How long should you be cooking chicken in the crockpot? You’ll be surprised at the answer!
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.
How long does chicken need to cook in the crockpot?
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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 chicken on HIGH unless you like overcooked, dried out, tough meat. Always cook on LOW.
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 that DOES work for certain cuts of beef, it simply doesn’t 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.
One Alternative: Use Chicken Thighs or Bone-In Chicken Breasts
If you do want a longer cooking time for chicken, use chicken thighs or bone-in split chicken breasts.
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.
Slow Cooker Chicken Recipes
Want some ideas on chicken recipes to make in your slow cooker?
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.
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!