Is it safe to cook frozen ground beef in slow cooker?

Imagine it’s a cold winter day in January and school has closed last minute due to an impending storm. It seems like the perfect day to take a few pounds of meat out of the freezer to make a slow cooker ground beef recipe.  Right? – WRONG!

Can you cook frozen ground beef in the crockpot?  

Today, I’m answering one of the most asked questions about cooking ground meat in the slow cooker – can you put frozen ground beef in the crock pot? Well, the short answer is NO. And let me tell you why you should not cook frozen meat in your slow cooker.

First off, it’s important to understand the concept of the temperature “danger zone.” This is the temperature range between 41-135 degrees Fahrenheit (5-57 degrees Celsius), where bacteria thrive and multiply rapidly. When food is between 70-125 degrees Fahrenheit (21-52 degrees Celsius) bacteria grows fastest. This means that when cooking ground beef, we need to make sure it gets to a safe temperature of above 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius) within two hours.

Now, back to the question at hand – can you put frozen ground beef in the crock pot? The answer is no because frozen meat takes too long to reach a safe temperature in a slow cooker. Slow cookers typically have a temperature range of 170-280 degrees Fahrenheit, which is high enough to kill most bacteria. However, the USDA still recommends thawing all foods completely before placing them in a slow cooker.

If you’re in a hurry and need to cook ground meat quickly, an instant pot or pressure cooker is a great way to do it. These appliances cook food at high pressure, which means they can quickly bring frozen meat to a safe temperature without spending too much time in the danger zone.

If you’re determined to use your slow cooker, here’s what you need to do to cook ground meat safely.

First, make sure your meat is fully thawed before putting it in the slow cooker. You can do this by transferring it from the freezer to the refrigerator for 24 hours. 

Once your ground meat is thawed, cook it on your slow cooker’s highest temperature setting for the first hour to ensure that it reaches a safe temperature quickly. Then, you can reduce the heat to the desired level to finish cooking. I found this to be the easiest way to reduce overall cooking time while taking advantage of the slow cooker’s convenience.  

Note that ground turkey follows the same rules as ground beef. Both ground meats should never be cooked frozen in a slow cooker.

So, if you want to cook ground beef or ground turkey in your slow cooker, make sure it’s fully thawed first. Don’t risk making yourself or your family sick by cooking frozen meat in the danger zone. It’s just not worth it!

Recipes to make in the crockpot using ground beef

One of the best things about using a slow cooker for meat is that you don’t have to worry about thawing the meat first. Just throw it in frozen and let the cooking process do its thing.

For cooked beef, you could do something like a shepherd’s pie. Brown the frozen beef in a frying pan first and then add it to the crockpot with some frozen veggies (peas, carrots and corn) and mashed potatoes (which you can make using a potato masher). Cook on low for 5-6 hours, or until the potatoes are tender.

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to make tacos, try cooking them in the slow cooker with some taco seasoning and a cup of water. Cook on high for 2-3 hours, and then check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer to make sure it’s fully cooked before serving with tortillas, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and salsa.

For sloppy joes, add thawed raw ground beef to the crockpot with some spaghetti sauce and a little bit of hot water. Cook on low for 5-6 hours and use a wooden spoon to break up any lumps of meat.

If you prefer poultry, try this slow cooker pulled chicken recipe.

​Time saving tip for storing ground beef

You can also use freezer bags to put your meat in if you’re planning to cook it another day. For example, if you like to shop at Costco for bulk purchases such as large quantities of lean meats, divide fresh meat as soon as you get home.  I find that most ground beef recipes call for 1 or two pounds of beef.  So your best bet is to pre portion one pound of meat into zip lock bags for later use. Once meat is in the bag, remove as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn.  Then label and date and store in the fridge for 3-6 months or when you are in need of a quick meal.  It’s a huge time saver!  

When you’re cooking large batches of ground beef in the slow cooker, it’s a good idea to separate it into cooked portions and store them in sandwich bags or an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. This way, you can easily pull out the amount you need for a quick meal without having to thaw an entire batch.

Is ground beef healthy?  

Well, the answer is not a straightforward yes or no, as it depends on various factors including your personal medical history and overall goals.  

Firstly, ground beef carries a lot of calories, which can be a drawback if you’re trying to lose weight. However, it also provides high protein content, which can help keep you fuller for longer and reduce your overall calorie intake.

In addition, the quality of the ground beef plays a huge role in determining whether it’s a good option for weight loss. Lean ground beef, or 95% lean, contains fewer calories and less saturated fat than higher-fat options.

Moreover, how you prepare the ground beef also matters. If you cook it with a lot of oil or butter, you’re adding significant calories that can hinder your weight loss efforts. However, by using a non-stick pan or cooking spray and seasoning with herbs and spices, you can keep the calorie count low.

Another thing to consider is how often you consume ground beef in your diet. Having it in moderation as part of a balanced diet is fine, but if you’re relying on it too much, it can lead to overconsumption of calories and hinder your weight loss goals.

If you do want to incorporate beef into your diet, you may want to track your calorie intake and macros to ensure that you’re not consuming too many calories, regardless of the food source. So, yes, you can eat ground beef and still lose weight, as long as you choose leaner, quality meat, prepare it in a healthy way.  After-all, all foods can fit as part of a balanced diet. If you want to learn more, visit me on Instagram and check out why I love the Faster Way to Fat Loss.

About Me

I’m Melanie.

I’m a chef, registered dietitian, foodie, wife and mom.
If you’re looking for quick and healthy meal inspiration that supports your health goals while feeding the rest of your family (including the kiddoes) well, then you’ve come to the right place!

Melanie Marcus Selfie