How Long to Cook Chicken in the Crockpot

By Polly Conner
February 8, 2021

How long should you be cooking chicken in the Crockpot, specifically chicken breasts? You’ll be surprised at the answer!

chicken breast in the slow cooker

Hi. My name is Polly. All my life I have had a problem with drying out my chicken in the slow cooker. I followed the recipes I found and was SO frustrated because the chicken was ALWAYS dry. ALWAYS!

What I’m learning now is that this is probably because 90% of the recipes online have us cooking chicken in the slow cooker WAY too long. With years and years of creating a recipe index full of easy meal ideas and freezer meals, we have narrowed down the perfect cooking time for chicken in the slow cooker.

How long to cook chicken breasts in the crock pot?

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Prepare yourself. What I am about to tell you is either going to crush your slow cooker dreams OR bring much enlightenment to your soul.

With the exception of larger recipes (like 8+ servings), It only takes 2.5-3.5 hours on LOW for boneless, skinless chicken breast to be fully cooked in the slow cooker.

I kid you not. While writing our cookbook, From Freezer to Cooker, we have been methodically testing chicken breast recipes by taking the internal temperature with our trusted meat thermometer (pic below) at different points during the cooking time.

Over and over AND OVER again, we have found that chicken breast registers at 165° F (the FDA recommended safe temp) right around 3 hours on LOW. Sometimes less, sometimes more depending on the size of the breast or other ingredients in the slow cooker.

If you are cooking a larger recipe with chicken in it, we have found that it can take 4-6 hours. But that’s it!

Should I cook chicken on high in the crockpot?

Here’s another surprising thing. Don’t shoot the messenger.

But, do not cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts on HIGH unless you like overcooked, dried out, tough meat. Always cook on LOW.

Bourbon chicken with fresh veggies

I know. It’s sad. It’s hard. But it’s true.

Like you, I love the idea of putting a meal in the slow cooker in the morning and coming home to a dinner ready to eat. While cooking on high DOES work for certain cuts of beef and pork in recipes like our Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork, Crispy Carnitas, or French Dip Sandwiches it simply does not work with chicken. If you cook chicken all day (or on HIGH), it will be dry-dry-dry.

I know, I’m broken-hearted, too. But I love you too much to not share the truth and the thermometer doesn’t lie.

Free Cooking Times Chart

In an effort to save you from overcooking or undercooking future slow cooker meals, we wanted to equip you with this free Slow Cooker Cooking Times Chart. Download it, print it, snuggle it, and thank us later.

Do chicken thighs or bone-in chicken breasts/thighs cook longer?

If you do want a longer cooking time for chicken, use chicken thighs or bone-in split chicken breasts. These work great in recipes like our Bourbon Chicken or with our Southwest Chicken Marinade.

These cuts can handle longer cooking times and retain their moisture a bit better. Our tests show they reach their internal safe temperature anywhere from 3-4 on LOW. However, America’s Test Kitchen (a source we really trust!), says they can withstand cooking times of up to 4-6 hours on LOW. It’s still not that all day recipe but might be a great meal to throw in the slow cooker around lunch time.

How long do I cook chicken in the Instant Pot?

We’ve tackled this question, too, through extensive testing. Check out this article:

Where do you get your chicken from?

We are HUGE fans of ButcherBox and have been getting our chicken (and beef, seafood, and pork) from them for years now. In fact, Rachel wrote a comprehensive honest review about this meat subscription service. We love that their chicken is 100% organic and all their meat is healthy and sourced responsibly. It’s so convenient to have it delivered to our doorsteps whenever we choose!

You should definitely check it out and see if ButcherBox would be a good fit for your family. Our readers and we just love it!

Need some GREAT slow cooker chicken recipes?

We’ve got you covered! Here are some of the most popular ones on our site:

Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan Sliders

One of our easiest freezer meals: Chicken Parmesan Sliders. Just put a few ingredients into the crockpot and you’ll have one of your favorite meals for a busy night. Great meal idea for large groups too!

Slow Cooker Chicken and Cheese Taquitos

Slow cooker chicken and cheese taquitos is a delicious meal that the whole family will love! Be sure to make a double batch for the freezer. Then, you can pull out however many you want and throw them directly in the oven for a quick weeknight dinner.

