Is it OK to put raw chicken in slow cooker?

Quick Answer

Yes, it is generally safe to put raw chicken directly into a slow cooker. The low, slow cooking process of the slow cooker brings the chicken up to a safe internal temperature of 165°F, even from a frozen state. As long as the chicken reaches this safe temperature, it will be fully cooked and safe to eat after 8-10 hours on low or 4-6 hours on high. There are a few tips to follow for best results and food safety when cooking raw chicken in a slow cooker:

  • Use a food thermometer to confirm the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F after cooking.
  • Don’t lift the lid during the first two hours of cooking to maintain even cooking temperature.
  • Make sure chicken is completely submerged in liquid, at least 1 inch deep.
  • Trim excess fat from chicken which can cause the sauce to be greasy.
  • Cut chicken into smaller pieces no more than 2-3 inches thick for even cooking.
  • Use a broth or sauce with some acidity like tomatoes, wine, citrus to help tenderize the chicken.
  • Always wash hands, utensils, slow cooker insert after handling raw chicken.

Following these tips will prevent any food safety issues and produce tender, juicy chicken cooked perfectly in the slow cooker. Let’s look into more detail at why it’s fine to put raw chicken in the slow cooker and how to do it properly.

Why Is It Safe?

Cooking chicken fully to an internal temperature of 165°F is sufficient to kill any potential bacteria like salmonella present on raw chicken. The moist, slow cooking environment of the slow cooker heats the chicken gradually but thoroughly to a safe temperature, even if starting from frozen. Here are reasons why the slow cooker can safely cook raw chicken:

  • Low temperature over long time kills bacteria – Slow cookers cook at around 200°F compared to over 300°F for oven roasting. But given sufficient time, the lower temperature still brings the chicken to a safe 165°F needed to pasteurize it.
  • Moist heat environment prevents drying out – The liquid and sealed environment prevents the chicken drying out, allowing it to cook up juicy and tender. The moisture helps kill bacteria too.
  • Chicken cooks evenly – Chicken is fully submerged so all areas are evenly heated with no cold spots. Smaller cuts and bone-in pieces ensure even cooking.
  • Time at temp kills bacteria – Most food pathogens are killed rapidly at 140°F and higher. The hours of time chicken stays in the 165°F+ slow cooker kills any bacteria present.

The key is ensuring the chicken does reach the full safe internal temperature using a food thermometer. As long as 165°F is reached, the chicken will be safe after a full slow cook time.

Tips for Putting Raw Chicken in Slow Cooker

Follow these tips when placing raw chicken straight into the slow cooker for safe results:

Use Enough Liquid

Raw chicken should be covered with at least 1 inch of liquid like broth, salsa, condensed soup, barbecue sauce, etc. Having enough liquid ensures even heat distribution and prevents drying out. The liquid also bastes the chicken keeping it moist.

Don’t Peek Too Early

Avoid lifting the lid in the first 2 hours of cooking to allow it to come up to temperature faster. Every time the lid is removed, heat escapes delaying cooking time. Leave it alone for the first couple hours.

Cut Chicken Pieces Smaller

Larger chicken pieces like a whole breast or thigh will cook unevenly. Cut these into 2-3 inch chunks for more even cooking. Smaller pieces allow heat to penetrate from all sides into the center faster.

Trim Excess Fat

Trim any globs of fat from the chicken before cooking. Excess fat will melt into the sauce giving it a greasy texture. Only leave a thin layer of skin intact if desired.

Use Acidic Sauces

Sauces with acidic ingredients like tomatoes, citrus, and wine will tenderize the chicken better than creamy or cheese-based sauces. The acid helps break down connective tissue.

Acidic Sauce Examples Pair Well With
Salsa, enchilada sauce Mexican chicken dishes
Barbecue sauce, teriyaki sauce Chicken for sandwiches
Marinara sauce, sun-dried tomato Chicken cacciatore or parmesan
Coconut milk-based curry sauce Chicken curry

Brown Meat First

For extra flavor, you can brown the chicken pieces first in a skillet or broiler before placing in slow cooker. This adds nice color and caramelized flavor. Deglaze the skillet with wine or broth to get up browned bits then pour into slow cooker.

