How Long Can You Slow Cook Chicken?

The attractiveness of a slow cooker lies in its convenience, particularly for softening protein sources like chicken, as it doesn’t demand continuous monitoring.

By simply placing the food inside, pressing a button, and walking away, how much time can be gained for other activities?

For chicken to be safe to eat, it should be slow cooked until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit and the juice runs clear instead of pink; if you’re cooking raw chicken breast in a slow cooker, it will take around 3-4 hours on high heat or 6-8 hours on low heat, while bone-in chicken can be slow cooked for up to 48 hours to make broth.

The duration for cooking chicken in a slow cooker is not fixed and depends on several factors such as the size of chicken pieces, the quantity of chicken, the size of the slow cooker, temperature setting, and liquid content.

When slow cooking chicken, some people choose to use non-stick spray on the bottom of their cooker and include oil in their recipe, while others opt to exclude the spray and instead add a liquid like water, wine, stock, broth, or sauce.

Can You Overcook Chicken In a Slow Cooker?

If there is insufficient liquid in the recipe and the temperature setting is too high for a prolonged period of time, chicken can be overcooked in a slow cooker.

For instance, if you slow cook 3 pounds of whole chicken breast for 6 hours on low heat with 1 cup of liquid, there is minimal risk as the low temperature will not lead to evaporation of the liquid.

Nevertheless, if you slow cook chicken breast on high for 6 hours using only 1/4 cup of liquid, it may lead to overcooking, dryness, and even burning; whereas adding more liquid can reduce the risk of overcooking and allow for a longer cooking time.

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Chicken with less fat content like chicken breasts may require less liquid in the recipe compared to drumsticks or a whole chicken.

When slow cooking chicken, it is feasible to cook drumsticks or a whole chicken without much liquid since the chicken fat acts as the liquid during the cooking process.

If you plan to slow cook chicken for more than 12 hours, ensure that you include sufficient liquid to fully immerse the chicken and prevent it from becoming overcooked.

Be cautious of slow cooking chicken for more than 48 hours as the poultry pieces may start to disintegrate in the liquid. If you are trying to decide between low or high temperature for your chicken, you can read more here. 

Is It Safe to Leave Chicken In a Slow Cooker Overnight?

As a general rule, it is considered safe to leave chicken in a slow cooker for an extended period of time, such as overnight. However, it’s important to keep in mind that any appliance that generates high temperatures and has electronic and plastic components can pose a risk if there are malfunctions.

Hence, if you lack the means to supervise the device, I advise against slow cooking chicken overnight.

It could be unsafe to leave a slow cooker on high heat overnight without supervision, therefore it is recommended to avoid using high heat for slow cooking in such situations.

It is advisable to adhere to the cooking time and temperature guidelines provided in the slow cooker’s instruction booklet from the manufacturer. The manufacturer’s perspective on cooking with their appliance overnight should be available.

Tips When Slow Cooking Overnight

If you plan to slow cook chicken for an extended period, it is advisable to adhere to the recipe and use a timer or alarm to remind you when it’s time to remove the chicken. Additionally, ensure that the slow cooker does not come into contact with any other kitchen equipment or food on the countertop.

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For individuals with heightened senses or sensory issues, waking up to the overwhelming smell of chicken cooking overnight in an enclosed space can be a challenge.

Take into account this factor and contemplate the possibility of opening a window to allow air flow or relocating the slow cooker to the garage in order to prevent the aroma from permeating throughout the house.

How Long Can Chicken Be Kept In a Slow Cooker On Warm?

Chicken must be kept at an internal temperature of 135 degrees Fahrenheit during hot holding, and it is advisable to use a thermometer to check the thickest part of the meat every two hours.

According to food safety guidelines, if chicken is kept at a temperature below 135 degrees Fahrenheit during hot holding for more than 2 hours, it should be discarded. However, if it falls below this temperature for less than 2 hours, it can still be consumed after reheating to 165 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 15 seconds.

