When it comes to food safety, whether you use only one meat or combine two meats in a slow cooker doesn't really matter, so long as you follow proper food preparation guidelines. Make sure the chicken and pork pieces are similar in size so they cook evenly and set the slow cooker to low. Chicken and pork have mild flavors that pair well together, an additional point to consider when combining meats.
Chicken and pork have the potential to carry bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. How you handle the meat before you cook it makes a big difference in the safety of the finished product. First, buy the meat at the end of your shopping trip and get it home to the refrigerator quickly. Look for fresh, firm pork or chicken with no "off" smell. Excess liquid pooling in the package is sometimes a sign that the meat hasn't been processed properly. Refrigerate the pork and chicken at 40 degrees Fahrenheit for no more than 2 days before cooking it. Frozen meat should be kept at zero F until you're ready to use it. Make sure the counter tops and cutting boards are clean and wash your hands with soap and water before you prepare the meat. When handled carefully, there's no reason you can't combine pork and chicken in a slow cooker.
When cooking any meat in the slow cooker, including chicken and pork, it's best to start with thawed meat, rather than frozen. Frozen meat -- especially larger portions -- won't cook quickly enough to prevent bacterial growth, which can cause food poisoning. Thaw both chicken and pork in a refrigerator set at 40 F overnight. You can also place the meat in a bowl of cold water in the sink. Replace the water with new cold water every 30 minutes until the meat is thawed.
All the Same Size
To keep pork and chicken safe in the slow cooker, you must start with pieces of meat that are similar in size. Combine boneless chicken breasts with boneless center-cut pork chops, or cut the meat into 1-inch pieces for a soup or stew. Never fill the slow cooker more than two-thirds full because the meat won't cook evenly or quickly. You probably won't have room in the slow cooker to cook a whole pork roast and a whole chicken, for example.
What's the Season?
Both chicken and pork have a mild, almost bland, flavor. Because they're both lean meats -- depending on the cut -- they also have the tendency to dry out. A savory or sweet liquid in the slow cooker, such as apple juice, white wine or broth, boosts flavor when cooking pork and chicken together. Depending on the recipe, add extra seasonings, such as rosemary, garlic, brown sugar, chili peppers or even a rich sauce. Chicken and pork both taste excellent paired with fruit sauces, barbecue sauce or an Asian-inspired glaze.
- Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook; Beth Hensperger
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Fresh Pork From Farm to Table
- USDA: Chicken From Farm to Table
Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of MarmaladeMom.org, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."
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