The Unhealthy Mistake You Might Be Making When Cooking In Your Crockpot

After an exhausting day, cooking dinner is probably the last thing you feel like doing. In order to conserve our precious time and energy, kitchen appliances, such as a crockpot, also known as a slow-cooker, can be a great alternative if you're trying to save money by avoiding takeout. Not only do they make delicious meals, but by automating the cooking process, a crockpot frees up time in our evenings for family, relaxation, or any loose ends we want to tie up before bedtime.

Soups, stews, meats, and casseroles are among the crockpot's many specialties. However, while simple enough to use, there are some mistakes you'll want to avoid to keep your dinner yummy — and avoid a sore tummy. Among these common mistakes is throwing a hunk of frozen meat directly into the slow cooker (via Eat This, Not That!). 

Chef Melissa Knific of HelloFresh explains the safety issues associated with cooking frozen meat in a crockpot to Eat This, Not That!, stating, "I wouldn't recommend putting meat into the slow cooker frozen. It will certainly affect the timing and is also unsafe because meat won't come to the correct temperature quickly enough. Meat should be properly thawed."

How to properly thaw meat

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), to preserve the tenderness of meat, a crockpot heats food at a lower temperature somewhere between 170 degrees to 280 degrees Fahrenheit. Registered dietician and author of "Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook" and "Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook," Dana Angelo White, tells All Recipes how the lower cooking temperatures of a crockpot can pose health risks, stating, "The low temperature of the slow cooker is not equipped to kill potentially harmful bacteria that could develop, and you might even end up with a pot roast that's raw in the middle." According to the USDA, a crockpot may need several hours before it reaches a safe temperature to kill harmful bacteria.

For this reason, it's crucial to thaw your meat before placing it into the slow cooker. According to the USDA, thawing should never be done with hot water or leaving the meat at room temperature for over two hours, as doing so can cause bacteria-related illness (per Eat This, Not That!). Instead, thaw your meat using the microwave, cold water, or by placing it in the refrigerator. To avoid bacterial growth, Chef Melissa Knific suggests thawing meat by putting it in the refrigerator a day or two in advance or until fully thawed.

So there you have it, with a little crockpot prep, you can keep your dinners safe and delicious, rather than time-consuming.