The time to cook a chicken breast in a slow cooker isn’t as long as a lot of other recipes, such as stews and casseroles – I always cook Sunday dinner chicken breasts in the slow cooker, often going out in the morning, then putting it on to cook once I’ve got back late morning. These tend to be 500-800 grams apiece (800 grams for turkey at Xmas!).
Firstly, with chicken, the essential thing is food safety – the chicken does have to cook for long enough to be hot enough all the way through. Not all chicken is “dangerous” as such, but this means that IF the chicken you have bought contains the campylobacter bacteria then the bacteria is killed. The internal temperature should reach 165°F – which you can check with a digital thermometer if you’re worried by this; I’m happy with the “by eye” method for me… Not all chickens carry this bacteria, but all cooking times for chicken have to account for the “what if” situation.
These cooking times are for a typical small, defrosted, boneless chicken breast joint, for example the Aldi Oaklands Chicken Breast Joint they sell currently at £2.50 that weighs 560 grams. My slow cooker is a 3.5 litre slow cooker. Chicken can be overcooked in the slow cooker, it will start to dry out if you overcook it, the larger the chicken breast, the longer it takes to cook, but if you’re going over 5 hours for any large chicken breast then you’re close to overcooking it if you are not cooking it in a sauce or gravy.
- Place some hard root vegetables on the bottom of the slow cooker – this just raises the chicken from the bottom of the slow cooker, so the chicken is not stewing in its own juices, but the juices drip away at the bottom. There is no need to place any liquid in the slow cooker, but some people feel better if they have put something into the pot, so you can add just half a teacup of water or other liquid in if you wish. An alternative to using root vegetables is to roll up some foil. During the cooking process these root vegetables will cook and can be eaten, or you can use them as a base for stock if the look of them is unappealing to you. I tend to eat them 🙂
- Remove the chicken from any packaging and, without washing it, place it directly on top of the root vegetables, skin side up. Make sure the chicken doesn’t touch the sides of the slow cooker, else these bits will burn a little, although I don’t always check, so it’s not essential if you forget, but it will mean that piece, or side, of the chicken breast is cooking quicker than the rest.
- Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for 1½ hours. After this time you will hear the chicken sizzling and be able to see the juices have already started coming out of the chicken and start to bubble at the edges of the slow cooker – you should also, at this point, start to be able to smell the chicken if you sniff near the lid!
- Turn the slow cooker down to Low power and continue to cook for a further 2-3 hours. You will be able to see how the chicken breast is getting on by peeping through the lid. Once cooked, you can turn the slow cooker off and let the chicken rest still in the slow cooker with the lid on, while you prepare the rest of your dinner. I will typically sit the chicken aside to rest while I cook the vegetables and even a Yorkshire pudding.
The slow cooker chicken in this photo weighed 560 grams at the start and was cooked for 1½ hours on high and 2½ hours on low, then left in the slow cooker (with it turned off) for 20 minutes to rest while I prepared the rest of my Sunday lunch. This cooking time is the shortest time I would have cooked this size of chicken breast in my slow cooker – and I was cooking it “by eye” so to speak! So a total of 4 hours cooking time and 20 minutes resting time..
Once cut open, it looked like this, thoroughly cooked through and still moist. I don’t slice chicken, I like to cut chunks off the breast, so I can bite into it and enjoy the full flavour of chicken, not some wafer thin hint of chicken:
When you cook chicken it’s important that you cool leftover chicken and get it, covered, into the fridge within an hour of taking it out of the slow cooker.
What I tend to do is to serve my chicken dinner onto the plate and immediately repackage the chicken into a lidded container for the fridge, ready to be put into the fridge – if my fridge is almost empty (which is most usually is) and if the chicken isn’t still sizzling hot, then I’ll even pop it into the fridge before I eat my dinner.
Putting Hot Food into a Fridge:
The reasons you are told not to put hot food into the fridge is two-fold:
- It raises the temperature of the fridge, potentially making it too warm, so unsafe, for other food in your fridge.
- The fridge has to work harder to bring the fridge temperature back down to normal, so it will cost a few pence extra for some minutes while it does this.
Bearing this in mind, I will choose whether to put warm food into the fridge based on what else is in the fridge – there is rarely anything in my fridge that does need to be stored especially carefully. I will also put any warm food on the top shelf, alone, just so it’s less likely to heat up anything else in the fridge.
My fridge is mostly empty most of the time, so that’s easy for me to do and I’m fine with that.
So look at your fridge – and ask yourself if there are any other meats in there whose safety could be compromised if you put warm food in the fridge…. if your fridge is pretty empty, then just rearrange the contents so the warm food is isolated.