How Long to Slow Cook Chicken Thighs? + Tips To Reduce Time

Slow-cooked chicken thighs

Chicken thighs take less time to cook than tough cuts of meat.

The easiest way to cook them is in the slow cooker since you don’t even have to stir them. So…

How long does it take to slow cook chicken thighs? Let’s find out.

Ideal Time to Slow Cook Chicken Thighs

The time required to slow cook chicken thighs depends on two factors.

The first factor is whether they are boneless or not.

Chicken thighs with bone take longer than boneless thighs.

The other factor is whether you choose the Low or High slow cooker setting.

Chicken thighs take six hours to cook on the Low setting of a slow cooker, but they get done in three to four hours on the High setting.

How to Reduce the Cooking Time to Slow Cook Chicken Thighs?

Chicken thighs have more connective tissue than other parts of the chicken.

So they take longer than chicken breasts and wings to cook.

However, the texture of the meat and the presence of fat makes them more delicious when cooked properly.

Now, if you wish to reduce the cooking time, here are some practical tips.

1. Choose boneless thighs instead of pieces with bone.

Boneless meat cooks faster than meat on the bone.

It’s because bones are dense structures that act as insulators.

The temperature of the meat around the bone takes longer to reach a high level.

So you will have to cook it for much longer.

The benefit of using pieces with bone is that the flavors from the bone enrich the meat.

Thus, it makes the meat tastier.

However, if you wish to reduce the cooking time, choose boneless chicken thighs.

These cuts have the same texture throughout, ensuring even and faster cooking.

2. Don’t use frozen chicken thighs.

We don’t recommend transferring chicken thighs directly from the freezer to the slow cooker.

If you do, the cooker must first thaw the chicken before cooking it.

Another issue is that cooking frozen chicken increases the risk of food poisoning.

The meat remains in the danger zone of 40°F to 140°F for a long time, where bacteria proliferate.

Thawing the chicken ahead of cooking allows the flavors to infuse better.

You can either thaw it on the countertop or in the fridge.

We recommend thawing it in the fridge overnight so that it thaws evenly and there are no frozen bits.

Related: 9 Ways to Reduce Slow Cooking Time of Ribs

3. Sear the chicken thighs before placing them in the slow cooker.

This step isn’t necessary. Nonetheless, searing the meat before slow cooking reduces the cooking time.

It barely takes a few minutes to sear the chicken in a bit of oil on the stovetop.

Searing one side of the chicken will usually do, but you can also sear both sides.

Searing the meat for a few minutes till it changes color helps to seal the natural juices.

It makes the meat more tender and allows it to cook faster.

Searing the chicken thigh will also produce a caramelized color and deep flavor.

It enhances the look and taste of the final dish.

4. Preheat the slow cooker.

It’s always a good idea to preheat the slow cooker before adding the cooking ingredients.

However, when cooking meat like chicken thighs, it’s necessary because pre-heating the cooker reduces the cooking time.

A cold slow cooker takes fifteen to twenty minutes to reach the right temperature to start cooking.

You can save this time by switching on the slow cooker while you get the rest of the ingredients ready.

If you are searing the chicken, let the slow cooker preheat until you finish preparing the rest of the ingredients.

So it will directly start cooking the chicken once you transfer it into the pot.

5. Layer the chicken over vegetables or rice.

Chicken thighs with vegetables

Chicken thighs cook better when placed on a bed of vegetables or rice.

It’s a better way to cook both the chicken and the rice or vegetables than mixing all the ingredients together.

When you place the chicken thighs on top, the juices from the chicken drip into the ingredients beneath it.

It adds extra flavor to the rest of the dish and helps the chicken cook faster.

6. Reduce the liquid in the recipe.

Slow cookers work by trapping heat and cooking ingredients in their own juices.

The moisture from the ingredients doesn’t escape from the cooker.

It’s trapped by the lid, which forms a tight seal. So slow cooker recipes need less liquid than stovetop recipes.

Adding too much liquid slows down the cooking process. It also makes the flavors muddy.

Excess liquid will leak out of the top and prevent the chicken from cooking properly.

Since the chicken already releases moisture when heated, you don’t have to add any extra liquid.

However, if the recipe calls for more liquid, use a smaller amount.

7. Cook on the High setting.

The slow cooker has two settings—Low and High.

Recipes take longer on the Low setting.

However, the same dish will be ready in half the time when you choose the High setting.

On the Low setting, ingredients get more time to cook.

As a result, the flavors intensify, and the dish tastes better.

However, you can choose the High setting when you want to speed up the process.

The meat will still cook thoroughly and taste good.

Chicken thighs typically need two to three hours to cook on Low.

However, they will be ready in one or two hours when you cook them on High.

If you don’t want to lose much flavor but still save time, start the cooking process on High.

After an hour, when the chicken has partially cooked, switch to Low for the rest of the cooking.

8. Don’t open the lid during cooking.

One of the main advantages of using a slow cooker is that you don’t have to supervise the cooking.

Simply add all the ingredients, plug the appliance in, and leave it to do the job.

Your dish will be ready after the expected time, and you can immediately serve it.

However, most of us have the tendency to check on the dish while it’s cooking.

This isn’t a good idea as it can increase the cooking time by several minutes because of how a slow cooker operates.

The lid of the slow cooker traps moisture and heat and cooks the ingredients slowly and thoroughly.

Hence, it resembles a sealed compartment.

When you lift the lid to check on the ingredients, some of the trapped heat escapes.

This lowers the temperature of the slow cooker.

When you place the lid back, the slow cooker must once again build up heat to reach the cooking temperature.

This can take fifteen to twenty minutes for each instance. So avoid opening the slow cooker unless it’s absolutely needed.

Related: 9 Tips to Speed up The Slow Cooking of Pork Shoulder | Ways to Reduce Slow Cooking of Pot Roast?

9. Cover with foil.

You can reduce the cooking time significantly by placing aluminum foil below the lid of the cooker.

Aluminum foil is a good conductor of heat.

When you cover the cooker with it, it forms an additional sealing layer.

The foil also reflects heat back into the cooking pot, thereby increasing the temperature.

Thus, it speeds up the cooking process.

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