.

    However, you know when you DO defrost it in the microwave or fridge and sometimes the very centre of it may still be a bit icy/frozen when it’s time to cook? Is this still safe to then cook with?

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