The one slow-cooker mistake you're probably making, according to the USDA

We love our Instant Pot for everything from dinner to dessert to wine (kidding, kind of). When it comes to lightning-fast meals, the Instant Pot is unmatched.

But it turns out, there's one thing the popular appliance is not good for: Cooking frozen chicken. In fact, according to the USDA, it's a mistake that could put your health at risk. 

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30-slow cooker recipes under 500 calories
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30-slow cooker recipes under 500 calories

Slow-Cooker Stuffed Shells

This calls for a celebration.

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Photo: PureWow/Liz Andrew/ Erin McDowell

Slow-Cooker Garlic-Herb Mashed Cauliflower

Just 94 calories a serving? It’s practically like eating an apple.

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Photo: PureWow/Liz Andrew/ Erin McDowell

Slow-Cooker Mediterranean Frittata

Just call this breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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Photo: PureWow/Liz Andrew/ Erin McDowell

Slow-Cooker Salted-Caramel Rice Pudding

Mathematically, it’s OK to have seconds.

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Photo: PureWow/Liz Andrew/ Erin McDowell

Italian Pulled Pork Ragu

The saucy meat you crave, minus the carbs.

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Photo: PureWow/Skinny Taste

Skinny Slow-Cooker Kung Pao Chicken

Low-cal and easy? Take that, fast food.

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Photo: PureWow/The recipe critic

Mexican Slow-Cooker Stuffed Peppers

Loaded with enchilada sauce, black beans and corn.

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Photo: PureWow/Chef Savvy

Cuban Shredded Beef

This is what “melt in your mouth” means.

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Photo: PureWow/Little Spice Jar

Crock-Pot Low Carb Lasagna

No-noodles, no problem.

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Photo: PureWow/Well PLated

Beef Stroganoff

Shhh: Greek yogurt gives this dish its magical creaminess.

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Photo: PureWow/Recipe Diaries

Slow-Cooker Garlic Herb Mushrooms

They’re drenched in cream sauce but still clock in at under 200 calories.

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Photo: PureWow/Closet COoking

Slow-Cooker Cranberry Hot Toddy

Hey, we didn’t say it had to be dinner.

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Photo: PureWow/Liz Andrew/ Erin McDowell 

Healthy Slow-Cooker Buffalo Chicken Sweet Potatoes

Is your mouth watering?

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Photo: PureWow/Well Plated

Lightened-Up Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

It’ll leave you satisfied for hours.

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Photo: PureWow/Sally's Baking Addiction 

Slow-Cooker Chicken Caesar Wraps

We had no idea this was possible (but no complaints).

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Photo: PureWow/Damn Delicious 

Slow-Cooker White Chicken and Quinoa Chili

The best way to stay cozy all winter long.

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Photo: PureWow/Eat yourself skinny 

Slow-Cooker Spiked Cinnamon Lattes

Fever calories than your a.m. venti addiction.

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Photo: PureWow/Liz Andrew/Erin McDowell 

Slow-Cooker Coconut Quinoa Curry

It’s here to save the day.

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Photo: PureWow/Simply Quinoa

Crock-Pot Butternut Squash, Chicken and Quinoa Soup

Warmer than your favorite fluffy blanket.

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Photo: PureWow/Chelsea's Messy Apron

Crock-Pot Chicken Primavera

Where have you been our whole life?

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Photo: PureWow/Pinch of Yum

Healthy Slow-Cooker Chicken Chile Verde

Is it possible to legally marry a soup?

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Photo: PureWow/Ambitious Kitchen

Slow-Cooker Lasagna Soup

Our two favorite things, living together in harmony.

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Photo: PureWow/Simple Nourished Living

No-Rise Slow-Cooker Basil Pesto Bread

Welp, this just changed our entire life.

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Photo: PureWow/Diethood

Honey-Glazed Crock-Pot Chicken Adobo

This is how we’re cooking birds from here on out.

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Photo: PureWow/Pinch of yum 

Slow-Cooker Skinny Vegetarian Chili

If you have any leftovers, freeze them for up to three months.

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Photo: PureWow/Tasteful foodie adventures

Crock-Pot Balsamic Pork Roast

Guaranteed to impress the whole table.

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Photo: PureWow/Skinny Taste

Slow-Cooker Pork Carnitas

Don’t mind if we do.

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Photo: PureWow/Slender Kitchen

Slow-Cooker Chicken Ropa Vieja

It’s normally made with steak, but we made a lean swap.

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Photo: PureWow/Skinny Taste

Crock-Pot Chicken Spaghetti

Can we eat this every night?

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Photo: PureWow/Ifoodreal

Sweet and Sour Slow-Cooker Meatballs

Psst, they’re also keto-approved.

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Photo: PureWow/How to this and that

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Here's why: Even if you've triple-checked that your chicken is cooked (it's reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees), bacteria tends to flourishat temperatures from 40 to 140 degrees, aka the "danger zone," to culinary pros. When you start with icy meat, it takes longer to reach 165 degrees. And those pesky bacteria (like salmonella and staphylococcus aureus) will multiply within minutes.

6 PHOTOS
6 mistakes you're making with your Instant pot
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6 mistakes you're making with your Instant pot
Adding ingredients without liquid
Look closely and you’ll notice that every single recipe calls for some sort of cooking liquid. You already know the “slow cook” setting needs it for braising to tender perfection. But the “pressure” setting needs about 1 cup of broth or water, too. Here’s why: When steam builds up, it forces moisture into the food—causing it to cook and tenderize very quickly. Pretty nifty.
Filling the pot to the max line
Yep, there’s a fill line inside, but that only applies to the “slow cook” setting. If you’re pressure-cooking, don’t fill up the bowl more than halfway—especially if you’re whipping up something that’ll expand, like grains or beans. Why? The liquid could easily seep through and clog the venting knob, leading to too much pressure or a huge mess. Yikes.
Not factoring in “preheating” time
Mac and cheese in ten minutes? Chicken enchiladas in 15? It all sounds so magical (and it is). But when you’re planning out your evening, make sure to add about 15 extra minutes onto the recipe. It’ll take your pot this long to build up pressure (aka “preheat”).
Opening the quick release valve too slowly

When your masterpiece is finished pressure cooking, open that valve immediately—and quickly. Every extra second steam is trapped inside can mean the difference between perfectly tender veggies and sad, mushy ones.

Using a recipe that’s made for a regular pressure cooker
The Instant Pot’s first cousin reaches even higher pressures, so recipes created for it will have slightly shorter cook times. Unless you want to do a good deal of pre-cooking arithmetic, we recommend sticking to recipes created specifically for your swanky new appliance.

 

Giving the inside a good scrub
You always thoroughly wash your Instant Pot after you use it, but maybe you’ve noticed that rainbow streaks have appeared on the inner pot. Resist the urge to scrub it down with your trusty brush or Brillo. The company says this is normal and doesn’t affect the way your food tastes. 

RELATED: 15 KETOGENIC RECIPES YOU CAN MAKE IN AN INSTANT POT

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Our first thought: Don't the bacteria die once the meat is fully cooked, anyway? Sure, says the USDA...but the disease-causing toxins they release are heat-resistant. Hello, food-borne illness. Surprisingly, however, the Instant Pot website says there's no need to thaw frozen foods before cooking them.

Our advice? Better to be safe than sorry. We'll be thawing out those boneless, skinless breasts first (safely, in the fridge), thank you very much.

RELATED: All the Accessories to Help You Make the Most of Your Instant Pot

 

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