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July 27, 2009 6:22 PM   Subscribe

I have read conflicting reviews about cooking boneless skinless chicken breast in a slow cooker. I will be making apricot chicken in the crock pot tomorrow. The recipe calls for a chicken cut into serving size pieces. I am using boneless skinless chicken breast instead. How long do you usually cook it on low? The recipe says 3-8 hours. Pretty wide berth there. Any tips?
posted by MayNicholas to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
When I make them in the crock pot, I usually either cook on high for 4-5 hours, or low for 7-8. I've always just left them whole, and by the end, they pretty much fall apart. It's a pretty easy way to make them, and they don't dry out too bad if the sauce covers them completely.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:35 PM on July 27, 2009

The advice I got in my slow cooker thread was to always err to the short side on cooking time.

I avoid boneless chicken in the crock pot because I find it dry. In this case, is it really going to save you much time? It would only take 30-40 minutes in the oven and you'd avoid the dryness problem.
posted by cabingirl at 6:43 PM on July 27, 2009

I think the 3-8 hours thing is to tell you they'll be done in 3 hours, but if it's more convenient for you to leave them for 8 hours while you're at work, they'll still be OK.

You might consider browning the chicken in a saucepan before putting it in the slow cooker on the theory that this will seal the juices in and prevent dryness, but I have never tried this, and it pretty much defeats the purpose of the slow cooker.
posted by lakeroon at 6:48 PM on July 27, 2009

Agreeing with Green Eyed Monster: The wide berth is there to accommodate a high, medium or low cooking temp, but it also depends upon the size of the chicken pieces and the amount of food being cooked. So, if you were going to cook whole pieces chicken breasts on low in an amount that fills the crock pot, go for 7-8 hours. If you're filling it half way with whole breasts on low, go 6-7 hours. If you're cutting it into small pieces and filling it all the way, you could probably do 5-6 hours and small pieces in a half full crock pot could probably be done in 4-5 hours on low. Of course, you'll want to check the middle of the biggest piece before eating it. Bon appetit.
posted by Quizicalcoatl at 6:50 PM on July 27, 2009

My understanding is that browning doesn't seal in juices (Alton Brown told me through my television, although I can't find an internet cite/site). I have done boneless skinless breasts in the slow cooker. I find they work better if they are cooking in quite a bit of liquid (more like an extended poach - don't know how much liquid is in apricot chicken). It works especially well is you are shredding the meat afterwards (I'm usually making chicken soup).

You won't get any of the fat or flavor you get from chicken on the bone, but it should still work. 3 hours should be plenty.
posted by jeoc at 6:53 PM on July 27, 2009

Brine the chicken first?
posted by bz at 6:57 PM on July 27, 2009

I second a three hour cook with the cut boneless breast cut, and cutting it later. The slow cook makes the protein fibers really soft and great. They don't refrigerate well, that is, if you chill the meat you will find it dry when consuming it cold.

For fat free cuts, I recommend adding some chick bullion to boost the flavor of the broth. You can also cook it in some vegetable (my favorite is eggplant or bell peppers) broth or add some red mole to the broth. Any of these tricks will add a subtle flavor to the meat. For apricots, I would try some chicken bullion and dried apricots to boost the flavor. Tart dried cherries go well as a counter point.
posted by effluvia at 7:07 PM on July 27, 2009

McGee's excellent book On Food and Cooking says "searing the meat seals in the juices" is a myth that was thoroughly debunked in the 1930s. Searing or browning does increase flavor, though, and may be something you want to do simply for that reason.
posted by bz at 7:21 PM on July 27, 2009

I forgot about brining! Can I brine it overnight?
posted by MayNicholas at 7:43 PM on July 27, 2009

You can brine overnight if it's easier, but might want to cut the salt ratio --- usually a coneless breast would be well brined in a hour or two.

Re: Slow cooker --- if you're cooking it to completely fall apart levels, eg. meat you want to shred anyways for sandwiches or tacos, then I might let boneless breasts go that long, on the lowest setting. But if you're chunking it up into bite sized or two-bite pieces, then I'd think it'd take more like two hours --- it depends on how powerful your slow cooker is. Generally, however, I wouldn't use bonesless breasts in an all day set t and forget it recipe. They'll dry out no matter what you do.
posted by Diablevert at 8:14 PM on July 27, 2009

Well I brined the chicken overnight. I cooked the dish on low for 6 hours. The chicken is moist, but I added a little extra water to the recipe to make sure the chicken stayed covered. It is flaking easily which is fine for this dish. Thanks for the advice!
posted by MayNicholas at 2:33 PM on July 28, 2009

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