Can I Leave Meatballs in a Crock-Pot Overnight? (Yes, if . . . )

haMeatballs are one of those favorite foods at large family gatherings; easy, low maintenance, and delicious. If you’re making them, you may be wondering can I leave meatballs in a Crock-Pot overnight.

Here’s what I know from having made them often:

Yes, meatballs are just fine in a Crock-Pot overnight on the warm setting if already fully-cooked. The warm setting on slow cookers varies between 145-165 degrees Fahrenheit. The food-safe temperature zone for hot foods is above 140°. So while close to the low end of the temperature range, they will be fine overnight.

But that’s just a quick glimpse. There are naturally a bunch of follow up questions, such as:

  • How long can meatballs stay in a Crock-Pot?
  • Can I put uncooked meatballs in the Crock-Pot overnight on warm?
  • How long should you cook them and what if they are already cooked?
  • Can you toss them in still frozen?
  • Do I need to brown the meatballs first?

In this article, we’ll cover all of those questions and more.

 Just keep reading!

How long can meatballs stay in a Crock-Pot?

Typically, when you cook meatballs in the Crock-Pot, you only need to cook them for a few hours.

If you are using homemade meatballs, you may want to broil them so they get nice and brown first. Fresh meatballs may need to cook just a little longer. And if you don’t brown fresh meatballs first, they may fall apart in the Crock-Pot.

But if you have a gathering late in the morning or early afternoon, it’s nice to get a head start on things.

The really great thing about cooking in a Crock-Pot is that it is really hard to burn anything. Chances are, you won’t leave them in there too long.

A thing to think about though is the sauce you are cooking the meatballs in. A sugar-based sauce, like something that uses jelly or even barbecue sauce, can burn to the sides of the Crock-Pot.

This can be a really challenging mess to clean up!

All of that said, I’ve left meatballs in a crockpot all day on low and have not had any problems.

It can be challenging to make sure you have enough seasoning when cooking with your slow cooker. Typically, you can taste test as you go, but when cooking in a Crock-Pot, you are usually putting in raw meat. That makes taste testing hard. 

But you don’t want bland meatballs. So what should you do to get sufficient flavor and prevent bland meatballs?

Browning meatballs either in the oven or on the stovetop will add extra flavor. But what if you are cooking a roast or chicken? How do you keep it from tasting bland?

Luckily, I’ve detailed how to get the most flavor out of your slow cooker in this recent article.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

How long do you cook already cooked meatballs in the crockpot?

Meatballs only have to cook for about 2 to 3 hours on high or 4 to 6 hours on low.

But that’s not to say you can’t cook them even longer. Meatballs are very hardy, so they can withstand a lot of cooking.

If you are looking to cook them overnight, you can cook them on low all night and they will be delicious in the morning.


In fact, you can cook most anything well past the actual cooking time.

You can’t really have meat that is too tender.  There are, of course, a few things you don’t want to cook too long in the Crock-Pot.

You don’t want to overcook vegetables. Even hardy vegetables like carrots and potatoes will get mushy when cooked too long.

Beans and pasta should also be on the list of things not to cook too long. I left pasta in my slow cooker for an hour once. It was inedible! Don’t do that.

Check out all the proper cook times and rules to follow for using your Crock-Pot overnight in my recent article. I even show you a handy chart for all types of meat and poultry to ensure they are not only done but not tough and chewy.

Just click that link to read it now on my site.

How long can a crockpot stay on low?

Crock-Pots, like other slow cookers, are meant to stay on for long periods of time.

You’ll find that many people make breakfast in their slow cooker, leaving it on overnight. If they are regular sleepers, it means that they are keeping it on low for at least 8 hours.

Make sure you read the manual, but many slow cookers can be left on for up to 24 hours. However, most manufacturers recommend 7 to 8 hours. (source)

You can even use slow cooker liners in your slow cooker that long. They are designed to be in your slow cooker as long as you need them to.

They make cleaning up so much easier! Especially if you have food that got stuck to the sides of your Crock-Pot.

Just look for the BPA-free ones, like this one on Amazon, when looking for liners and you’ll be good to go.

Should I thaw meatballs before putting in a Crock-Pot?

You can, but it’s not necessary.

Typically, with large portions of frozen meat, such as roast, you’ll want to thaw it first. If you don’t it won’t cook properly. It could also spend a long time in the temperature danger zone.

You should also thaw out raw meatballs and brown them under a broiler first.

Meatballs are usually pre-cooked before they are frozen. So you don’t have to worry about them cooking properly. However, if you made homemade meatballs and froze them uncooked, you should brown them first.

Whether you’ve thawed your meatballs or put them in frozen, the cooking time is still 2 to 3 hours on high.

If you want to leave them in overnight, though, you should leave the slow cooker on low. You may be tempted to leave it on warm overnight, to prevent any burning or overcooking.

You may want to think twice before doing that.

Crock-Pot temperature settings will vary a bit, but generally, the low setting is about 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bacteria growth occurs between 70 and 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Generally, foods need to be in their safe temperature zone within 2 hours. For hot foods, this would be above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. (source)

The warm temperature setting is between 145 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. (source)

If you are absolutely certain that your Crock-Pot reaches at least 145, then it should be safe to leave it on warm overnight.

That’s just too close for comfort to me.

Sometimes slow cookers have been known to crack when we aren’t closely monitoring them.

Luckily, those instances are rare. But you’ll want to make sure you’re aware of those reasons. After all, not only would it ruin dinner, but it would make a huge mess and you’d have to buy a new one!

Luckily, I cover all the reasons a slow cooker might crack in this recent article.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

How long does it take to warm up frozen meatballs in a Crock-Pot?

I love slow cooker meatballs. They are great for large gatherings and they are also great for family meals when served over rice.

The easiest way for me is to use frozen meatballs. I love this recipe! It’s super simple and everyone enjoys it.

It uses frozen meatballs, barbecue sauce, and grape jelly. Just dump it all in your Crock-Pot and set it on high for 2 or 3 hours. Because frozen meatballs are fully cooked, you don’t have to worry about pre-cooking them. You just heat them until they are warmed through.

If you are considering cooking your meatballs without sauce or a variety of sauces on the side, you likely don’t need any sauce at all.

That’s because most meats release liquids during cooking. If you put your frozen meatballs right in the crock and set it on low, it’ll naturally release any liquid as they thaw out.

While you typically cook meatballs directly in the sauce, you don’t always need to add liquid to your slow cooker. And if you do add liquid, you shouldn’t add too much.

To learn everything you need to know about adding liquid to your Crock-Pot, just read this recent article.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Getting the right amount of liquid in a Crock-Pot isn’t hard. It just takes a little practice and you’ll get the hang of it quickly.

Did I answer everything you wanted to know about leaving meatballs in the crockpot overnight?

Meatballs are one of those favorite items at big gatherings that people are always looking for.

Oddly, it also seems to be one of those things that people only cook for large gatherings.

If you have a big gathering coming up, and you want to make meatballs, make it easier on yourself by starting them the night before in your Crock-Pot.

Slow cookers are made to cook for long periods of time unattended.

What is your favorite way to eat meatballs? While I love some barbecue and grape jelly meatballs, I really love a meatball sub with provolone cheese, banana peppers, and black olives!


Photos which require attribution:

Meatballs by Rob Briscoe is licensed under CC2.0

Jeff Campbell

Jeff was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades and is now a recovering foodie. When he's not spending time in the kitchen, he can usually be found with his wife & 3 daughters, he can usually be found practicing martial arts, making music, or blogging on his other sites. Click to learn more about me

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