Slow Cooker Frozen Chicken & Meat Dangers

In this guide, I look at the slow cooker frozen chicken and meat dangers. It’s a very hot topic whenever you find it is being discussed on a cooking forum, you will find some arguing that its ok and others that it isn’t ok.

Frozen Food in the Slow Cooker

If you’re running low on time then to put it simply, no it’s not safe to cook from frozen in the slow cooker. This is the advice that is provided by the USDA and is highly recommend that you follow it to avoid getting sick from food poisoning.

It’s also very important that when you defrost the meat that you don’t do it at room temperature on the bench. Either microwave using the defrost setting or place it in the fridge and allow to defrost overnight.

Dangers of cooking from frozen in the slow cooker

Below I will go into the dangers and why you shouldn’t cook from frozen in the slow cooker. Of course, there are a ton of cases of people who have cooked from frozen and haven’t experienced food poisoning.

It’s more about minimizing the risk especially if food poisoning poses a higher risk to you. (Pregnant, aged or existing medical conditions)

Danger Zone

To truly understand why cooking from frozen in the slow cooker or crock pot is dangerous we will need to look at what the danger zone is.

The danger zone is one of the most important pieces of information when it comes to cooking. It’s the zone where bacteria will thrive and can grow to unsafe levels.

The temperatures between 40°F (5°C) and 140°F (60°C) are considered to be the danger zone. Keeping it below 40°F (5°C) will slow down the growth of bacteria to a safe level whilst cooking above the danger zone will kill bacteria 140°F (60°C).

food safety danger zone diagram

If the food is left in the danger zone for too long it will become so ridden with bacteria that even cooking it can’t guarantee it will be safe to eat. I go more into this further down the page.

A thermometer comes in handy when trying to determine if your food is out of the danger zone. You can buy digital thermometers pretty cheap now and can be found at most supermarkets or cooking specialist shops. They’re also great for a ton of other methods of cooking such as making candy, cooking steaks and so much more.

Timing is key

When food is within the danger zone for more than 2 hours bacteria will start to grow to unsafe levels. If it’s in the danger zone for more than 4 hours, then the food will need to be discarded. Remember the time starts when the food is sitting in the danger zone this is usually at preparation time and not when you put it in the slow cooker.

If you’re cooking your food and it never goes outside the danger zone, then you’re at an extreme risk of food poisoning. When cooking from frozen you increase the time that the food will spend in the danger zone.

There are also other factors such as power outages or lids not being on properly that can dramatically increase the chance of the food not leaving the danger zone.

If your food has been in the danger zone for more than 4-hours, then cooking beyond the danger zone may not make the food safe to eat. There is a possibility that toxins and bacteria remain that will make you sick when consumed.

slow cooker frozen food

When your food is cooking and you remove the lid from the slow cooker this will release a lot of heat. It will also add cooking time onto your dish that can also increase the time the food spends in the danger zone.

It’s good practice not to remove the lid on your slow cooker or crock pot until it’s only absolutely required.

To shorten the time that your food sits in the danger zone simply defrost the food before you add it to the slow cooker. If you’re running low on time, then defrosting the meat in the microwave or cooking on high will help shorten the time that the food is sitting within the danger zone.

I am already cooking from Frozen!! HELP!!

If you have already got some food that’s cooking from frozen then don’t stress too much. The risk of food poisoning is relatively low if you make sure the food reaches temperatures above 140°F (60°C).

Make sure you don’t remove the lid as this will add time onto how long it will take to get the food out of the danger zone.

Personally, I would try and avoid cooking from frozen in the future to help minimize the risk of getting sick. Simply defrosting the meat in the microwave beforehand or in the fridge are the best methods of defrosting without risking an increase chance in food poisoning.

I hope this article has answered the topic of slow cooker frozen chicken and meat dangers. If you don’t agree with the article or would love to add to it then please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.


  1. Avatar for Michelle
    Michelle on

    What is the danger zone and when does it start

    1. Avatar for Gus
      Gus on

      I mention it in the article and is shown on the diagram. It’s any temperature above 40°F/5°C (fridge temperature) and below 140°F/60°C (Cooked Temperature). It starts whenever the food is within this range. Spoiling starts to accelerate at 2 hours, 4 hours you should look at throwing the food out.

  2. Avatar for Tracy Vernon
    Tracy Vernon on

    I defrosted a chuck roast in the microwave before putting in the slow cooker. Was wondering if I should put the setting on high instead of low …concerned about the danger zone temp and dont want anyone to get sick

    1. Avatar for Gus
      Gus on

      Hi Tracy,

      If the meat is already defrosted, then cooking on low should be fine. If you are worried, you can always start the slow cooker on high and then change to low after roughly an hour.

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