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frozen meat in slow cooker

i've read that it's a bad idea to put frozen meat in the slow cooker and let it cook all day because it sits in the "danger zone" temperature-wise for too long. (i know there are a lot of people who say "i do it and i haven't gotten sick yet.")

let's pretend the theory is correct, that you shouldn't use frozen meat for that reason. my question is: what if you use frozen meat and you cook it on high, as in maybe 2-4 hours instead of 8-10? does that make the danger any less likely, or is that still too long to be safe (again, assuming the theory is correct)?

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( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
violet_tigress1
Feb. 3rd, 2008 06:06 am (UTC)
i've read that it's a bad idea to put frozen meat in the slow cooker and let it cook all day because it sits in the "danger zone"

Where'd you read that? I put frozen meat in my crockpot all the time. I think that as long as your crock gets hot enough, it's fine. I wouldn't put a whole frozen roast in there, (smaller pieces) but it should be ok.
roberlyn
Feb. 3rd, 2008 10:50 am (UTC)
all over the place. i'm not saying it's right, i'm just saying it's a theory that is often discussed. i honestly don't know who's right and who's not. i have a husband with a sensitive digestive system (as well as a compromised immune system) so i'm trying my best not to introduce problems that can easily be avoided by an extra day in the refrigerator. but like i said, IF the theory was correct, WOULD it still be a problem on high. maybe i'm asking in the wrong community.

you can see examples of people discussing it here:

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Focus_On_Slow_Cooker_Safety/index.asp
"Always defrost meat or poultry before putting it into a slow cooker."

http://www.meatsafety.org/ht/d/sp/i/1023/pid/1023
"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."

http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/nutrition/M1182.html
"Thaw frozen meat, poultry, and other ingredients in the refrigerator before adding to the slow cooker."

http://www.landolakes.com/mealIdeas/slow-cooker-recipes.cfm
"Never place frozen meats directly into the slow cooker. If necessary, thaw frozen meat the day before putting into your slow cooker."

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20071030114324AAcmpPy
"Maybe... but it's always safer not to. Slow cooker makers have always warned against putting frozen meat/poultry into the crock (especially large pieces) because the heat can take too long to reach the center of the meat. Meat and poultry need to reach 140 degrees (within 4 hrs, I think) or the bacteria count just goes up way too high. If you take the meat/poultry out before it's had time to stay at 150-160 etc. long enough for the entire center to be cooked to the proper temp, you're taking a chance on it."
fallconsmate
Feb. 3rd, 2008 06:09 am (UTC)
dragonsnot. if i dont cook from frozen, i have to leave things in the icebox for 4 days (literally) or longer to get them to thaw. even when i cook a roast in the stove, i put it in frozen and cook for 3-4 hours.

i honestly dont think that the "danger zone" is as dangerous with things like a solid roast (which has a smaller surface area to collect bacteria) over ground beef (which has been processed more). i'd still cook a roast from frozen, because to my mind you're not doing any more harm than leaving something out in the sink to thaw during the day and cooking it when you got home.
phdcow
Feb. 3rd, 2008 01:08 pm (UTC)
I've been throwing frozen meat in the crockpot for years and we're still alive and healthy. In fact, in one of my crockpot cookbooks, they recommend starting with frozen meat to make it more tender and juicy.

I figure that even if there's a "danger zone," the fact that the stuff is bubbling by the time it's ready probably kills whatever was in there.
darkbeforedawn
Feb. 3rd, 2008 02:03 pm (UTC)
The problem is that, while high tempertures may kill bacteria, they do not destroy any toxins that the bacteria may have produced.
zette
Feb. 3rd, 2008 02:09 pm (UTC)
Honestly, if you're assuming that the theory is correct and it's a health compromise issue, I just would not do it, period. Just buy your meats every few days unfrozen and use them or thaw them out well before putting them in. I, like many, have put in whole frozen chickens, roasts, etc and never had a problem, but that could be because I'm very lucky or because I have built up a tolerance to it. I would not take that chance if I had a family member that could become seriously ill because of it.

