If you’re anything like me, some nights you need something easy and delicious. Those nights when you’re equally torn between Netflixing… and making a delicious stew from scratch. Fortunately, the crock-pot has been designed for exactly that dilemma, and frozen pork loins are a great crock-pot protein.
We’re going to briefly cover some common questions and tips on how to make the most of your pork in a crock-pot, and then we’ll go through our favorite crock-pot pork loin recipes that we’ve chosen based on quality and variety.
Can you put frozen pork loins in a crock-pot?
It is always safer to thaw your pork in advance, but as long as you cook your pork to an internal temperature of 145º within a reasonable time frame, you can cook pork loins directly from your freezer in a crock-pot. But, you’ll generally need to have slices or a smaller pork loin (less than 3lbs), preheat your crock-pot, and may sacrifice some texture by putting it on higher heat.
Like anything, people differ in methods and risk tolerance. This is a “choose your own risk” situation.
Some people argue to always thaw your pork and that texture suffers too much if you don’t. Others say it doesn’t matter and tastes just as good. Regardless, as long as you avoid prolonged exposure to the USDA dubbed “danger zone” (40º-140º), you’re fine [*]. Best practice is to avoid having meat in that range for longer than an hour.
Pork loin isn’t a chicken breast or ground beef, though, so you need to use a bit more discretion. If you place a massive, rock solid pork tenderloin and put it on low in a cool crockpot in a cool kitchen, that’s a problem. If you freeze smaller cuts of pork loin (aim for ~3lbs), preheat your crockpot, and begin cooking it immediately, you should have nothing to worry about.
We recommend pulling your pork out of the freezer the night before and putting it in the fridge, then dropping it into the crockpot with the other ingredients in the A.M. That will leave you with delicious pork after you get back from work or doing other things throughout the day.
How to cook frozen pork loin in a crock-pot
Here’s how to make sure your frozen pork loin comes out tender, flavorful, and safe to eat every time:
1. Thaw your pork loin (recommended)
Thaw your frozen pork in advance whenever possible. Thawing helps reduce the risk of spending too much time in the bacterial danger zone, improves texture, and helps the pork cook faster.
To thaw, place the frozen pork in the refrigerator overnight, use the microwave’s defrost setting, or seal it in a plastic bag and submerge it in cold water for a few hours, changing the water every 30 minutes.
2. Preheat your crockpot
I know this sort of goes against why crockpots are so convenient, but if you have time, preheat your crockpot for about 20 minutes. This helps the pork reach the desired temperature faster and minimizes time spent at lower temperatures. If your pork is thawed, use the low setting for best results.
3. Add sauces early, herbs later
Liquids, salts, and sauces are good to add early but avoid a rub on frozen pork until the pork has thawed a little bit. This helps the season actually integrate into the pork instead of falling into the broth. This isn’t required, though. If you’re in a pinch and need to run just put the seasoning in anyway.
4. Put the meat up top, and veggies on the bottom
If you’re putting starchy vegetables like potatoes, carrots, or turnips in your crockpot, place them under the meat so they soak up all of those delicious juices.
5. Check temp at the thickest point
Thicker cuts take longer. Thinner cuts cook faster. Contrary to what many people may say, it is possible to overcook pork in a crockpot. Bring it up to temp and avoid cooking much beyond that.
6. Stagger your vegetables
If your recipe includes a variety of vegetables or ingredients with different cooking times, consider adding them at different times, e.g. potatoes along with the meat but waiting to add greens toward the end.
7. Adjust your seasoning along the way
Taste your dish as it cooks and adjust the seasoning as needed. Don’t be afraid to adjust based on what you taste.
Once your frozen pork reaches the recommended internal temperature and has the desired tenderness, dish it out with your favorite sides!
Best frozen pork loin crockpot recipes
The great thing about frozen pork loin in a crockpot is that it is almost impossible to mess up. We have a few recipes below, but use what you have! Mix up your spices, clear out your vegetable drawer (except don’t add broccoli too early because that will bite you) — swap broths and vinegars. Add apple juice! You get the idea. The world is here for your crockpot.