Chicken and Cheese Taquitos piled on a serving platter with avocado lime salsa on top and salsa on the side.

Slow Cooker Chicken Fiesta Soup

This delicious, slow cooker chicken soup is not only gluten free and dairy free (if you don’t add cheese at the end), but it freezes beautifully either before cooking or after. Packed with fresh flavor, the veggies give it that fiesta vibe that everyone will love. This easy and healthy freezer meal is great for feeding a large group of people.

You can also check out our roundup of 25 Slow Cooker Recipes for a Crowd for more delicious ideas!

Want to Stock Your Freezer with 6 Meals in 1 Hour?

Try our SUPER POPULAR 1 Hour Freezer Prep sessions. We give you everything you need to throw together 6 delicious, family-sized freezer meals in just 1 hour! Anyone can do it with our simple instructions, organized shopping list, and pre-filled out freezer labels.

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49 replies
  1. Karen-Michele says:

    I have never liked chicken, especially boneless, skinless breasts, cooked in a slow cooker. I see why now as most recipes say to cook for 4-6 hours. Not any more! Thank you for your guide!

  2. Toby says:

    I think I’m extra brainwashed…I fully buy-into your article, but was cooking about 5lbs of boneless/skinless breasts; they were huge, so I cut them into thirds (which is also a good serving size for my young children). Left them in for about 4 hours considering the volume, and they were just borderline overcooked. I assume it’s because they were smaller pieces.

    Anyway, lesson learned! You made a believer out of me. Great article, and great blog. You have a new follower 🙂

  3. Rowan says:

    I can’t believe it. A cooking site with prose in the article that I actually like. I don’t like all the ads, but a person’s got to make a living. I’m wary of trying to cook chicken breasts in the slow cooker after my previous and disastrous attempt, and yet I feel compelled to follow your instructions and try again. I just really want to eat some delicious chicken, and even the threat of failure will not stand in my way. Thank you for inspiring wafts of fragile confidence in a subpar chef.

    • Rachel Tiemeyer says:

      This is one of my favorite comments of all time. Yep, ads are a way we can offer free content. Thanks for understanding. I do hope you’ll try chicken in the slow cooker again with our timing. It makes all the difference. – Rachel

  4. Jodi K Albert says:

    Wow! Lol I’m so glad to hear you say that. Why is it that peoples recipes say to cook ot for 6 or more hours. I check it in 3 hours and its always done or just about done. I thought I was crazy! Great tips! Thank you!

  5. Arona Eve says:

    Thanks so much for the cooking education. My husband and I living in retirement prefer to cook small meals or larger meals only if we are freezing one half. We use rice cooker that is also crockpot. He cooks all his beans in it and I cook a few main dinner recipes in it. We also use it for perfect rice cooking. It does not allow low setting for slow cooker this I thank you for the great tips today!

  6. Rebecca hanovitch says:

    I made a delicious chicken veg soup and I had it cooking from lunch time to lunch the next day. Chicken was over cooked but the dish tasted amazing. I still enjoyed the chicken tbh. Any ideas how I can cook for the same amount of time and not have the chicken so dried out??

  7. Meri Criss Smith says:

    Is frozen boneless skinless chicken breast and thighs from aldis ok to put in the slow cooker. What is the best way to cook them in a slow cooker

  8. Carolyne Omeara says:

    I’m looking forward to trying some of these recipes I haven’t used my slow cooker yet so I am it shoud be great fun

  9. David Martin says:

    Hi Polly & Rachel, I hate to crush your slow cooker dreams again, but if you’re cooking chicken breast to 165°F you are still way over doing it. Breast meat will be fully pasteurized, safe to eat, and done when held at 145° for only 10 minutes. I typically cook breasts Sous-Vide for 1 hour @145, then finish with a ‘very’ quick sear or deep fry. If I want to make an all day chicken stew I fill up my crockpot with everything but the chicken and set it to low. Next, cut the breast meat into bite size chunks and marinate in the fridge until: about 6-8 hours later. Turn the crockpot to warm: ~150° or off (depending on how much cold chicken you’re throwing in there). In 30-60 minutes the meat will be completely done. Trust me – you haven’t had the best chicken breast of your life until you eat some that hasn’t crossed the 150° mark.

