Using a slow cooker in your kitchen just makes life a bit easier sometimes, as you can quickly dump a few ingredients into your slow cooker and just leave it to cook while you go and do other things.
Slow cookers are amazing machines that turn a rushed dinner into a tasty treat that everyone will enjoy. But some ingredients should not be placed into a slow cooker, but is raw meat one of them?
Raw meat can be placed into a slow cooker; you just need to ensure that you leave the meat in the slow cooker for long enough so that it can cook through and gets hot enough to kill and possibly harmful bacteria on the meat. The simplest way to make sure this happens is to use a food thermometer.
What meat should you try to avoid placing in your slow cooker raw? Why are there people who are against placing raw meat into a slow cooker? Why do people suggest browning your meat before putting it into your slow cooker?
Let us find out!
Can You Place Raw Meat in a Slow Cooker?
This is an excellent question that many people are asking now as the slow cooker is becoming more popular. The good news is that you can indeed place raw meat into your slow cooker to make a lovely meal.
There is no need to try and cook the meat separately, which you can do if you have the time, but it is not a necessity, and your meat will still cook in your slow cooker. This may not be a surprise to you as you know that cooking the meat first kind of defeats the point of having a slow cooker in the first place, right?
This is true, as slow cookers were made for the busy person who only has time to place ingredients into a pot and leave it to cook; at least with a slow cooker, the meal comes out way better than if you used just a regular pot. But can all meat be placed into your slow cooker raw?
Well, this can get a bit complicated as there are certain meats that you should steer clear from with your slow cooker. Generally speaking, if the meat is fresh and fatty, you can cook it in your slow cooker easily and from raw.
However, if your meat is not so fresh, as it has been sitting in the fridge for a few days, do not use it in your slow cooker as this can cause the meat to become tough and chewy. If you are using lean meat, do not place this in your slow cooker from raw as it will cook too fast and can begin to burn in your slow cooker.
So, if you are not fazed by the texture or chewiness of the meat in your meal, you can use any meat you want and place it into your slow cooker raw. But if you cannot stand chewy or slightly burned meat, you should avoid certain meats.
The Benefits of Placing Raw Meat in a Slow Cooker
Even though some meats you should not place in your slow cooker as they will go chewy, there are some apparent benefits to cooking your meat from raw in your slow cooker with the rest of your ingredients.
The most significant benefit of cooking your raw meats in your slow cooker is that you save some extra time not browning the meat first. Even though browning the beef first does only take about 10 minutes, that is an additional 10 minutes that you could be using to get something else done.
After all, you are using a slow cooker for a reason, so you want the meat to be able to cook with the rest of your ingredients and not have to cook it separately, meaning there is no extra work needed from you to get a delicious meal going.
Not only does placing the raw meat in your slow cooker save you cooking time, but it also saves you from needing to wash extra dishes and spatulas that you needed to use to brown the meat or cook it separately. The only thing that you need to clean after is your slow cooker, which is probably the most significant benefit of all.
Considerations for Placing Raw Meat in a Slow Cooker
If you are placing raw meat into your slow cooker, and are not thinking twice about it, then there are a few considerations you should be aware of. Some of these considerations are not that serious, but others can have a negative effect on your health.
Firstly, slow cookers do just that, they cook slowly, so if you place raw meat into the slow cooker and do not leave it there for long enough, it can still be raw in the middle of the meat. Eating raw meat can lead to certain bacteria on and in the meat not being killed, which, if ingested, can cause you problems.
As mentioned earlier, the meat’s texture and flavor can be impacted if the meat is placed in the slow cooker raw. You also need to keep in mind that the meat you cook from raw in your slow cooker will not get a lovely brown color to them, and certain things like the chicken skins will not crisp up.
Quick Slow Cooker Tips with Raw Meat
If you are placing the meat in your slow cooker raw, you need to ensure that the meat cooks thoroughly and adequately in the slow cooker. If the meat does not get cooked properly, you leave yourself susceptible to foodborne illnesses, such as E. Coli or salmonella, which are unpleasant to deal with.
Ensure you are cooking the meat at around 140 degrees Fahrenheit to kill any bacteria in the meat. You can use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meat while it is cooking.
