With most recipes telling you to brown chicken first, then add it to the crock pot, can you put raw chicken in the slow cooker right from the start? Personally, I don’t ever brown chicken, I put it in raw – what you have to understand is that if you brown the chicken first, by frying it, you are giving it a fast start to the cooking process, so you will need to cook the slow cooker recipe longer if you are using raw chicken.
I will ALWAYS start raw chicken off by putting the slow cooker onto high for at least one hour – until I can hear and see the contents bubbling, before I turn it down to low to continue cooking. If your slow cooker has an AUTO setting, it does this for you.
I should add that I’m “funny about meat” and don’t even like to touch raw meat, yet even I am happy enough to cook chicken from raw in my slow cooker just about every time.
Once you’ve got the chicken boiling, which the HIGH setting will do – it’s no different to if you were stewing chicken on your stovetop in a saucepan! The sauce is boiling at way above the “safe”temperature for chicken. Turning down to the Low setting is then setting it to simmer, it’ll still be really hot and bubbling a little, so simmering. This long cooking process enables the chicken to cook thoroughly all the way to the middle!
Cooking a Whole Chicken in a Slow Cooker
Many people do cook a whole chicken in a slow cooker – all of these are put in raw – and a whole chicken has the added complication of its shape and the internal cavity to “worry about”. But knowing that thousands of people regularly cook their Sunday roast in this manner should give you the confidence that it’s OK to put raw chicken pieces into the crock pot from the start.
Microwave Your Chicken First
If you’re of the nervous type – then an alternative for you might be to microwave the chicken pieces to cook them before you add them to the slow cooker already hot and cooked. To do this spread the chicken pieces out in a microwave bowl, cover with cling film and pierce the film to allow some steam to escape (or use a Sistema microwave breakfast bowl with a tight lid, open the little vent) – then microwave on full power for 5-6 minutes, checking by eye that it’s cooking. You can buy the Sistema microwave breakfast bowls at John Lewis or Lakeland, or online through Amazon UK – they are wider, so you have a larger surface to lay out the pieces separately, or the tightly fitting lid is great for giving it all a shake before microwaving for a second 1-2 minute blast!
How Long to Cook For?
If I’ve used a pack of fresh, raw, chicken, put straight into the slow cooker, then I will cook it for 1 hour on HIGH and then 4-5 hours on LOW. Raw chicken, just cooked on a low setting, will usually cook in 4-6 hours if you haven’t overfilled your slow cooker with ingredients. The more sauce in the pot and the fewer pieces of chicken, the shorter time’s needed.
To Be Sure, To Be Sure
If this still freaks you out a little bit, then the way to tell that any meat is safe and cooked through to the middle you will need to buy and use a simple (preferably digital) meat thermometer.
The safe temperature for cooked chicken is 165° Fahrenheit (75° Celsius). Simply insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat and read the temperature off the display.
Personally, I’m happy and confident that cooking chicken in the slow cooker for more than six hours is more than enough time for my chicken to be safe. I use a 3.5 litre slow cooker and will typically have it up to half full of chicken and a jar of sauce, or chicken and other food. If your slow cooker is significantly larger, or fuller, than this, then either get yourself a meat thermometer to be doubly-sure, or give it a final one hour’s cooking on HIGH!