Slow Cooker Secrets: Can You Put Raw Meat In A Slow Cooker and Should You?

Any experienced slow cooker user knows that you cannot just dump raw meat into a slow cooker and expect it to come out cooked. There’s a good reason for this: The low heat of the cooker is not hot enough to cook meat without drying it out. However, the internet is filled with advice on how to do exactly that, often with the caveat that it might not work.

For example, Epicurious suggests that if you must put raw meat in a slow cooker, do it in a zip-top bag. This will keep the meat from drying out. Also, make sure that you’re using a large slow cooker (at least 6-quart) or an oval one, since raw meat can take up a lot of space.

Another caveat is to add water or other liquid to the bag and then seal it. This will help keep the meat moist during cooking. Finally, some slow cooker recipes recommend browning the meat before adding it to the pot; however, this is controversial and can decrease your chances of success with this method of cooking.

Can You Put Raw Meat In A Slow Cooker?

Can You Put Raw Meat In A Slow Cooker?
Can You Put Raw Meat In A Slow Cooker?

The truth is that it’s possible to cook raw meat in a slow cooker, even though the low heat will not cook it on its own. Most recipes for slow cooker lasagna, for example, call for layers of uncooked noodles and cheese.

However, if you must use raw meat, there are ways to increase your chances of success. You can add liquid to the meat or you can use a zip-top bag to contain it.

For instance, if you’re making pulled pork in a slow cooker, it’s best to cook the meat in a covered roasting pan or large covered casserole dish. The meat will be surrounded by the flavorful liquid and will steam in the oven rather than dry out from direct heat.

Another way around this dilemma is to use frozen meat. Since the temperature is already cooked and the meat is cold, there’s nothing lost in just dumping it into the slow cooker with other ingredients and turning it on.

Yes, but it is risky

If you want to put raw meat in a slow cooker, you can, but it is risky and the chances of the meat being undercooked are very high. Even if you increase the cooking time, it is possible that the meat will not be cooked thoroughly.

The low heat of a slow cooker is not meant for cooking raw meat. The best way to cook raw meat is to heat a skillet, add oil, and sear the meat in batches until it browns before transferring it to a plate. Then, add any liquid from the plate to the slow cooker before adding the meat (and any other ingredients).

If you must add raw meat to a slow cooker, consider using a zip-top bag (preferably vacuum-sealed). This will help keep the meat moist during cooking. You can also add some liquid to help keep the meat moist.

The Benefits of the Zip-Top Method

cook it in a zip-top bag
cook it in a zip-top bag

If you can’t put raw meat in a slow cooker whole, then what are your options? You can cook it indirectly and then shred it, or you can cook it in a zip-top bag.

The bag method does have benefits, as long as you don’t try to cook the meat on high. If you set your slow cooker to low and then place the meat and other ingredients in a zip-top bag and seal it before putting it in the pot, the food will come out moist.

This method won’t work for recipes that need to be stirred frequently (such as when making pulled pork), but if your recipe only requires you to add ingredients to the slow cooker and then walk away, it’s a viable option.

Since the zip-top method is basically crock pot cooking with a pressure cooker technique, keep an eye on the meat while it’s in the bag. For example, if you’re cooking pulled pork, check it after 2 hours. If it isn’t done, reseal the bag and let it cook another hour or so.

Raw meat takes up a lot of space and can be unwieldy.

You might wonder why you would even want to put raw meat in a slow cooker if you cannot just dump it in. The answer is that there are times when it is the only way to go. If you want to cook a large cut of meat, such as a beef roast or a whole chicken, the slow cooker is your best bet.

However, this can be tricky, since the large piece of meat will take up a lot of space in the pot. You have to add liquid so that everything cooks properly and this can make things even more crowded.

In addition, while the meat can be unwieldy to turn, you will still need to do so at least once during cooking, to ensure that all sides are properly cooked and browned. This is another reason why it’s best not to try putting raw meat in a slow cooker.

The Drawbacks of the Zip-Top Method

This method will work, but you have to be careful. For example, the USDA recommends never allowing a zip-top bag to touch another zip-top bag while cooking. This is due to the risk of bacterial contamination from the bags touching each other.

Also, you need to make sure that your meat is properly thawed before you put it in the bag. Otherwise, you might end up with a bag full of raw meat and juice sitting in water in your slow cooker, which could increase the risk of bacterial contamination.

Another drawback is that this can be messy. Meat drippings will end up on the outside of the bag and can be difficult to clean off without letting the meat dry out even more.

Finally, this method doesn’t work well with larger cuts of meat, such as roasts, because they won’t fit in a standard 6-quart slow cooker.

It’s not foolproof and can be messy.

Slow cooker cooking involves a two-step process. First, you brown the meat in a skillet on the stovetop and then add it to the slow cooker.

In general, you should be able to get good results by browning your meat before adding it to the slow cooker. However, this is not guaranteed, so if the recipe calls for browning beforehand, don’t skip that step. Otherwise, you might end up with uncooked meat in some spots and overdone meat in other spots.

Also, be prepared for some splatters and mess when browning meat for a slow cooker recipe. Since you are not using high heat to cook it, there is less chance of spattering than when you are using high heat. However, there can still be splatters from the fat that melts during browning.

Some slow cooker recipes will call for you to add raw meat to the pot and then cook on low all day without further attention from you. This can work well if you have time to allow this method of preparation to work without worrying about the timing of dinner. If you are more concerned about serving time and want more precise control over cooking time, this method is not suited for the slow cooker.

Should You Brown the Meat First?

Some slow cooker recipes will tell you to brown the meat before adding it to the slow cooker. The theory is that this is the best way to help the meat retain moisture during cooking. However, this is a controversial subject among enthusiasts.

Slow cooker expert Phyllis Pellman Good writes in her book “The Complete Slow Cooker Book” that when you brown meat before adding it to the slow cooker, it helps seal in all the juices, preventing them from escaping and drying out as the meat cooks.

Slow cooker expert Kathy Martin disagrees. She writes in “The Ultimate Slow Cooker Bible” that browning meat before putting it in the slow cooker can actually make it less juicy, not more. The reason is that cooking at high heat seals in juices and then when you put the meat into a slow cooker, those juices are locked in and are unable to escape and add moisture to the meat.

Browning adds flavor and also helps with texture.

If you want to take the time to brown your meat before adding it to the slow cooker, do so. This will add a lot of flavor and will help with the texture of the meat. Slow cookers don’t really sear meat, but browning it will still improve the texture and appearance of your finished meal.

Browning your meat will not automatically ruin your meal if you don’t do it. The slow cooker is adept at gently cooking meat that is already cooked, so as long as you start with uncooked meat that is not frozen, it will still turn out fine.

However, browning does add a lot of flavor and if you take the time to do this, you are setting yourself up for a more flavorful meal.

Final thoughts

Slow cookers are a great tool for busy families wanting to create delicious meals without spending too much time in the kitchen. While there is some debate on whether it’s safe to add raw meat to a slow cooker, it can be done. To ensure food safety, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your slow cooker and use a food thermometer to check that the internal temperature of the meat reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit before serving.

The slow cooker can also be used to make a variety of flavorful dishes and sauces, providing you with endless meal ideas. With a few simple tips, you’ll be able to make the most out of your slow cooker and enjoy delicious meals with ease.