For a quick dinner, what can be more perfect than chicken? It is economical and there are tons of recipes for every part and piece of it. Here are some ideas for cooking chicken in a crock pot.
Chicken is a favorite staple of the American diet. People raise chickens and other poultry on farms. They are plentiful and can be prepared more readily than a cow or a pig. If you visit any relatives in the Deep South, you are sure to have a chicken dinner at least once or twice a week.
In a slow cooker, all parts of the chicken work well, but you must be careful with your temperature settings. White and dark meat portions of the chicken will cook at different rates. You notice this when you fry chicken as well. Thighs and legs finish cooking sooner mostly due to the high fat content of these portions. Wings are usually next followed by the thicker chicken breasts.
Another difference in chicken pieces is the bone. Pieces of chicken with the bone in cook better in the slow cooker because they are less likely to dry out. On the other hand, boneless chicken breasts can dry out if they are cooked too long.
One way to avoid drying out is to cook chicken from frozen. The great thing about a slow cooker is that it works well whether the meat is frozen or thawed. Thawed meat will of course need less cooking time because the heat works directly to cook the meat. If the chicken is frozen, the heat defrosts the chicken before actually cooking it.
Prepare your chicken pieces as you would if you were cooking them in the oven. Clean the chicken thoroughly and season it. This will help to remove Salmonella bacteria commonly found in raw chicken, not to mention you do not want a lot of bloody juice in the bottom of their crock pot.
A liquid is needed at the start of cooking. Instead of water, add some seasoned chicken broth to infuse the meat with flavor. Another hint is to lightly flour and saute the chicken for a couple of minutes before slow cooking. The bits from the pan will flavor the broth in the slow cooker even more. Frozen chicken needs very little liquid as liquid will be created as the chicken defrosts.
Vegetables can be added with the meat if you choose. Tougher veggies like carrots and potatoes can be added at the beginning because they take longer to cook. A dish that calls for a tomato base such as a cacciatore will have the tomatoes added near the end of cooking. Tomatoes are one vegetable that does not stand up well to long periods of cooking. Instead of whole tomatoes, you will have mush after six hours.
Chicken pieces need to cook for three hours or more in a crock pot. With a slow cooker, two hours on a low setting would be equal to about one hour on the highest setting. Frozen chicken will need the maximum time to cook.
Any spices you add to chicken dishes can be left for last. Fresh herbs will infuse quickly throughout the meal so an hour in the cooker is good. Dried spices can take a bit longer to flavor so add about two hours before the meal is done. Stir up the dish so the herbs and spices are evenly distributed.