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Frozen Pork Butt in Crockpot w/o Defrosting First?

I have a 3.5 pound frozen, boneless pork butt in the freezer and was wondering whether I can simply put it straight from the freezer into a crockpot without drefrosting it first? If so, does anyone have any advice as to how long it should be left to cook and whether it would be best to add any liquid at the beginning or after it has defrosted a bit. I was planning to use it to make pulled pork. TIA.

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  1. Tedmom - I don't think that's a good idea. The temp of the meat stays at a dangerous level for too long, allowing for bacteria growth. You definitely want to defrost first. My latest "Cooking Light" magazine just had an article on it. You could probably go to their website for more info.

    1. I've done this a couple of times. I don't recall the weight offhand, but around 3 - 5 lbs sounds very likely to what I'd buy

      To make a pulled pork. I would add about a cup of liquid. That should be plenty, it will be creating some nice broth on its own, and the additional will be perfect to use with your sauce.

      1. I'm not a fan of this idea...

        1 Reply
        1. re: jaykayen

          My recollection is that the crock pot literature warns you not to use frozen meat. The problem is that you are creating ideal conditions for bacterial contamination. Furthermore, you may thermal stress the crock and cause it to crack, which is just what happened once when one of my confreres put frozen chicken into the crock pot.

        2. Unless you are in a helluva hurry, let it thaw in the fridge. If you must do it right away, brown in a frypan first to at least kill the surface bacteria. This may be difficult with frozen meat. Dunno...never tried.

          1. I would cook something else until it thawed. That just sounds scary!

            1. I use the defrost cycle on the microwave to partially defrost frozen pork butts of that size. Then I throw them in the crockpot. Defrost enough so that you can insert a meat thermometer into the center of the meat. That should be defrosted enough. Starting at about 33 degrees, it will take at least 6 to 8 hours to cook on high.

              1. It will work just fine. Add at least an hour or two to the cooking time to compensate for the fact that you're starting with colder ingredients. And put the liquid in at the beginning to create a buffer against thermal shock to the ceramic crock.

                As far as bacterial growth is concerned - c'mon, give me a break. You're talking about a solid cut of meat. Any bacteria are on the outside. And the liquid in the crock is going to get to a simmer, which will kill anything living on that surface. And that's just the surface - pulled pork requires an internal temp of around 190F. If there were common bugs that could survive those temperatures, they'd already rule the world.

                5 Replies
                1. re: alanbarnes

                  Yes, but why not at least defrost it in the microwave first? Then you can sear it and get a nice crust on it before you toss it in the crockpot. It'll improve the final outcome. Toss some chopped onion in with the sear also. Then transfer to the crockpot. Add a cider vinegar/tomato/pepper mixture (NC Lexington style pork) and voila. Otherwise, sounds like you'd just end up w/ a watered down version of pulled pork.

                  1. re: lynnlato

                    Exactly--it might be safe but it won't taste good. Searing makes a huge difference and I wouldn't do it without.

                    1. re: lynnlato

                      Good point. Defrosting is necessary before searing. But if the OP is just going to slow-cook the meat, the defrost is a superfluous step - it will defrost just fine in the slow cooker.

                      As to the notion that searing is necessary to make the meat taste good - I beg to differ. There are lots of pit-cooked recipes out there that rely entirely on steaming - there's no caramelization at all - and they're very delicious. I like my "bark" as much as the next guy, but it isn't a deal breaker.

                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        Very true, Alan. But there is a world of difference between pit-cooking and crockpot cooking. Wouldn't you agree? ;-) I mean, cooking in a crockpot doesn't add flavor the way pit-cooking does. The crockpot is kind of neutral - it provides moist heat and that's about it.

                        I guess I'm a "bark" fan too. The dealbreaker for me would be the frozen hunk of meat in the crockpot. It just seems wrong even if it won't kill you.

                        1. re: lynnlato

                          I dunno, a lot of the flavor added by pit cooking comes from the things you cook with the meat. I do a mean kalua pig in the slow cooker - salt a pork shoulder roast, wrap it in banana leaves and then in ti leaves, and cook until it falls apart. It's not quite as good as if it were cooked in an imu, but it's a reasonable facsimile.

                  2. Thanks to everyone who weighed in on my question. I sure do wish I had a pit to cook the meat in rather than my lowly crockpot! I decided to go ahead and defrost. It'll take a couple extra days, but I guess it's better to be safe than sorry!!

                    1 Reply
                    1. FYI for future readers: Pork and Health (dot) org stated in it's FAQ to never cook frozen pork in a slow cooker.

                      Pork can be thawed in the fridge: small roast (butt is similar I would think) 3-5 hrs per lb and large roast is 4-7 hrs per lb.
                      A microwave can be used to thaw pork, follow manufacturers guidelines for the microwave unit and cook thawed pork immediately.