Since (as far as I know) none of us are microbiologist or have more information than the places you've linked to, I think the best answer you'll get besides "I do it all the time and never got sick" is "If in doubt, don't do it".
mollywog
Feb. 3rd, 2008 02:16 pm (UTC)
If it's so unsafe, then why are there a couple of different frozen food companies that make crockpot dinners in a bag which include uncooked meat that you put in the crock frozen???
kastinkerbell
Feb. 3rd, 2008 07:36 pm (UTC)
Those meats are all chopped up and small...and highly salted.
mollywog
Feb. 3rd, 2008 07:48 pm (UTC)
Ah! That makes sense. I've never had any of them, I've just seen them.
miome
Feb. 3rd, 2008 02:41 pm (UTC)
As I understand it, it will be less of a problem, but still a problem. You can also reduce risk by using smaller pieces. I think it would be fine with chopped stew meat, but I definitely wouldn't do it with a roast, or with any kind of poultry.
sunruner
Feb. 3rd, 2008 03:20 pm (UTC)
Also, realize that new crocks cook at a much higher temperature than the older ones. Some of those sites might not have been updated to go with the newer temps on crocks... but they also have to be sure to say things for EVERYONE. So while it may not be a good idea to put a HUGE frozen roast in an older crock pot on low for many hours because it doesn't heat up fast enough to get past the danger zone, smaller chunks of meat heated quickly and then backed down a bit to cook a while is a different situation all together. But just as good as you say "you can use frozen meat in a crock pot" someone won't think it through and will put the HUGE frozen roast on low and will get sick and sue.

If it really worries you, put it in on high and bring it up to temp first and then lower the temp to finish the cooking over a long period of time, you should be fine. This means it's less time in the "danger zone" but still gets a long cook time.

Cooking on high for a much shorter amount of time will probably work but given the fact that the point of using a crock is to help break down the tougher cuts of meat and that requires time, your end result will probably not be as tender and flavorful as a long cook time.

If none of these work for you, just make plans to thaw before you use meat in your crock.

Just my two cents.
roberlyn
Feb. 3rd, 2008 04:22 pm (UTC)
THIS is the answer i was hoping for. like i said, i already know there's discussion about the theory, and i don't claim to know which way is right. you answered how cooking on high would affect the outcome, which is perfect. thanks!
stacycat69
Feb. 3rd, 2008 03:24 pm (UTC)
If the theory is correct, then cooking it on "high" would still leave things in the "danger zone" for too long.

But, the USDA says not to cook whole roasts or whole chickens in the slow cooker for that same reason.

One thing you can do is make the crock the night before, and let it sit in the fridge overnight to defrost, then put it in the cooker in the morning.
roberlyn
Feb. 3rd, 2008 04:25 pm (UTC)
that's a very good idea. would you include vegetables the night before, or is cutting them too early/sticking them in a pot with defrosting meat likely to ruin anything (nutritional value, safety)?
stacycat69
Feb. 3rd, 2008 04:27 pm (UTC)
Most likely not. This is a tip that many "too rushed to cook" places recommend. The ease is that you can prepare it the night before, so all you have to do is take it out of the fridge and put it in the slow cooker.
carduustristus
Feb. 3rd, 2008 06:19 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't put the whole crock in the fridge. Especially if you are going to put it on high. You might crack the crock.
kastinkerbell
Feb. 3rd, 2008 07:42 pm (UTC)
Can I speak up as a person that has gotten sick from frozen meat in a crock pot? Because I have. They were frozen chicken thighs and when I ate it, everything was hot and bubbly. The danger zone is real and shouldn't be downplayed so much.

The people that say they haven't gotten sick are either very lucky or didn't realize that it was the frozen meat in the crock pot that made them sick (it can sometimes take a while for food poisoning to present itself).

Foods shouldn't be in the danger zone for longer than 4 hours (keep in mind that when dealing the raw foods, the clock is always ticking...like when it's in your car on the way home from the store). If you are able to bring the frozen meat to 140 in the crock pot in 2 hours on high, then you're safe. You could then lower the thermostat to low. I'm just not sure that it's possible to heat it that quickly.
roberlyn
Feb. 3rd, 2008 09:00 pm (UTC)
thank you for sharing your experience and answering my question. food poisoning is NOT fun.
baikonur
Feb. 3rd, 2008 09:12 pm (UTC)
I often separate my chicken breasts into ziplock bags, so that I can have single person portions. When I need to use some chicken, I just put the bag into a bowl a run hot water over it for a while. It thaws the chicken fairly quickly. You could use this method to thaw chicken before putting it in the crock pot.

You might also try washing the chicken pieces in a salt water solution. As I understand it, salt kills bacteria.

But I agree with the sentiment "when in doubt, don't do it."
brennakate
Feb. 4th, 2008 10:30 pm (UTC)
Someone asked this questions a few weeks ago in this community. The thread would be worth reading.

As a result, I did an experiment. I put 2 frozen chicken breasts in the crock and set them on high. They were out of the danger zone in less than an hour & a half.
roberlyn
Feb. 5th, 2008 01:04 am (UTC)
ahhh, great. thank you! exactly what i wanted to know.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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