Oh Dear. Cooking Frozen Chicken in a Crock-Pot May Be Unsafe

The USDA weighs in on the common practice.

Crock Pot Frozen Chicken
Photo: Getty Images

If you've thrown frozen chicken into a slow cooker, Instant Pot, or Crock-Pot you're not alone. Plenty of timesaving recipes on the Internet call for frozen poultry. Though skipping the drawn-out thawing process makes life a whole lot easier for busy home cooks, it's not necessarily safe.

Despite claims from manufacturers that this common practice poses zero health risks, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued guidelines warning against cooking frozen chicken in slow cookers. In fact, its Slow Cooker and Food Safety guidelines state the following outright: "always thaw meat or poultry before putting it into a slow cooker."

Today decided to get to the bottom of the issue by reaching out to a representative from Crock-Pot. "You can cook frozen meat in any Crock-Pot brand product, but suggested cook time may need to be increased," the representative stated, adding that the company recommends using a meat thermometer to ensure that the internal temperature of the chicken is "well above" 165°F before eating it. Instant Pot offered a similar answer, reiterating the importance of increased cook time.

WATCH Instant Pot Double Chocolate Cheesecake:

So what is the USDA so worried about? Although their guidelines are admittedly overcautious, slow cookers do raise serious concerns about temperature. Everyone agrees that at some point while it's cooking, chicken needs to reach an internal temperature of 165°F in order to be safe to eat. What the USDA is concerned with is when chicken spends too much time thawing out in the "danger zone." The danger zone is the temperature range between 40°F and 140°F where bacteria like salmonella and staphylococcus aureus grow most rapidly. Even though these will most likely be killed when the chicken reaches 165°F (which a slow cooker is more than capable of), the toxins they leave behind can still cause food-borne illnesses.

What's a hungry Crock-Pot lover to do? It's always a good idea to listen to the USDA to limit the chance of food-borne illness, but at the very least, add more cook time if you're starting with frozen chicken.

Was this page helpful?
Southern Living is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy.
  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Slow cookers and food safety. Updated Aug. 8, 2013.

  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture. The big thaw—safe defrosting methods. Updated June 15, 2013.

Related Articles