How To Make Crispy, Juicy Chicken Thighs in the Slow Cooker

How To Make Crispy, Juicy Chicken Thighs in the Slow Cooker

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Meghan Splawn
Apr 11, 2017
(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

This is not a drill, you guys. We've figured out a way to get crispy chicken skin in the slow cooker. Until now, crispy was hardly a word synonymous with slow cooking. Instead, we could rely on the slow cooker to quietly tenderize chicken into juicy, pull-apart pieces. To be clear, this method doesn't work with any cut of chicken, but it reliably turns skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs into crispy, juicy cooked chicken, perfect for eating straight from the pot.

Chicken thighs are one of the most beloved ingredients for inexpensive and flavorful weeknight meals. Partnered with the slow cooker and our formula for success, you can be guaranteed the best chicken dinner of your life will be waiting in the slow cooker when you get home.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Why Chicken Thighs Are Best for Slow Cooking

I could write an ode to chicken thighs — they are inexpensive, more flavorful than breasts, and never cook up dry — but the most important reason to buy skin-on chicken thighs for crispy, juicy chicken from the slow cooker is one word: fat.

In order to get crispy skin without the dry heat of an oven, we need a cut of chicken with skin and a small amount of fat. No extra fat or liquid of any kind will be added to the slow cooker. Essentially, as the chicken heats up, the fat in both the skin and the chicken thighs themselves will slowly crisp the skin, and the collecting fat will braise the meat underneath.

Looking for a method for chicken breast?

How To Make Easy Shredded Chicken in the Slow Cooker

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Mistakes to Avoid for Crispy Slow Cooker Chicken

Don't leave the chicken skin naked. While this method crisps the skin, it doesn't brown the skin at all. Without some seasoning to color the chicken skin, you'll end up with crispy but pale skin. We like a mixture of smoked paprika, salt, and both onion and garlic powder for an all-purpose seasoning blend, but any dry seasonings work too.

Don't place the thighs skin-side down. You might think that setting the chicken skin-side down is preferred so that it's closer to the slow cooker's heating elements, but it's important that the chicken thighs are skin-side up so that the skins fat drips onto the meat.

Don't overcrowd the slow cooker. To avoid steaming the chicken in the slow cooker, which will result in soft skin, leave some space in between the chicken thighs. This means that you may only be able to cook six thighs in one batch depending on the size of your slow cooker.

Don't close the slow cooker completely. Venting the slow cooker contributes to the crispness of the chicken's skin by aiding evaporation and preventing too much condensation. You'll simply need to set the lid slightly askew or raise it using a skewer or chopstick as a riser. (You can see an example of this method here.)

How to Turn Juicy Slow Cooker Thighs into Dinner

Obviously you can eat these chicken thighs straight from the slow cooker once they are done cooking, paired with an easy vegetable side or salad. You can also pull the chicken meat off the bones and turn them into tacos, sandwiches, and salads.

How To Make Crispy, Juicy Chicken Thighs in the Slow Cooker

Serves 4 to 6

What You Need

Ingredients
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
6 to 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 pounds total)

Equipment
6-quart or larger slow cooker
Measuring spoons
Small bowl
Fork

Instructions

  1. Mix up the seasoning: Place the salt, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder in a small bowl and whisk together with a fork.
  2. Season the chicken: Coat the chicken thighs evenly on all sides with the seasoning mixture.
  3. Place the chicken in the slow cooker: Place the chicken skin-side up in a single layer in a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. It is important that the chicken thighs are skin-side up, with some space between them. Overcrowding will result in soft, rather than crispy, chicken skin.
  4. Slow cook: Cover the slow cooker, but leave the lid slightly askew — this allows venting. Cook on the LOW setting until tender and the internal temperature of the chicken registers 165°F, 6 to 7 hours.
  5. Serve: Serve warm or pull the meat off the bones for tacos, sandwiches, etc.
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