Frozen ground meat in the crockpot... how long do you cook it?
October 2, 2013 4:38 PM   Subscribe

A question for crock pot pros. I put about 3 lbs of ground turkey in the crock pot (I have the original name-brand crock pot) and cooked it on high all day while I was at work. It's a total of about 11 hours. It's a loaf- but when I stirred it just now, it turned out pretty evenly pinkish (undercooked) throughout. Hmm... Even if not totally cooked, it is still safe, right? I'm never quite clear on how hot crock pots really are, and how the food doesn't spoil... Bonus: Can I take it out and cook it regular style?
posted by kettleoffish to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
My reaction was, "eww, no." It sounds like it's been sitting there for 11 hours just warm enough to encourage bacterial growth. That said, maybe you could cook the bejesus out of it now and kill off any beasties? Hopefully someone else can speak to the safety of that.
posted by stowaway at 4:47 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't eat it. You are supposed to brown ground meat before putting it in a crock pot.

I have spent 8 days in a hospital with food poisoning when I was younger. I don't recommend it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:53 PM on October 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


You aren't required to brown meat before putting it in the crock pot.

I cook chicken in my crockpot and it's done after 6 or 7 hours on low but it's pretty pasty looking and not nicely browned at all.

Was the pot simmering when you got home? Are you sure you had it on low or high (and not warm.)
posted by vespabelle at 4:56 PM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


That said, maybe you could cook the bejesus out of it now and kill of any beasties? Hopefully someone else can speak to the safety of that.

I have a state food handler certification. The problem with this idea is that cooking may kill the bacteria but it will not necessarily destroy any toxins they created while they were thriving. Some food toxins will be destroyed by sufficient heat, but others will not. I am surprised the meat seems undercooked because 11 hours on high should have overcooked it into oblivion.

So I would not eat and cooking it "regular style" would not guarantee safety. I would throw it out. Find something else to eat to night.
posted by Tanizaki at 4:57 PM on October 2, 2013 [13 favorites]


maybe you could cook the bejesus out of it now and kill off any beasties? Hopefully someone else can speak to the safety of that.

My understanding is that cooking it more would kill bacteria, but leave behind any toxic substances produced by the bacteria.

Please don't eat it.
posted by Pizzarina Sbarro at 4:58 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


One of the problems with crock pots is that they heat up so slowly, meat - particularly frozen meat - can spend too long at the 'danger temperatures' as it eventually gets to proper cooking temperatures. I wouldn't eat it.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:10 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Aside from botulism what other food poisoning produces toxins? And doesn't botulism happen in anaerobic conditions?
posted by Max Power at 5:12 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are you sure it's uncooked and not just bleh and fleshy-looking? Was it simmering when you opened it up? You might want to get a meat thermometer for future reference. I'd be very surprised if meat wasn't cooked after 11 hours in the slow-cooker but I guess if it was frozen really cold...
posted by mskyle at 5:14 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


In addition to the above people counselling you not to eat this (I have a very high threshold for this kind of thing and I wouldn't touch it), I'd also suggest you check your crock pot carefully to make sure it is working properly.
posted by Rumple at 5:23 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Remove the guesswork. Get a meat thermometer.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:24 PM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Max Power: salmonella produces a toxin.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:36 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I suspect your crock-pot is broken, because 11 hours on high should have done it. Did you put tomatoes or ketchup or something in your meat that might have made it pink-ish? I would really advise though, that you DO NOT EAT UNDERCOOKED TURKEY.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 6:03 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it was just bleh and fleshy looking. There was very consistent bubbling around the edges. But it also smelled a combination of delicious and slightly animal-like with an ever so slightly sharp edge, which I have never smelled with properly cooked turkey. There was taco spice in it, but it just didn't look or feel like-- mmm, this looks good to eat.

I think it was the combination of the large amount and the low core temperature, plus of course the slow heating time.
posted by kettleoffish at 6:46 PM on October 2, 2013


At my house, I have test equipment and i often use it.

Doing a little test on the crockpot would mean filling it partially with water (weigh it... 8.25 pounds per gallon), turning it on high for 3 hours and measuring the initial temp and temps at 1, 2, and 3 hours. by then, it should be well up to temperature. if it's floating up around boiling in an hour or two, it's unlikely that anything didn't get cooked in 11 hours. 3 pounds of turkey is not that much turkey. no way 11 hours at boiling temps is not going to thaw and nuke that shiz blind. hell, it would thaw in 4 on the counter top at room temp. unless you have a cryo freezer. you don't.

if you weigh the water and record the heating rate, you can determine how much energy is delivered to the payload... useful information.

save the food. test the unit. (you can use a regular cooking thermometer, just leave the lid on except while you are taking its temperature.) if the unit passes, repeat it on low. passes that, and you are confident that you didn't put in on WARM for 11 hours, then i'd eat the food. don't throw it out, yet.

you might also want to take out a chunk of it, cook it in a frying pan and see if it changes color. if it does not, it's not the crock pot you have to worry about. it's the nail polish or red paint you spilled in there or something.

man, metafilter has a shtload of CanIEatThisFilter questions. Advice is usually the same, too...."Throw it out!"