  10. Dannette says:

    I have always cooked my chicken on high in my slow cooker and I have never had a problem with it being dry or tough no matter what I use it for. I have actually gotten compliments from people because my chicken hasn’t turned out dry it’s tender and juicy.

  11. SJ says:

    Thank you so much for this post!! 🙂 I, too, have been frustrated by how dry boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the slow cooker have been turning out, despite following the times for both high and low temps listed in recipes! I am just about to make salsa chicken in the slow cooker and checked one more time to get some kind of consensus on the correct time for 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts. I felt such a huge sense of relief when I read your post!!! Now what I’ve personally experienced has been verified! It really doesn’t take that long!! Some people may be disappointed to hear this, but I am elated! Lol! Thanks again!! No more dried out chicken breasts for me! 😀

  12. B says:

    this is interesting. do you have a newer slow cooker? i heard they run hotter. I cook chicken on high for 4 hours all the time and it’s great.

    • Rachel Tiemeyer says:

      We tested this in two different slow cookers. One runs hotter and only too 2 1/2 hours for the chicken on Low. The other runs less hot and took 3 to 3 1/2 hours on low to reach the 165°F internal temp. Both are newer models.

  13. Jane L Person says:

    Excited to see the feature article in the MIZZOU spring 2020 issue. I’m a native Missourian and a fellow MIZZOU grad. BS Ed 1967, MEd 1972. I’m a retired teacher and textbook author. We have a small farm and a large garden. We had a farm to freezer market for capons, hogs, and beef but now what we grow is for us and freebies for friends. Looking forward to learning more recipes and tips for freezer meals.

  14. Sue says:

    Oh yay!! 🙂 Thank you for this post!!!!! I wasn’t sure if I could get my slow chicken soup done in 4 hrs to be ready by dinnertime – not bedtime! – and now I know I can! Seriously, a big THANK YOU! Sue

  15. Nicole says:

    I need to cook 5 pounds of boneless chicken breasts (not frozen) in a crockpot tonight to shred and use in making several freezer meals. I just plan to add water and some seasoning. How much water should I add, and how long should I cook in the slowcooker?

  16. Steffi says:

    I don’t know, but can’t you put it in the slow cooker and leave it there and use the delayed timer so it will only cook three to four hours until your home? Wouldn’t do this in the summer time either, but when it’s not to hot outside would this be safe? And what about if you put it in a soup? Will it also be dry? First time trying it with a soup, that’s why I’m asking (well, i don’t expect a response before it’s ready, but so I just know it when I’ll do a soup again) only did chicken breast with bones before and had it on low for six hours and Izvestia perfect! But it was a reciepe with rice so not really a lot of moisture around except the chicken stock, but that was used up by the rice…

    • Polly says:

      If you set your food in the slow cooker with a delayed timer, the food will sit at room temperature too long and be unsafe. You can’t do a delayed timer with any kind of meat. We have found that chicken in large soup recipes is done around 4-6 hours. Good luck!

  17. Jerusha says:

    Yes! I knew I couldn’t be the only one who thought this. 🙂 So nice to know that it is safe and I can have delicious chicken meals in the slow cooker. And I actually like that some of my meals can be thrown in at 2 pm or before I do the school run and be ready for early tea at around 5.
    Thanks for letting us know!

  18. Jeff says:

    I would assume that one of the frozen “dump dinners” where chicken is dumped in frozen would work for a 8 hour cook time.

  19. Sarah says:

    This has been my experience, too. Definitely kills the ability to have a meal cook all day while you’re out of the house, but much more than 3 hours on low and chicken just gets sad, ha.

  20. Deb says:

    Yes, I figured this out a while back, but I always figured it’s because I use a smaller slow cooker (4 qt) and usually am doing a half recipe of whatever I’m cooking. On the up side, for those of us who procrastinate and forget to get meals out of the freezer, you can grab it in the morning, defrost it, and get it in the slow cooker after lunch in time for dinner.

  21. Anna of Stuffedveggies says:

    I appreciate this – I only made chicken in the slow cooker once, and it turned to mush! (I’m vegetarian myself, so haven’t been too motivated to experiment after that). But, I’m confused – do you cook the chicken on low or on high for about 3 hours? Thanks : )