What is Lightly or Gently Cooked Dog Food?

Filed in Dog Health by on March 23, 2022

what is lightly or gently cooked dog food

The way people think about food and nutrition is changing, and that trend is mimicked in their dog food choices as well.

There’s a growing demand for less processed dog foods with whole-food nutrition. Because of this, gently cooked or lightly cooked dog foods are on the rise.

This article will walk you through what is gently cooked dog food, how it’s made, its benefits, and a few popular options so you can decide if this diet is right for your dog.

By the way, I also wrote an extensive post on the best delivery services for fresh dog food.

What is Gently Cooked Dog Food?

Gently cooked dog food, also called lightly cooked dog food, is cooked just to the minimum required temperatures by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to kill pathogens like E-coli and salmonella.

Traditional canned food is cooked at temperatures from 230°- 275° Fahrenheit, while gently cooked dog food is cooked well below that. Beef and pork are cooked at 145° and turkey and chicken are cooked at 165° Fahrenheit.

The meals typically combine proteins with whole fruits and vegetables, resembling a home-style meal and often using human-grade ingredients.

Because the food is minimally processed and contains no preservatives, it’s stored frozen until it’s ready to be used.

Benefits of Gently Cooked Dog Food

Because gently cooked dog food is cooked just to the minimum required temperature to kill bacteria, it also preserves more of the nutritional value of the ingredients.

When food is cooked at high temperatures, it shrinks drastically in weight and the nutrients are scorched. This is why kibbles need to add in supplements for vitamins and minerals to meet the nutritional requirements.

While a raw diet preserves all of the nutrients of the ingredients, it also comes with the risks of E. coli, salmonella, and other harmful pathogens to your dog and to you.

Gently cooked dog food is the best of both worlds: nutrient-rich, whole-ingredient meals without harmful bacteria.

Because these meals resemble home-cooked meals with ingredients that you can see, they’re also easier to digest and more palatable for your dog than many dry food options.

Other potential benefits include:

  • Improved gut function and positive microbiome changes
  • Higher protein and fat content while not raising blood triglyceride levels
  • More biologically appropriate than kibble
  • Increased energy
  • Firmer stool
  • Shinier coat
  • Cleaner teeth

Methods Used to Prepare

While all lightly or gently cooked dog food is cooked until it reaches the minimum safe temperature, there are several cooking methods that are used to reach that temperature.

Sous Vide

Vacuum sealed meat for sous-vide cooking

Vacuum sealed meat for sous-vide cooking

This cooking process involves placing the ingredients in a plastic bag and vacuum sealing it to lock in the moisture and flavors. The vacuum-sealed bag is then placed in a water bath that’s kept at a precise temperature to cook the food low and slow until it reaches the minimum safe internal temperature and then flash-frozen.

This method typically achieves the least amount of food shrinkage because it vacuum seals in all of the moisture.


This method is similar to what you would do if you were making your dog’s meals at home.

The ingredients are typically cooked individually in a pan over low heat until it reaches the minimum safe temperature and then mixed together to create the meals. From there, they’re flash-frozen to lock in the nutrients.

Steam Prepared

This method, like the name suggests, uses steam to heat the food up to the minimum safe temperature.

The food is typically laid out flat on a pan over the steam. The steam rises from underneath, cooking the food slowly to maintain the nutrients. Once it’s cooked, the food is vacuum-sealed and frozen to maintain moisture and nutrients.

Popular Sellers of Softly Prepared Canine Meal

With such high demand for fresh, nutritious pet food, there are many brands emerging to fill that need. Here are a few of the most popular choices on the market today.

Nom Nom

Nom Nom crafts nutrient-packed gently cooked dog food meals with their board-certified veterinary nutritionists. I wrote an extensive Nom Nom review if you’re interested.

Every meal is made with fresh, whole ingredients and tailored to meet your dog’s needs, whether they have food sensitivities or they’re just picky eaters.

All of their ingredients are gently cooked (with the exception of the kale in their Pork Potluck recipe) individually and then mixed in batches to complete the recipes. From there, the meals are sealed to lock in vital nutrients and maximize digestibility.

The Farmer’s Dog

The Farmer’s Dog uses human-grade meat and vegetables in their recipes, and they work with certified veterinary nutritionists to develop meals that meet AAFCO standards, the industry standards for minimum nutritional requirements.

Every meal is prepared in a USDA kitchen where it’s gently cooked at low temperatures to maximize flavor and nutrients. Then, it’s flash-frozen to lock in the moisture and make it safe to ship and store.

The meals are personalized for your dog and pre-portioned, so you always feed them the right amount of food and nutrients they need.


Ollie meals are made from hormone-free, high-quality meats that are sourced from human-grade farms in the US and Australia.

The recipes are crafted by veterinary nutritionists to meet AAFCO standards, and then cooked at low temperatures in small batches and hand-packed at their facility in New Jersey.

Unlike other fresh food options, these meals aren’t frozen or pre-portioned when they’re shipped.

They do come with personalized feeding guides to walk you through your pup’s transition to their new diet, as well as a scoop and container to store and portion out the meals in your fridge.

A Pup Above

A Pup Above

A Pup Above Dog Food

A Pup Above makes all of their meals in a USDA-inspected human food facility, and each batch of gently cooked dog food is tested for pathogens to make sure it’s safe for your dog’s consumption.

The meals are made with human-grade, non-GMO, ethically sourced ingredients and gently cooked using the sous vide method to lock in moisture and nutrition. They provide a code on each bag so you can track each ingredient back to the farm where it originated.

Their fulfillment center also runs on 100% renewable energy to keep their carbon footprint as small as possible.

Open Farm Softly Prepared

Open Farm’s gently cooked dog food is made with human-grade ingredients and cooked in a human-grade facility. But is Open Farm a good dog food? Well, I have a whole review on their product if interested.

They craft every recipe with top-quality, humanely sourced protein and non-GMO superfoods like leafy greens, pumpkin, and coconut oil.

They gently cook their recipes using the sous vide method to preserve the vitamins and minerals your pup needs while still killing off harmful bacteria.

From there, the meal is flash-frozen to seal in the nutrients and flavor while it’s transported to your home.


Freshpet uses 100% farm-raised chicken, beef, and fish, as well as US-grown natural fruits and vegetables in all of their meals.

Their ingredients are delivered to their facility daily and then immediately used to create their recipes, so the ingredients are the freshest possible quality and contain no preservatives.

They cook their recipes with steam at low temperatures and then vacuum seal each meal to lock in flavor and nutrients. Their meals are not frozen but are stored in the fridge at your local pet food stores.

Their kitchens are FDA and APHIS registered, and their meals undergo over 20 quality and safety tests before the food is packaged and sent off to pet stores.


Well, I hope you learned more about gently cooked dog food, aka lightly cooked dog food.

As more people look closely at their own nutrition, it’s easy for them to see that many dog foods don’t provide adequate nutrition for their dogs. Gently cooked dog food offers a fresh, nutrient-rich option compared to traditional dry and canned foods.

With that said, not all gently cooked dog foods are created equally. It’s important to always talk with your vet or veterinary nutritionist to learn about your dog’s specific needs and what type of food will be best for them.

Never make drastic switches to your dog’s diet without first consulting your veterinarian.

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