For many people, slow cookers have become an essential part of their modern, busy lifestyles. It is easier to setup a crockpot in the morning with your dinner ingredients than it is to prepare a meal after an exhausting day. A crockpot is also great for turning typically dry or otherwise tough pieces of meat into perfectly moist, tender, well-flavored morsels. However, one obstacle with cooking, and especially cooking in a crockpot, is that it requires planning. Who hasn’t forgotten to pull the meat out of the freezer to thaw it for the next night’s dinner? Given that this can be a typical scenario, we wondered: Is it possible to cook frozen chicken in a crockpot?
Food safety experts will tell you that the only safe way to thaw meat is under refrigeration. The reason for this is to prevent the growth of bacteria. Bacteria thrive between 45 and 145 degrees Fahrenheit. The longer any food, especially meat, spends in this temperature range, the more likely it will spoil. When you cook frozen chicken in a crockpot, it spends a long time in this food safety “danger zone.”
For the most part, as long as the chicken was well sealed and well washed before cooking, it will be relatively harmless to cook it in a sealed crockpot. Cooking frozen meat in a crock pot, however, should never be used to prepare food for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, children, the elderly, or anyone else with compromised immune systems. Even if you are not in any of these risk categories, it is imperative that you cook your chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Even though crockpots are well known for creating moist, fork-tender pieces of meat, chicken can become dried out if overcooked in a crockpot – especially chicken breast. Most cuts of chicken are relatively lean compared to other cuts of meat, but thighs, legs, and wings do have a higher fat content. The higher fat content makes them easier to cook to perfection in a crockpot. If you still opt to cook chicken breast in your crockpot, make sure to add plenty of liquid and try to incorporate some fat such as butter or oil.
Older crockpot models tend to run at lower temperatures, which makes them better for cooking moist chicken. However, this also means that frozen meat will remain in the temperature danger zone for a bit longer. Newer crockpots run hotter which minimizes the time spent in the temperature danger zone but also increases the likelihood that your chicken will dry out before it finishes cooking. The key here is to get adjusted to how your crockpot operates. Until you are used to it, make sure to take the internal temperature of your chicken after four hours and adjust your cooking time as needed.
The following recipes are simple, delicious, and great ways to test out your crockpot.
Sweet and Sour Chicken Stew
Add 1.5 pounds of chicken, one small bag of baby carrots, one chopped onion, one can of chicken broth, one tablespoon of finely chopped ginger, and 18 ounces of sweet and sour sauce to your crockpot. Cook this on low for 4-7 hours, or until the chicken has reached 165 degrees internally. Mix the juice from an eight-ounce can of pineapple chunks with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch until it becomes smooth. Add this mixture to your crockpot and combine thoroughly. Add two chopped bell peppers and cover. Cook on high until everything is heated through. This dish is great served over egg noodles or on its own. For a healthier alternative to egg noodles, serve over spaghetti squash or cauliflower rice.
Add 1.5 pounds of chicken, one jar of salsa, one can of drained black beans, one small bag of frozen corn, and one chopped jalapeno pepper to your crockpot. Cook on low for 4-7 hours, or until the chicken has reached 165 degrees internally. Using two forks, shred the chicken into small pieces. This is a great recipe to serve over rice with guacamole, sour cream, and cheese. You will love this homemade burrito bowl that is much tastier than anything you can get at a quick service restaurant. It also tastes delicious served in a taco shell, or on top of salad greens.
In the end, although it is possible to cook frozen chicken in your crockpot, you’ll want to be sure to take a few precautions to be sure the meat stays safe. With the proper procedures you’ll be enjoying crock pot chicken in no time!