Slow Cooker Chicken Breast

 This easy slow cooker chicken breast recipe yields tender, juicy pieces with minimal effort! Season the meat, then gently steam it in the covered pot. The savory juices make for a delicious gravy to drizzle on top.I’m a big fan of using my Crock-Pot for cooking a healthy family dinner. When I’m not sauteing chicken on the stovetop, I love that I can just add the lean white meat to the pot, cover, and let the equipment do the work. The moist-heat cooking environment is similar to the French en cocotte method. The results are delectable- aromatic herb-infused bites in a flavorful juice.

This recipe is simple and easy, especially for those busy weeknights. To start, open up your spice drawer and grab some bold flavors. After steaming for a few hours, you’ll have flavorful drippings to pour on top or even make a sauce if you’d like. Pair this meal with creamy mashed potatoes and your favorite greens for the ultimate comfort food. It’s also a great meal prep or make-ahead option.

Chicken selection

I prefer to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Look for pieces about 7 to 9 ounces in size. Any larger and they will require a longer cook time. Cut them in half lengthwise for those over a pound to yield four total pieces.You can use bone-in split chicken breasts with the ribs still attached for more flavor. However, you’ll need to factor in about an additional hour since the bones act as an insulator, requiring more time to cook the meat thoroughly.

Flavorful spices

We all know that chicken can taste a bit bland on its own because it has very little fat. The seasoning mix can be kept simple with just salt and pepper. However, I like to add the earthy flavor of alliums like garlic and onions. When dried, their concentrated flavors are enhanced while the raw taste has been mellowed out. Just a little bit adds a lot of depth to the dish.

Add fresh and dried herbs

Add Italian seasonings with herbs like oregano, thyme, basil, and marjoram for herbaceous notes. You can also switch it up using herbs de provence with a bit of lavender that changes the taste profile, depending on what you plan to serve on the side. I have fresh herbs in my garden, so I add a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme to infuse its hearty aroma into the steam. It smells incredible!

Prepare the chicken

Dry the chicken with paper towels to soak up any excess liquid. This process makes it easier for the seasoning paste to stick to the surface. I mix the dried spices with extra-virgin olive oil. The fat helps dissolve the fat-soluble compounds in the seasonings, blooming them and providing more robust flavors. 

The oil also provides a protective barrier around the meat, so it doesn’t dry out inside the slow cooker during the long cooking time. Just brush it on both sides of the breast and then add it into the vessel.

Add liquid to the pot

I add a small amount of chicken stock or broth to the bottom of the slow cooker—just 1/4-cup. The flavorful cooking liquid helps generate more steam and keep the meat moist. You don’t want the pieces wholly submerged, or they will poach and lose their surface seasonings. 

I use unsalted stock because we already salted the meat, and I like to control the sodium level. Now you can add the chicken breasts on top, arranging them so they don’t overlap or they won’t evenly cook.

Cooking time

I recommend using the low setting for even cooking and moist, juicy pieces. You’ll be surprised how quickly it cooks. It will take between 1 to 2 ½ hours, depending on the weight and thickness of each breast.

Checking for doneness

How can you tell when the chicken is ready? The meat will be opaque throughout with pink-to-clear juices. Use an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the breast. It should register between 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC). Start with checking at the low end of the recommended cooking range when the surface no longer looks raw. 

Avoid opening the pot until that time. It takes a while to get back up to temperature since you lose most of the trapped steam. Check every 30 minutes until it’s fully cooked.

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