A frequently asked question we often see centers on whether or not it is safe to cook ground beef in a slow cooker or Crock Pot. It’s a common question!
Using a slow cooker to cook ground beef is a great way to prepare a large amount of ground beef whether for serving right away or for meal prep.
Ground beef must reach an internal temperature of 160°F in order to be safe to eat according to the CDC and USDA while the FDA Food Code requires a minimum of 155° for 15 seconds.
A slow cooker can be used to properly cook ground beef because, when used for the appropriate amount of time, it can raise the beef to the proper temperature for food safety.
How Do You Cook Ground Beef in the Slow Cooker?
We love using the slow cooker to make a big batch of ground beef! It’s an easy way to meal prep and the best part? The slow cooker requires minimal effort.
- Break up ground beef and place in slow cooker
- Add ¼ cup of water per pound of raw ground beef
- Turn on the slow cooker on HIGH for 2-3 hours or LOW for 4-6 hours. Cooking time varies depending on how many pounds of ground beef you are cooking.
- During the cooking process, occasionally stir the meat to cook it evenly. Do not leave the lid off for long or you will interrupt the cooking process.
- After cooking, drain off the excess grease into a jar or heat-safe container before disposal. To drain a large amount of beef safely, you can remove it in small increments with a slotted spoon to avoid the risk of burns.
- Divide into plastic freezer bags or another airtight storage container and either freeze for easy freezer meals or refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Should I Brown Ground Beef Before Placing It in Crockpot?
You do not need to cook ground beef before placing it in a Crock Pot. Some recipessuggest doing so to add a caramelized flavor though it’s not necessary.
Add the raw beef directly in the slow cooker with little effort and then use it to add to your favorite recipes like making pasta sauces or the best taco meat.
Do I Need To Add Oil When Cooking Ground Beef?
The natural excess fat in the beef is released during the cooking process and prevents significant sticking.
Because of this you do not need to use oil when cooking ground beef. This is true of cooking ground beef in a slow cooker or any typical pot or pan.
Lean ground beef will have a little bit less fat content but it should still more than enough to adequately prevent sticking without a huge difference.
Why Can’t You Undercook Ground Beef?
Undercooked ground beef can cause food borne illness as a result of harmful bacteria that can only be killed when meat is cooked to a pecific temperature.
The so-called “danger zone” for raw meat is any temperature between 40 and 140° F, which is why it is often recommended to use a food thermometer.
This danger zone is considered such because this temperature range allows the bacteria that cause food poisoning to multiply the quickest.
Cooking ground beef to at least 155° (and optimally 160°) is the only way to destroy such bacteria.
Young children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to food poisoning and its side effects making undercooked meat a serious safety risk.
Always be sure to wash your hands and the preparation area to avoid cross contamination of live bacteria to another surface where it can spread.
Can Ground Beef Be Slightly Pink?
Ground beef that is slightly pink at the center can still be safe to eat, provided that the meat has reached the appropriate internal temperature.
The pink color does not always indicate the rawness of the meat. It can also be a reaction between the heat and myoglobin, which causes a pink or reddish color.
Can You Refreeze Ground Beef?
It is not uncommon to end up with more thawed meat than you need, but luckily you can can refreeze thawed ground beef in most cases.
Ground beef that has been thawed in the fridge is safe to refreeze as is when you refreeze it within two days.
To prevent freezer burn, wrap the packaging in plastic wrap, freezer paper, or aluminum foil and place into a freezer-safe bag before freezing.
If the ground beef has been thawed in the microwave, it must be cooked before it is refrozen as it may have started to cook while thawing.
Once partially cooked food must be fully cooked before it is frozen to decrease the risk of harmful bacterial growth.
Ground beef thawed in cold water should also be cooked prior to freezing.
This is because the ground beef may have been unevenly thawed, and various areas of the meat have reached different temperatures.
Because it can fall into the “danger zone” window, you cannot take the chance that the meat is not contaminated so it needs to be cooked.