Stop Putting Frozen Chicken in Your Slow Cooker, Says USDA

published Mar 20, 2018
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Sometimes I wonder what it is like to work at the USDA and be tasked with giving people advice that you must know a lot of them are just not going to follow.

“LOL, no.”

“Sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of this eggs Benedict.”

I always imagine it’s a lot like when my mother would tell me not to eat raw cookie dough, but I’d do it anyway and she’d shout, “I’m just trying to keep you from getting salmonella! Do you want salmonella?”

The USDA does not want anyone to get salmonella.

According to Today Food, the USDA also really wants people to stop putting frozen chicken in their slow cookers. We agree with them, because putting frozen meat in a slow cooker without thawing it first runs the risk of harmful bacteria multiplying in the meat while it’s in the “danger zone” temperature range between 40 and 140°F.

The safest thing to do is to thaw the meat in the refrigerator first, then put it in the slow cooker. But a lot of people are still putting chicken directly from their freezers into their slow cookers. In fact, many slow cooker recipes actually tell people to do exactly that.

The USDA has a whole page devoted to slow cooker food safety, and overall the USDA says slow cookers are very safe for cooking food. It does, however, repeatedly insist that meat be thawed before going in the slow cooker.

The Instant Pot is one of the more popular slow cookers on the market right now, and Instant Pot’s website says it’s OK to cook meat from frozen. But the Instant Pot is also a pressure cooker, and a pressure cooker can cook frozen chicken fast enough to avoid the “danger zone.”

Putting frozen meat in a pressure cooker only adds about five minutes to the cooking time, so cooking frozen chicken in the pressure cooker is probably one of the fastest ways to get from frozen chicken to an edible meal.

Do you thaw meat before adding it to the slow cooker? If not, will you start now?