The 7 Tips You Need for Making Any Slow Cooker Chicken Recipe Better

updated May 1, 2019
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No matter what kind of slow cooker chicken dinner you have slotted in your meal plan, it’s bound to be both easy and delicious. And to make it even better, here are seven tips I always rely on.

1. Preheat your slow cooker.

While it’s always helpful to preheat your slow cooker, it’s especially important when adding seared chicken or sautéed aromatics, like with our Kerala-style chicken curry. When you put hot ingredients into a cold slow cooker, everything has to heat back up again, which can tack on an extra 15 to 20 minutes of cooking time.

Read more: Why You Should Always Preheat Your Slow Cooker

2. Sear the chicken first.

With very few exceptions (shredded chicken and poaching are the two that comento mind), it’s always worth searing chicken in a hot skillet on the stovetop before you add it to the slow cooker. And really, just one side of the chicken will typically do. Not only does the deep sear give the meat an impressive color, but it also adds a deeper, richer flavor that you cannot achieve from the slow cooker alone.

3. Cook the chicken over a bed of potatoes.

Adding a bed of potato chunks or tiny new potatoes to the bottom of the slow cooker is a really good idea for a couple of reasons. For starters, this instantly turns any chicken recipe into a one-pot dinner. It also comes with the guarantee that the potato side is packed with flavor, since you can be sure they’ll soak up the fat and juices from the chicken. It’s a dinnertime win all around.

4. Save slow cooker chicken recipes for the right time.

Slow cooker chicken dinners are best reserved for weekend evenings, meal prep time, or when you can get an early jump on dinner. Because the meat is so lean, chicken doesn’t lend itself to the kind of slow cooker recipes that call for an all-day cook time. Saving slow cooker chicken dinners for the right time is a simple way to be sure your meal is at its best and not overcooked.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

5. Don’t wait until the end of cooking to add the sauce.

Part of the beauty of any slow cooker chicken recipe is that the meat soaks up the flavor of all the ingredients it’s cooked with. That’s why anytime dinner involves a sauce or even salsa, it’s always a good idea to cook the chicken along with some of the sauce, as we do with our slow cooker General Tso’s chicken, slow cooker lemon-garlic chicken breast, and slow cooker salsa chicken.

6. Watch the clock.

On that same note, do keep an eye on the clock or set a timer anytime you’re cooking chicken in the slow cooker. Many recipes take no more than a couple of hours. When chicken is cooked too long, even in the slow cooker, it loses its irresistible juicy bite and gets pretty dry.

7. Bring on the lemon — but know when to add it.

A splash of something acidic, like lemon juice, is a really great way to perk up any slow cooker recipe. If you want to give your chicken dinner a extra little pop to brighten the flavor, save the squeeze of lemon for the end of cooking so it stands out and doesn’t get muted.

On the other hand, if you want to make lemon chicken or give your basic slow cooker shredded chicken some serious sunny flavor, go ahead and stir in the juice from a couple of lemons at the beginning of cooking. We do this in our recipes for slow cooker lemon-garlic chicken breast and slow cooker chicken piccata, and it allows the chicken to really soak up much of its flavor without the acidity.

Our Favorite Slow Cooker Chicken Recipes