Another tip to remember is never to throw frozen meat into your slow cooker to thaw and then cook, as this will take longer, and the meat will probably not be cooked correctly at the proper temperature before its time to serve dinner.
So, if you are placing raw meat into your slow cooker, ensure that it is thawed first and at room temperature. It is a good idea to warm your slow cooker up first before you place the raw meat inside it, as this can help you make sure the meat is cooked faster and thoroughly.
To warm up your slow cooker, place it on high heat for roughly one hour; when the slow cooker is hot, turn the heat down to the needed temperature and add your ingredients to the slow cooker.
Why People Are Against Placing Raw Meat in a Slow Cooker
Although you can place raw meat into a slow cooker to cook and become a part of a lovely meal, some people are against this practice. You may assume that people are against placing raw meat in a slow cooker as they fear it will not cook all the way through.
While this is a possibility if you do not leave the meat in the slow cooker for long enough, this is not the reason why people do not like doing it. The real reason comes down to the taste of the meat that you end up with when you cook the meat in a slow cooker from raw.
If you brown the meat before you add it to your slow cooker, not only will you have a good chance of cooking the meat through properly, but you also have the opportunity to cook out and drain any of the meat’s excess fats and oils that can make your meal greasy.
If you do not brown your meat first, then all this excess fat and oil from the meat is just sitting in your meal, which can make the whole dish a bit messy. These extra oils and fats can also impact the taste of the food and increase the chances that the food will be watery, leaving you disappointed.
Placing the raw meat in your slow cooker can also impact the texture of the meat itself, leaving it feeling grainy when you eat it.
Why People Advocate for Browning the Meat First
So, browning the meat before you place it into your slow cooker only gives you an extra 10 minutes of work and some dishes.
This does not sound too bad. Well, if you fall into the category of understanding why people advocate for browning the meat before it goes into a slow cooker, but you want more information on the topic first.
Then let us go through why many people advocate for this method of par-cooking the meat first, and maybe you will get the answers you need to convince you one way or the other. There are only two main reasons when you look in-depth into it.
These reasons will only affect you if you have a particular taste and texture that you want your meat to be or a busy person. Let’s look at these two main reasons why people advocate to brown your meat first.
Saves on Cooking Time
This may sound contradictory as you spend extra time browning the meat, so how can it save time? Well, you may be spending an additional 10 minutes browning the meat beforehand, but this does mean that the meat will be ready sooner once it is placed in your slow cooker.
This will decrease the amount of time your meal will take to prepare and the amount of time your slow cooker needs to be on for. This is because the meat does not need to reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit to cook through all the way once it’s been browned.
The downside to browning your meat before you place it into your slow cooker is the fact that you have dishes to wash when the browning is done. Depending on how clean you are in the kitchen, this can take quite a while, so you need to decide if it actually saves you time or not.
Adds Extra Flavoring to the Food
There are many people in the world that believe that browning the meat first before you place it into your slow cooker creates meat of a superior flavor. This is somewhat true, like browning the meat first does add some flavor, but calling superior may be a bit overboard.
Browning the meat first adds a richer taste to the meat as it locks the flavor in the meat with a little sear. Adding in this step first can also improve the texture of some meats as it does not make the meats grainy.
If you brown your meat before placing it in your slow cooker, you will also have the benefit of a healthier meal as you can drain excess fats and oils from the meat that you would have eaten otherwise.
So, if you have high blood pressure or cholesterol, or you are just trying to be healthier and eat better foods, then browning the meat first may be a good option for you, even though it does add on some extra effort and cooking time, and dishwashing.
But, ultimately, the decision of whether to brown the meat first or just throw it into your slow cooker raw is up to you and how you like your food.
There is no reason why you cannot place raw meat into your slow cooker to cook it and make a lovely, tasty meal. However, if you are going to do this, ensure you cook the meat until it has been cooked all the way through.
It would be wise to buy a food thermometer to ensure the inside of the meat reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit so that harmful bacteria that are possibly in the meat are correctly killed. Good luck, be safe, and, most importantly, enjoy your tasty slow cooker meals!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.