The Difference Between Cooked & Gently Cooked Dog Food

A hand holding The Grateful Pet's gently cooked food and pouring the dog food into a bowl.

When shopping for your dog’s food, you might have come across terms like “gently cooked.” But what exactly does this mean, and how does it differ from traditional cooking methods? This blog post will explore the concept of gently cooked dog food, its benefits, address common misconceptions, and in case you’ve missed a dog food delivery order, a simple recipe for fresh dog food that you can make at home for your buddy. By the end of this blog post, you’ll understand why gently cooked dog food is a superior option when compared to traditional cooking methods for maintaining your pet’s health and nutrition.

What Does Gently Cooked Mean?

Gently cooked dog food is a method of food preparation that heats ingredients just enough to kill harmful pathogens like Salmonella and E. coli while preserving the nutritional integrity of the food. Typically, this involves cooking at temperatures lower than traditional methods, such as boiling or stir-frying, which can deplete essential nutrients. For example, a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry [1], on cooking methods found that gentle cooking techniques like sous vide maintain higher levels of protein and essential vitamins compared to high-heat cooking.

This approach ensures that while the bacteria present in raw ingredients are eliminated, the food retains its nutritional benefits. While high temperature cooking can also get rid of food-borne illnesses, protein digestion rate decreases with increasing temperature and heating time, as documented in research by Chung-Ang University in Korea [2].

The Grateful Pet's gently cooked food in a bowl, surrounded by fresh food.

Benefits of Gently Cooked Food for Dogs

Enhanced Digestibility

A dog’s digestive tract is considerably shorter than that of humans, making the digestibility of their food crucial for nutrient absorption. Research from the National Research Council on Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats [3], indicates that foods that are easier to digest allow dogs to absorb more nutrients as the food passes through their intestinal tract more efficiently.

Better Nutrient Preservation

Gentle cooking methods help retain more nutrients compared to high-heat cooking. Heat-sensitive nutrients such as certain vitamins like vitamin C and B-vitamins, which are water soluble vitamins, are prone to destruction at higher temperatures [4]. According to the Journal in Food Chemistry by Zhejiang University on their research of vitamin C, temperature-sensitive vitamins are easily degraded during cooking, and elevated temperatures and long cooking times have been found to cause particularly severe losses of vitamin C [5].

Higher in Natural Nutrients Compared To Kibble

Kibble, produced through a process called hot extrusion, subjects ingredients to high temperatures and pressures, often resulting in the loss of nutrients from fresh foods. Kibble manufacturers would then add in synthetic nutrients and vitamins to make sure they meet the nutrient guidelines. However, research by Robert Thiel in 2001, highlights that artificial vitamins are not as bioavailable [6], meaning they are not absorbed as well by dogs’ bodies when compared to natural vitamins your dog can get through fresh food.

Increased Moisture Content

Gently cooked food retains more moisture compared to food cooked at high temperatures. When you place a steak on a searing hot pan, you can immediately hear sizzling, and as a few minutes pass by, you can see juices seeping out of the meat and evaporating due to the high heat. This process from high-heat cooking shows the moisture loss when cooking meat or vegetables.

The preservation of moisture in gently cooked food aids in better hydration for dogs. An article by BetterVet states that ensuring adequate hydration in dogs is essential as it significantly influences their bodily functions [7]. Water is fundamental in a dog’s system for regulating temperature, supporting organ functions, and aiding digestion. Moreover, hydration enhances joint health by providing cushioning and lubrication. Additionally, proper hydration helps maintain healthy skin and contributes to a shiny, vibrant coat.

Common Misconceptions of Gently Cooked Dog Food

Bacteria Risk

A common misconception is that gently cooked food might harbor bacteria since it is not cooked at extremely high temperatures. However, cooking at around 80°C (176°F) is sufficient to destroy common pathogens like Salmonella and E. coli, ensuring the food is safe for consumption since Salmonella and E.coli bacteria are killed around 60 – 70°C [8].

Biological Appropriateness

Raw feeders might believe that gently cooked food is less biologically appropriate than raw diets when compared to their wild counterparts who mainly eat raw. However, while raw food does offer nutritional benefits, gently cooked food using similar ingredients retains these benefits while providing additional safety from pathogens especially for pets who have immunodeficiencies.

How to Gently Cook Your Dog’s Food at Home

If you’re interested in whipping up a gently cooked meal for your dog, you can easily prepare it with a sous vide machine and food-grade sealable bags. Measure appropriate amounts of each ingredient based on your dog’s size.

Your dog’s fresh food diet should include lean meat, organ meat, fruits and vegetables. Add them in food-grade sealable bags and follow the instructions of your sous vide machine. We recommend setting the temperature around 60-70°C (140-158°F) for 1-2 hours for optimal nutrient retention while providing your dog with an aromatic and irresistible meal.

A hand pressing the button on a sous vide machine to gently cook fresh meat.
It is crucial to ensure that if you are home cooking for your dog, the right amounts of nutrients must go into their meals. While it is fine to feed a meal that’s not completely balanced once in a while (for days when you’re lacking in time), feeding an unbalanced diet over an extended period can result in negative consequences.

A complete and balanced meal is when the food provides all the essential nutrients in recommended amounts and that these nutrients are properly proportioned to each other. AAFCO and NRC are organizations that have set nutrient guidelines for pet food manufacturers to meet in order to ensure the dog or cat is having adequate nutrients, vitamins and minerals in order for them to stay healthy and thrive.

Proper research and careful planning is needed when it comes to home cooking your dog’s meals. However, opting for a reputable brand that provides AAFCO and NRC guidelines approved meals for dogs is a way to skip the hassle and save time.

All meals from The Grateful Pet adhere to these guidelines, providing you with a quick and convenient way to meet your dog’s nutritional needs through our range of fresh dog food. Never run out of meals with our subscription service that sends meals straight to your doorstep.


[1] Effects of Different Cooking Methods on Nutritional and Physicochemical Characteristics of Selected Vegetables – Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, December 2011
[2] Methods for improving meat protein digestibility in older adults – Journal of Animal Science and Technology, January 2023
[3] Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats – National Research Council, 2006
[4] Effect of different cooking methods on the content of vitamins and true retention in selected vegetables – Food Science and Biotechnology, April 2018
[5] Domestic cooking methods affect the phytochemical composition and antioxidant activity of purple-fleshed potatoes – Journal of Food Chemistry, November 2015
[6] Natural vitamins may be superior to synthetic ones – Robert Thiel, January 2001
[7] How to Hydrate a Dog: 6 Vet-Approved Steps – Better Vet, September 2023
[8] Heat Resistance of Salmonella Typhimurium and Salmonella Senftenberg 775 W in Chicken Meat – Poultry Science, September 1965