How to Cook Ground Beef in a Slow Cooker

$14.47 per recipe / $4.82 per pound

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Slow Cooker Ground Beef recipes are usually cooked on the stovetop prior to being added to a slow cooker. But did you know that you can get a step ahead and make a large batch of ground beef right in the slow cooker? It’s quick, easy, and adjustable to your needs. Cook up to 6 pounds using this method.

how to cook ground beef in a slow cooker

Today’s Freezer Essential: Ground Beef

Cook your ground beef once per week and store in the refrigerator or the freezer. This makes it easy to pull from when you want to make enchiladas, chili, shepherd’s pie, or add some protein to a mac and cheese recipe.

Benefits to Ground Beef

Slow cooker ground beef is a kitchen staple that offers many benefits. It serves as a blank canvas for various flavors and spices, so whether you’re making chili, spaghetti sauce, or taco filling, the slow cooker allows you to cook ground beef in bulk, so you are ready to add it to your dishes without much effort.

One of the standout advantages is the ability to prepare large batches of ground beef at once. This is especially useful for meal prepping or cooking for a crowd. By making a big batch, you can save both time and money, as it is more cost-effective than buying pre-packaged or smaller quantities of ground beef. Plus, leftovers can be frozen for later use, ensuring you always have a quick and convenient protein source on hand.

Beginner-Friendly Recipe

This is a really good recipe to get new cooks involved in. Whether you’re a college kid who needs dorm-safe food or you’re teaching your child how to cook, using the slow cooker is an easy way to make great food and boost the confidence of a new chef. With little to no babysitting, this is something that even the most novice of cooks can do while you’re tending to other tasks.

In terms of convenience and cost-effectiveness, slow cooker ground beef is hard to beat. It simplifies meal preparation and allows you to make the most of your ingredients and budget, making it a kitchen hack that every home cook should have in their repertoire.

Ingredients Needed

how to cook ground beef in a slow cooker

Exact measurements can be found in the printable recipe card below.

  • Ground Beef: Any percentage of fat will work. The higher the fat content the less water you’ll need.
  • Optional: water, salt, and pepper.

Tool Variations

We love to cook ground beef in the slow cooker, but there are a variety of other methods you can use. If you don’t have or don’t want to use your slow cooker, try one of these:

  • Stove Top: On medium-high heat, 1 pound of ground beef will take 8-10 minutes to cook.
  • Oven: 450F on the bottom rack for 30-60 minutes.
  • Instant Pot (or pressure cooker): On high pressure for 6-8 minutes or on saute mode for about 15 minutes for more of a caramelized texture.

How to choose ground beef by percentage

Ground beef comes in various leanness levels, indicated as percentages of lean meat versus fat. For example, 80% lean meat contains 20% fat. Here’s how to choose:

  • 70-75% Lean: Ideal for burgers on a griddle or stovetop and all-beef meatloaf. The extra fat adds flavor and prevents sticking. This is also the most affordable beef available.
  • 80-85% Lean: Perfect for grilled burgers, chili, and stuffed peppers. It has a good amount of flavor without causing dangerous flare-ups on the grill. This is the standard percentage you’ll find nation wide.
  • 90-95% Lean: Great for tacos, meatballs, blended meatloaf, and Sloppy Joes.


This is an overview of the instructions. For complete directions, scroll down to the bottom.

  1. Add the thawed beef to a crock pot and break it up with a meat masher or spoon.
  2. Add 1/4 cup of water if using 80/20 beef or 1/2 cup of water for leaner beef or beef that is frozen. You can add more water if needed or desired. You’ll be straining the beef anyhow.
  3. Add any spices to the crockpot and cover.
  4. Cook on high 2-3 hours or low 4-6 hours. Be sure to stir and break up halfway through.

How to store and love your leftovers

  • Refrigerate: Cooked beef will stay good in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Refrigerate it promptly within two hours of cooking.
  • Freeze: For longer storage, freeze the meat with minimal air, ideally in a zip-top freezer bag, and label it with the date. Frozen cooked beef can last up to 3 months.
  • Canned: You can pressure can cooked meat in pint or quart jars filled with boiled water or beef broth. Process at 10 pounds for 75 or 90 minutes respectively.
  • Reheat: Thaw in the refrigerator overnight if possible. Let it come to room temperature for up to 30 minutes. Reheat in the oven at a low temperature on a baking sheet or in a pan with a bit of neutral oil. If the reheated beef appears dry, add a sauce, gravy, or warm beef broth to restore moisture. Canned beef can be warmed in a microwave or added right to your recipe.

Store you ground beef in 1 or 2 cup portions to use for spaghetti, tacos, or lasagna!


Should I brown ground beef before putting it in the crock pot?

No, you don’t have to brown ground beef before slow cooking it in a crockpot. You only need to put raw meat directly into the pot and cook.

Do I need to add oil to the ground beef?

You don’t need to add oil since moisture builds up and mixes with the natural fats released when cooking ground beef.

Can I change the amount of beef that I put in the crock pot?

Yes! You can cook up to five pounds of raw ground beef, but the amount of water you add will depend on size and fat content of the meat. And remember, the larger the ground beef quantity, the longer it’ll take to cook.

Why do slow cooker recipes make you brown beef before adding?

Most recipes that use ground beef and have you brown on the stovetop first are doing so to remove any excess fat and to add texture to the meal. Slow cooker ground beef does not have the same caramelized texture as stovetop cooked beef.

slow cooker ground beef

What to make with ground beef

  • Taco Bowl
  • Spaghetti
  • Cheeseburger Mac and Cheese
  • Shepherd’s Pie

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Slow Cooker Ground Beef

how to cook ground beef in a slow cooker
Cook Ground Beef in the slow cooker for a quick and easy meal prep to your week. Large batch cooking of proteins can save you time and make your dump and go Crock Pot recipes even faster!
Katie Chase
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 5 minutes
Recipe Cost $14.47
Recipe Servings 1 batch


  • 6 quart slow cooker
  • meat masher
  • slotted spoon


  • 3 pounds ground beef 80/20
  • 1/2 cup water optional
  • 1 Tablespoon salt optional
  • 1/2 Tablespoon pepper optional


  • Add all the ingredients to the slow cooker and break apart with the meat masher. Cook on high for 3 hours, breaking up and stirring halfway through. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain excess grease. Use as desired.


Please note that the servings are for the 3 pounds of beef since there are infinite ways you can use this ground beef. 
Disclaimer: Please note all serving sizes, pricing, and nutrition is an estimate based on 2023-2024 pricing and nutrition guides. For accuracy please do your own calculations.

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