A slow cooker is an easy method of cooking tasty foods without slaving over the stove for hours. However, you might be a little worried about adding raw meat. You don’t want it to burn as it sits in the slow cooker for hours, but you also don’t want it to be under cooked come dinner time.
So, can you put raw meat in a slow cooker? Raw meat can be used and cooked in a slow cooker safely. Slow cookers reach temperatures between 160°F and 250°F which is hot enough for chicken, beef and pork. This is enough heat to kill any bacteria, even when the cooking is done slowly and for a longer period of time.
This can save you a little time when cooking and help you to avoid washing extra dishes afterward.
How you cook your meat in a slow cooker usually comes down to personal preference. So, we’re going to be going over whether or not you should use raw meat in your slow cooker, along with other options and safety tips.
Adding Raw Meats to a Slow Cooker: What You Need to Know
The good news is that you don’t have to separately cook your ground beef before adding it to your slow cooker. After all, cooking the meat first totally defeats the purpose of a slow cooker. You should just be able to throw in all the ingredients and have a ready-to-eat meal within a few hours.
Here’s a look at everything you need to know about cooking raw meat in a slow cooker.
The benefits of just throwing raw meat into your slow cooker with the rest of your ingredients are quite clear.
Most obvious is the fact that you don’t have to waste any extra time browning the meat. Though this only might take about 10 minutes, you’re using the slow cooker for a reason. You want to come back in a few hours with a meal that’s absolutely ready to eat! No extra work on your part.
Just adding the raw meat also saves you from cleaning extra dishes at the end of the night. You don’t have to worry about dirtying another pan or a spatula as you brown the meat on the stovetop. The only thing that needs to be cleaned is the slow cooker and any dishes.
Why People Are Against It
You might assume that people are against adding raw meat because it might not cook all the way through. While this might be a lingering fear, the reason actually has to do with the quality of taste that you’ll end up with.
The whole purpose of browning the meat first is actually cooking it through before adding it to your slow cooker. You also have the opportunity to drain the meat of excess fat and grease.
When you just throw the raw meat into the slow cooker with the rest of your ingredients, you no longer have the opportunity to drain the fat or grease. That means this excess fat and grease is now sitting in your stew, chili, or another dish.
This can severely impact the flavoring of your meal and make it taste watery or greasy instead of savory and tender. It also has the ability to ruin the texture of the meat, leaving it feeling grainy when eaten.
While on the topic you might want to cook some vegetables with your meat. Can You Cook Raw Meat and Vegetables Together?
Slow Cooker Tips With Raw Meat
Since you’re not browning the meat first, you want to make sure that you’re cooking the meat thoroughly in your slow cooker. Otherwise, you might be putting yourself at risk for foodborne illnesses like salmonella or E. Coli.
For raw meat, make sure to cook it to about 140°F. You can check the internal temperature by sticking a food thermometer into the meat.
Another thing you need to keep in mind is not throwing frozen meat into the slow cooker. This takes a lot longer to cook and probably won’t be cooked to the proper temperature by dinner. Make sure your raw meat is thawed and room temperature before adding it to your slow cooker.
It might also be a good idea to warm up the slow cooker before adding the raw meat. This can help you to guarantee that the meat cooks quicker and all the way through. Bump up the heat to high for about an hour and then lower it to warm before you add your ingredients.
The Case for Browning the Meat First
The major benefit of browning the meat first is that it takes much less time to cook in the slow cooker. And, browning the meat separately doesn’t take more than 10 minutes per batch. Considering your slow cooker meal might take several hours, 10 minutes is basically nothing!
Let’s talk about why browning your meat first might be the better choice.
How to Do It
Browning the meat basically means that you’re cooking it in a pan on the stovetop before tossing it into your slow cooker. Before we get into why this might be important, let’s talk about what you need to know about browning ground meat:
- Make sure the meat is at least room temperature before putting it into the pan. When frozen, use your microwave to defrost, this usually takes about 8 minutes for one pound.
- Use a cast-iron skillet or stainless steel to brown your meat.
- Heat the pan up before adding the meat.
- Oil the pan with a few tablespoons of oil before adding the meat.
- Break up the bunches of meat to make sure there’s an even cook.
- Drain the grease and fat afterward (into a can or container, not down the drain!).
- Avoid overcooking the meat (it should be brown and crispy).
- I usually set the stove temperature to just under medium heat. Which for my oven is between 3 and 5.
- Add salt and pepper into the beef as you go.
This should only take you about 10 minutes for every batch. If you’re planning to add several pounds of meat to your slow cooker, it might be a better idea to break the meat up into batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. This can help you to get an even cook in all the meat.
You might be wondering why you’d add extra time to your cooking process if you don’t necessarily need to. Well, browning the meat is a great way to add superior flavor to your favorite slow cooker meal. This is a great way to add rich flavoring and actually lock the flavor in. Plus, the texture of the meat will be much better than it would if you just added raw meat.
This also means that your slow cooker meal will be significantly healthier. You won’t be eating any of that extra grease or fat that serves no purpose when it comes to your health. So, browning the meat first is definitely the healthier option.
Even though you’re spending an extra 10 minutes browning the meat, the amount of time the meat needs to sit in the slow cooker will be greatly reduced. So, the 10 minutes you’re spending will actually save you in the long run. That’s because the meat doesn’t have to cook all the way through to 140°F after it’s already been browned.
The downside is that you’ll have to spend a little more time washing the dishes after. But, it’s probably worth it due to the delicious and healthy meal you’ll be eating!
Slow Cooker Safety Tips
Because we often outsource our cooking to a slow cooker. Leaving them to do the job while were away from the kitchen. There is a slight chance things could go awry.
Like the slow cooker catches fire or starts to spill over. These are realistic problems but are very unlikely. Since most slow cookers are designed and engineered for safety and convenience.
When this instances occur it usually results from using a old slow cooker. Older slow cookers aren’t more prone to fires. Instead they usually have trouble reaching high enough temperatures.
Still it is best to retire older slow cookers before anything bad happens. You can test them over time and see how well they perform. It becomes obvious with repeated use.
Also always place the slow cooker in a safe spot. Allow some space for the heat to flow and not be trapped. Avoid curtains, towels and don’t put directly underneath a cupboard.
Add extra protection by placing the slow cooker on top of a cutting board. One that has very good heat resistance, like a solid wood or thick plastic.
Spill overs are rare but are possible if you overfill your slow cooker. There should be enough space left between the lid and the food. Foods especially meats will expand as they cook.
The lid should be sealed all the way down when using. The safest amount of food to put in your slow cooker is halfway full or slightly less.
Best Slow Cooker
In case you’re looking for a new slow cooker. Crock-Pot brand is the most widely known and best brand available.
So if its time to throw out that old slow cooker, check out Crock-Pot brand.
Easily the best slow cooker is the Crock-Pot’s Stainless Steel Slow Cooker. You can find it on Amazon here.
I would recommend the stainless steel because above all it stays the cleanest. Stainless steel will show less spots and be easier to clean.
Whether or not you add raw meat to your slow cooker depends on your personal preference. While it will save you time when it comes to cooking and washing dishes, you probably won’t end up with the best flavoring. You’ll want to brown the meat first to lock-in that savory flavor.
If you do decide to add the raw meat to the slow cooker, make sure you’re cooking it to at least 140°F. But don’t be surprised if it’s a little watery, greasy, or fatty.