Some of these recipes assume you’ve already thawed it or recommend pork tenderloin, but just build in a few more hours or plan on thawing in advance to make them work.
This recipe from Carl’s Bad Craving is a bit more involved than your typical crockpot recipe, but if you take the time to make the honey citrus sauce and marinate the pork in advance, you will be rewarded. Apple cider vinegar, apricot preserves, honey, herbs — what is there not to like?!
Balsamic is another great pork pairing, and this recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe marries balsamic with soy sauce and brown sugar for a tangy, savory finish. I’d pair this with something starchy like potatoes.
Tacos and meal prepping go hand-in-hand since you can mix and match your toppings for a lot of fun results. Or swap out the shells for greens to make a salad. Gimme Some Oven shows you how to make the best batch of carnitas you can make with a slow cooker.
This recipe from The Food Charlatan uses soy, ginger, and lime to push things in the Thai direction. You should have most of the ingredients in your cupboard, so don’t worry. And don’t skip the corn starch, it’s what makes the glaze nice and sticky.
For something in a similar vein, give this recipe from The Magical Slow Cooker a shot. I’d use fresh ginger instead, and don’t go overboard on the sesame oil. That stuff is strong. A splash of rice vinegar after you take it off the heat would go a long way in this meal as well.
Honey garlic is a combination I don’t eat enough of. It sounds so good! The Suburban Soapbox’s recipe uses fish sauce, hoisin sauce, and fresh ginger to bring a little southern China to your kitchen.
Citrus and pork are a classic combo for a reason. Sweet and Savory Meals keeps things simple (and not in a bad way) with this pineapple pork loin recipe. All you need is pork, oil, garlic, soy sauce, ginger, and some canned pineapple.
For a Cajun spin, use Food.com’s recipe. It’s essentially pork over the Cajun holy trinity (onion, celery, bell pepper) and potatoes with a good, paprika-forward rub. Delicious. You could serve this over rice as well.
If you’re in a fall mood, look no further than Six Sister’s Stuff’s maple and brown sugar pork. All you have to do is mix a few ingredients together, pour it over the pork, and then simmer down the sauce at the end. Add a little apple cider vinegar and fresh thyme after you’re done simmering too!
Pro tips for making crockpot pork
Preparing frozen pork loin in a crockpot can be a delightful culinary adventure with a few expert tips to enhance your experience. Here’s a breakdown of how to master this art while keeping it budget-friendly.
Sear first if thawed
Consider searing your pork before placing it in the crockpot, especially if you’re not planning to shred it. Searing adds depth and a delightful color to your pork.
Buy and prep in bulk
To save on costs, be on the lookout for sales on pork loins, especially those nearing their expiration date. Bring them home, slice or cube them, and store them in the freezer or immediately put them in the crock pot!
Trim the fat after it is cooked
Fat is flavor, and there is nothing gained from cutting off the fat after the loin is thawed. Wait until it is cooked, and place it fat side up so you get all of those delicious juices in your broth.
Add acid at the end
Enhance your dish with a bit of brightness and acidity by adding a hint of lemon at the very end. You could also opt for a vinegar-like rice or apple cider. It is best to add vinegar at the end of a dish to preserve the tang, but you can use it to balance a dish earlier on if you plan on adding something acidic later on. That’s because vinegar is a dilution of acetic acid and boils off slightly in a simmering pot.
Don’t skimp on the broth
If the pork is the star of your dish, consider using pork broth or bouillon cubes instead of water in your crockpot. This makes the dish richer and more savory.
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The bottom line
It’s best practice to thaw your pork loin in advance, but doing so is super easy. All you have to do is take it out of the freezer the night before!
If you do decide to cook frozen pork straight in a crockpot, know that there is a higher risk of bacteria and you should preheat your crockpot, use smaller pork loins, and cook it on a higher setting.
Nathan Phelps owns and writes for Crafted Copy, a boutique copywriting shop that finds the perfect words for interesting products. He is also an ethical foodie, outdoors-aficionado, and hails from Nashville, TN. He splits his time between helping sustainable businesses find new customers and managing his ever-increasing list of hobbies, which include playing guitar, baking bread, and creating board games.