Can you put frozen meatballs into a slow cooker/crockpot? We’ve all been there – you decide at the last minute to use up some frozen meatballs from the freezer and you want to use them in a slow cooker recipe. But, can you do just use frozen meat without defrosting it?
I like meatballs, so will often buy a pack of ready made meatballs at the shop and throw the whole packet into the freezer as it is. To use frozen meatballs, the ideal way is to remove the packet from the freezer and place it in the fridge overnight. Then, once they’re defrosted, use them in your recipe.
But, let’s face it – we don’t always plan ahead! Last minute dinners, forgot, didn’t know what I’d fancy … all reasons to find yourself staring at a pack of frozen meatballs.
In short, yes, you can put frozen meatballs into your slow cooker. There is no problem with this whatsoever. You then add the other ingredients and sauce etc as per the recipe. Putting them at the bottom will “doubly ensure” that they’re close to the heating elements and will get as hot/cooked as possible. One attribute of a meatball is that it’s small, so it doesn’t take long for the other ingredients to thaw, then cook, them through completely during the long cooking time in a slow cooker.
Cooking frozen food will take a little longer than cooking chilled food or room temperature food – so you might need to add some extra cooking time to make sure they’re fully cooked. In a slow cooker you’ll probably find you’re already cooking it long enough and there’s no need for extra time. As a rule of thumb, I’d say that if your dish has cooked for 6 hours or more then that’s completely fine (and has been fine for a couple of hours). If you’re trying to shorten the cooking time and serve up your food quicker, then just check they’re cooked all the way through.
What is the Safe Temperature for Meatballs?
There is a temperature that food should reach in order to be “safe”, but this is mostly an issue with large joints and food cooked by other methods. The safe cooking temperature for meatballs is 75°C – the centre of the meatball needs to reach this temperature to ensure food safety; a simple food thermometer can be used to check the internal temperature of any meat.
However, the food doesn’t have to reach this temperature to be safe – the official information says food should be at 75°C for 2 minutes; it’s also safe if the food’s been cooked at 60°C for a minimum of 45 minutes – and as you’re cooking in a slow cooker, it’ll have had plenty of time to reach this temperature and more! In short, I’d really not worry about 12-20 meatballs in sauce in a slow cooker, bubbling away for 5+ hours … not worry at all.
Personally, I don’t use a thermometer, I go by “common sense” and confidence. Meatballs, cooking in a sauce, are small items, so easy to cook through thoroughly without any worries at all! Just make sure the sauce is bubbling before you turn the slow cooker down to low. In a slow cooker, the meatballs will sit, bubbling away in the sauce, for 5-6 hours (or more), giving them plenty of time to have fully thawed and cooked through.
If you’ve got a microwave and are “that bothered” about it – you can use the microwave to defrost the meatballs. Simply spread them out on a microwave dish and cover with a microwave splatter guard, or clingfilm, or a random lid that “sort of fits”, then microwave them on defrost for 3-5 minutes, turning them a couple of times.