While you may be pressed for time or you found a frozen chicken wing recipe for the slow cooker, it is best to avoid that temptation. All meats, including poultry, should be thawed before placing in a slow cooker to prevent foodborne illnesses. It may take some more planning, but it's better to be safe than sorry.
Avoid the Danger Zone
Temperature plays a vital role in meat safety. Freezing inhibits bacterial growth, as do temperatures above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The biggest danger arises when meats sit at temperatures between 40 and 140 F -- called the danger zone. In this temperature range, bacteria thrive and grow, increasing the risk of foodborne illness. A slow cooker cooks chicken wings slowly, at low temperatures. Placing frozen chicken into a slow cooker slows the cooking process and increases the time meat sits in the danger zone.
For chicken wings you plan to cook in the slow cooker, thaw them using either the refrigerator method or cold water method. For the refrigerator method, place the chicken wings in the refrigerator 24 hours before you plan to cook them. For cold water thawing, place the wings in a sealed bag and submerge them in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the meat thaws, typically between one and three hours, depending on how much meat you are thawing. Microwave thawing is not recommended for wings because they're so small.
Cooking in the Slow Cooker
To help ensure your wings move out of the danger zone quickly, preheat the slow cooker, submerge the wings in hot liquids and cook at the highest setting for the first hour.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service: Slow Cookers and Food Safety
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service: The Big Thaw -- Safe Defrosting Methods for Consumers
- University of Minnesota Extension: Slow Cookers and Food Safety
- Texas A&M AgriLife Extension: Food Technology and Processing: Bacterial Food Poisoning
- Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images