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How to cook chicken in a slow cooker

Chicken is lean and versatile, making it a very popular meat for both kids and adults. Plus, it’s easy to use in the slow cooker to make a simple weeknight meal.

Chicken is well-loved in Aotearoa, as its light and dark meat offer different flavours and cooking methods, making it super versatile. It’s also a wonderfully lean meat, packed with protein for the health-conscious. Most light chicken meat isn’t suitable for the slow cooker, but the dark meat is right at home in a curry, casserole or as a slow roast.

Keep reading to find out the best cuts of chicken for the slow cooker, and a few different slow cooker recipes.


The best cuts of chicken for the slow cooker

We recommend using dark meat where possible for the slow cooker, as it’s less prone to drying out and holds more flavour. That said, whole chickens and chicken breast can be cooked in the slow cooker — read on to find out how!


Whole chicken

Who doesn’t love a roast chicken on a Sunday evening? While you might be used to slow cookers being used for wet cooking methods like casseroles or braising, you can also use your slow cooker for a traditional roast.

How to cook whole chicken in the slow cooker

  1. Roll aluminium foil into a thick sausage and curl it into a ring. Place it at the bottom of the slow cooker. Alternatively, create a bed of thickly cut vegetables.
  2. Rest the whole chicken on top of the foil. The foil stops the bottom of the chicken from drying out from direct heat. Rub the chicken over with a dry rub of your choice.
  3. Slow cook on high for 3-4 hours for a 1.5-2kg chicken, or until a thermometer reads 75°C when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.
  4. For crispy skin, brush the cooked chicken with neutral oil then finish under the grill of your oven for 5-10 minutes.

Chicken thighs

Chicken thighs, bone-in or boneless, are perfect for the slow cooker as they have plenty of rich, succulent dark meat. 

Bone-in cuts can be more flavourful and succulent, so they’re often better for the slow cooker. However, boneless is preferably for dicing if you prefer not to have bones in your casserole or curry. 

How to cook chicken thighs in the slow cooker

  1. Sear chicken thighs all over, over a medium-high heat.
  2. Place thighs in the slow cooker with sauce ingredients or braising liquid.
  3. Slow cook on low for 5-6 hours, or on high for 2 hours, for about 1kg thighs.
  4. When done, a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh should read 75°C.

Slow cooker chicken and apricot stew

Looking for a flavoursome, slow cooked meal option? This chicken and apricot tagine style stew is not only easy to prepare, but influenced by Moroccan flavours that will satisfy the whole family.

6 hours
Serves 4-6
Get the recipe

Chicken drumsticks

Drumsticks are another bone-in, dark meat cut that’s full of flavour! You can sometimes find whole chicken legs, which are the bone-in thigh and drumstick in a whole piece. All of these cuts can be cooked in the same way.

Because drumsticks and legs can be hard to find without skin, it’s best to cook them in a sticky marinade that will prevent the skin going rubbery.

How to cook chicken drumsticks or legs in the slow cooker

  1. Marinate chicken drumsticks overnight, preferably in a marinade with a bit of sugar or honey. A dry rub with oil may also work if you don’t have time to marinate.
  2. Place drumsticks in the slow cooker and pour over any excess marinade.
  3. Slow cook for 5-6 hours on low, or 3-4 on high, for 2-2.5kg.

Can I slow cook chicken from frozen?

Most authorities advise against slow cooking your chicken from frozen. This is because it can take a long time for the meat to reach cooking temperature, and it may spend too long in the “danger zone” of 5-60°C. 

If working with frozen chicken, be sure to defrost the chicken safely in the fridge overnight or even two days beforehand, to allow the chicken to gently defrost without entering the danger zone.

Chicken slow cooker recipes

Slow cooked garlic chicken legs

These scrumptious chicken legs make use of an affordable cut and a dry spice rub. This dryer cooking method ensures the chicken skin doesn’t go rubbery, but remains tender after a long slow cook.

Read our recipe for slow cooked garlic chicken legs


Slow cooked Thai red chicken curry

For an easy homemade takeaways night, try this Thai red curry in your slow cooker. All the flavour comes from a jar of red curry paste, so there’s not much work for you to do at all.

Read our recipe for slow cooked Thai red chicken curry


Slow cooker chicken and apricot stew

This Morrocan-inspired apricot chicken tagine is so easy to throw together and is absolutely wonderful served with Israeli couscous or mashed potatoes.

Read our recipe for slow cooker chicken and apricot stew

Hungry for more?

Discover more tips and tricks from your New World butchery, or shop from our great range of fresh-cut slow cooker chicken or prepackaged chicken cuts.

For more ways to use chicken, check out our chicken recipes.