When slow cooking chicken, it is not required to check the temperature every two hours during overnight cooking in a temperature-regulated setting like a slow cooker.

Checking the temperature of the chicken is crucial during both the hot holding and serving phases.

How Long Does It Take to Cook Chicken In a Slow Cooker?

Typically, when slow cooking 3 lb of chicken breast, recipes recommend 6-8 hours on low heat or 3-4 hours on high heat.

It is important to note that some recipes may require initially cooking the chicken on high for a few hours before reducing the heat and continuing to cook it for several more hours.

Here are various slow cooking guidelines for chicken that vary based on factors like amount, dimension, state, slice, fluid, and temperature configuration.

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Amount of Chicken Cut of Chicken Type of Slow Cooker Liquid Temperature Setting Cooking Time to Doneness
1 lb Raw whole breast, skinless, boneless 1 qt slow cooker 1 cup water, stock, or broth High 3-4 hours
1 lb Raw whole breast, skinless, boneless 1 qt slow cooker 1 cup water, stock, or broth Low 6-8 hours
2.25 lb Seared whole boneless, skinless breast 4-6 qt slow cooker 1 cup broth, ¼ cup sauce, 2 TBSP vinegar Low 5-6 hours
2.25 lb Seared whole boneless, skinless breast 4-6 qt slow cooker 1 cup broth, ¼ cup sauce, 2 TBSP vinegar High 2-3 hours
1 lb Raw whole breast, bone-in 1 qt slow cooker 1 cup water, stock, or broth High 3.5 – 5 hours
1 lb Raw whole Breast, bone-in 1 qt slow cooker 1 cup water, stock, or broth Low 6.5 – 9 hours
1 lb Raw thigh, bone-in 1 qt slow cooker 1 cup water, stock, broth, or sauce Low 4 – 6 hours
1 lb Raw thigh, bone-in 1 qt slow cooker 1 cup water, stock, broth, or sauce High 2-4 hours
1 lb Raw drumstick, bone-in 6 qt slow cooker Non-stick spray, 2 TBSP oil Low 3.5 – 4 hours
2 – 2.5 lb Seared drumstick, bone-in 4-6 qt slow cooker 1 TBSP oil, ¼ cup water, 2 TBSP sauce High 4 hours
4 lb Frozen wing, bone-in 6 qt slow cooker 1 ½ cup sauce High 2.5 – 3 hours
4 lb Raw wing, bone-in 6 qt slow cooker 1 ½ cup sauce Low 3 hours
4 lb Whole raw chicken 8 qt slow cooker No liquid High 4-5 hours
4 lb Whole raw chicken 8 qt slow cooker No liquid Low 7 hours

Can You Put Raw Chicken In a Slow Cooker?

Raw chicken can be placed in a slow cooker, like a Crock-Pot, for all-night cooking. It is essential to add liquid to the slow cooker to keep the chicken from burning. If you are questioning whether you should put hot or cold liquid in your slow cooker, read more here.  

You can add liquids such as water, stock, or broth to slow-cooked chicken. As the chicken cooks, it will release its own juices which will mix with the added liquid and increase its volume.

Chicken that has been seared on its surface using high heat and oil will cook faster than raw chicken. To enhance the flavor and retain more juice inside the meat, some chefs opt to sear the chicken to a golden brown color before placing it in a slow cooker.

The USDA and other regulatory food agencies suggest defrosting frozen chicken breast in the refrigerator before adding it to the slow cooker.

By doing so, you can prevent the chicken from being exposed to the temperature danger zone for an extended period while defrosting, which is around 41 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit as per ServSafe recommendations.

If you need to begin cooking chicken while it is still frozen, you should increase the cooking time by 2 hours. This means that if you had intended to cook the chicken on low heat for 6 hours, you should now plan to cook it for 8 hours instead. As the frozen parts of the chicken thaw, they will release additional liquid into the slow cooker.

You can also check this video about “How Long Can You Slow Cook Chicken?”

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