Cooking chicken low and slow can spark many questions for newbies to slow cookers. We get it — you want to avoid accidental salmonella poisoning at all costs and prevent the poultry from turning into a tough, dried-out disaster — but how?! Whether you’re looking to “roast” a whole chicken, make crispy chicken thighs, or master the best barbecue shredded chicken, you’ll need to know the answers to these questions first.
Is it safe to cook frozen chicken in a slow cooker? No; make sure you thaw all frozen meat before putting it in your slow cooker. Since these appliances are designed to cook meat slowly, it spends too much time in the food safety danger zone (40-140°F).
How long does chicken cook? Chicken typically takes two to three hours to cook on high or six to eight hours on low. Always cut into the meat to make sure its juices run clear (a sign it’s cooked through) before serving. You can also use a meat thermometer. You’re looking for 165°F, the temperature at which salmonella and many other illness-causing bacterias cannot survive.
Which is better for slow cooking — bone-in or boneless chicken? We prefer boneless. When slow-cooking, bones can often get soft and splinter. While you can slow-cook a whole chicken, be careful to remove all bones before serving.
What about skin-on versus skin-off? If you’re cooking a soup, stew, or barbecued meat, we prefer skinless chicken. However, you can cook skin-on chicken in the slow cooker — in fact, chicken thighs are perfect for it. Place those in your slow cooker, skin side up, and keep the lid of the slow cooker cracked so liquid can escape, leaving you with perfectly crispy chicken thighs.
Can a whole chicken fit in a slow cooker? Sure can! Just add seasonings and cook it covered on high for four hours or on low for six to eight hours. Be careful when removing the meat from the bones, as they may be soft.
What about dark meat? Is it better than light meat? Don’t shy away from cooking dark meat. It’s juicy and flavorful, and dark meat cuts like chicken thighs are often less expensive than chicken breasts.
Should I add liquid? Or sauce? Unless you’re cooking skin-on chicken thighs or a whole chicken like mentioned above, liquid helps keep the chicken moist. Cover the chicken in broth, liquid-y soups like tomato or cream of mushroom, or barbecue sauce before slow cooking.
What’s your favorite slow cooker chicken recipe? Let us know @BritandCo.
(Illustrations via Yising Chou / Brit + Co)