Bull. Do some reasonable tests. You'll thank yourself next time you cook something and have some confidence in your crock pot.
posted by FauxScot at 6:49 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


If three lbs of ground turkey wasn't done after eleven hours, I'd throw both the food and the crock pot away and start over entirely. Sorry about your dinner.
posted by Space Kitty at 7:14 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


My advice is usually "eat it". But no way in hell I would eat meat sitting at sub bacteria killing temps for 11 hours. That's practically begging for food poisoning.

Testing the crockpot is a good idea, though.
posted by zug at 7:51 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Aside from botulism what other food poisoning produces toxins?

Salmonella, staph, B. cereus, listeria, campylobacter, shigella, ...
posted by en forme de poire at 8:30 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's ok, I had Doritos.
posted by kettleoffish at 8:39 PM on October 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


Ground turkey is usually too lean to cook for long in the crockpot, especially on high.

That said this should have cooked, and if it didn't, something is wrong. Throw it out, and your crockpot too.
posted by OrangeDrink at 9:17 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Next time you want to cook frozen anything in a slow cooker, defrost it fully in the fridge overnight before it goes in the slow cooker.

The trouble with defrosting it IN the slow cooker is that all that energy is going to defrosting the middle bits, not to getting the already defrosted outside bits up through the culinary danger zone quickly to a safe temperature. It takes a lot lot lot of energy to defrost a big lump of frozen meat.

Even ignoring the safety issue, food cooked directly from frozen is going to be extremely unevenly cooked. Especially big lumps of food (peas you can get away with!).
posted by emilyw at 2:53 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


One more thing....

A crockpot is about as simple a thing as you can imagine.

It IS possible for it to fail. It is as easy as testing a lightbulb to figure out if it did.

Don't throw something out until you know it's bad. Test it and find out.

Personally, I fix stuff, but realize that fixing is not something everyone can do. Testing, however, on this simple scale, IS something everyone can do. So do it.

Publish your result here and you'll get better advice. What you did was describe an unverified observation as a conclusion.... "It didn't cook". We don't know that. What we know is that it is pink. Those are not the same. Folks are jumping on your questionable conclusion with what WOULD be decent advice to throw it out, but without the benefit of any measurements. That is bad advice. Throw out a working lamp because the wall socket failed? Kinda the same thing.
posted by FauxScot at 6:10 AM on October 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


While this incident appears resolved, moving forward I would suggest not solely relying on the appearance of food to determine doneness. Get yourself an instant-read thermometer and use that to check doneness. You can get them for $10-15 on Amazon. Pink meat might be perfectly cooked while what looks done could be under temperature.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:58 AM on October 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I believe the issue is that the meat was frozen. I think the idea is that starting from frozen is sketchy because the temperature is so low the meat will be in the "danger zone" far too long. I don't have it in front of me, but I think I got this rule from the Cook's Illustrated slow cooker cookbook: only use thawed meat.
posted by lillygog at 11:14 AM on October 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't understand why people think the meat was sitting at "sub bacteria temps all day". If it's a modern crockpot the low temperature should be around 190 degrees. Modern crock pots do not go as low as the slow cookers of yesteryear, for food safety reasons- the "keep warm" setting on mine is 165. That's above the "danger" zone USDA requirements for ground beef which are an internal temp of 160. If you added any liquid your meat should have been fine after 11 hours. Here's what crock-pot.com recommends for cooking frozen meat:

Frozen meats can be cooked in a slow cooker, however, it is best to use the following guidelines: Add at least 1 cup of warm liquid to the stoneware before placing meat in the stoneware. Do not preheat the slow cooker. Cook recipes containing frozen meats for an additional 4 to 6 hours on low, or an additional 2 hours on high.

It's possible your slow cooker is not working properly, but for a working, modern crock pot it's quite unlikely that your meat was stewing at <140 degrees all day.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:08 PM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why people think the meat was sitting at "sub bacteria temps all day". If it's a modern crockpot the low temperature should be around 190 degrees. Modern crock pots do not go as low as the slow cookers of yesteryear, for food safety reasons- the "keep warm" setting on mine is 165. That's above the "danger" zone

It's not the temperature of the crockpot that counts, it's the temperature of the meat. If this is a big bit of meat then the frozen middle of it can potentially keep other parts of the meat in the "danger zone" for too long, even if the outside of the meat is at a safe temperature.

Having googled, it seems that inch-thick pieces of meat can safely be defrosted in hot water (or presumably hot gravy) but that large lumps of it should definitely not.
posted by emilyw at 2:14 PM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


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