Use a Thermometer

Always confirm chicken reaches 165°F in the center using a food thermometer. Temperature is the only way to guarantee doneness and safety after cooking time. Insert thermometer into thickest part of chicken without touching bone.

Sanitize Surfaces and Utensils

Be diligent about washing hands, cutting boards, knives, slow cooker insert and any other surfaces raw chicken touched. Use hot soapy water or a sanitizer solution to prevent any bacteria spreading.

Frozen Chicken in Slow Cooker

Placing frozen chicken pieces directly into the slow cooker is completely safe. The low gentle heat of the slow cooker will gradually thaw and cook the chicken through without issue. Add 30-60 mins cook time for frozen chicken.

  • Add some warm liquid or sauce to help chicken thaw faster.
  • Surround chicken pieces with veggies to distribute heat.
  • Add moist dried seasoning rubs vs. fresh wet marinade.
  • Cook on low heat setting only, high may overly brown outside.

Monitor temperature and adjust time for frozen chicken. Smaller boneless breasts may only require 6-8 hours on low while bone-in drumsticks may take 10-12 hours from frozen state.

Food Safety with Raw Chicken

Special care should always be taken when handling and cooking raw chicken to avoid risk of foodborne illness. Here are key food safety tips:

  • Defrost frozen chicken safely in fridge overnight vs. countertop.
  • Wash hands before and after handling raw chicken.
  • Use separate cutting boards and plates for raw chicken.
  • Never place cooked food back on surfaces/plates that held raw chicken.
  • Cook to proper 165°F internal temperature measured by food thermometer.
  • Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours, freeze if longer.
  • Reheat leftovers to 165°F.

Being diligent about temperature control, avoiding cross-contamination, and cleaning surfaces will keep you safe. Healthy adults are at low risk from bacteria at proper cooking temperatures. But take extra care cooking for those with compromised immune systems like elderly, infants, pregnant women.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

While generally a safe process, there are some mistakes to avoid when slow cooking raw chicken:

  • Not enough liquid – Chicken needs to be submerged at least 1-inch deep.
  • Peeking too early – Lifting lid repeatedly lets out heat and moisture.
  • Overcrowding – Too much chicken prevents even cooking and liquid absorption.
  • Large frozen pieces – Center may be undercooked; thaw first or cut smaller.
  • Thick sauce or cheese – Can prevent heating chicken through fully.
  • No thermometer – Must verify safe final internal temperature.

Avoiding these simple mistakes will ensure tender, juicy chicken that is heated thoroughly and safely every time.

Tips for Moist Chicken

The moist environment and low gentle heat of the slow cooker should produce very juicy and tender chicken. But you can ensure it comes out as moist as possible:

  • Use bone-in chicken pieces – Bones add moisture and collagen.
  • Cook just to 165°F – Avoid overcooking.
  • Sauces with acidic ingredients tenderize.
  • Submerge in braising liquid.
  • Let rest 10 mins before serving.
  • Use a basting sauce at the end.

Properly cooked white meat chicken can still come out juicy in the slow cooker. Opt for bone-in split breasts or thigh pieces and cook sufficiently but not overly long.

Easy Raw Chicken Slow Cooker Recipes

Almost any slow cooker chicken recipe will work fine starting with raw chicken. Try these delicious recipe ideas:

BBQ Pulled Chicken


  • 2 pounds boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice of 1 lime


  1. Place chicken thighs into slow cooker and top with remaining ingredients.
  2. Cook on low heat 8-10 hours until chicken shreds easily.
  3. Shred chicken using two forks right in slow cooker.
  4. Toss to coat in sauce and serve on buns.

Chicken Tikka Masala


  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut in 1-inch chunks
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tikka masala seasoning
  • 1 cup cooking liquid (broth, coconut milk or water)


  1. Add all ingredients to slow cooker and stir to coat chicken in sauce.
  2. Cook on low 8 hours.
  3. Serve over cooked rice or with naan bread.

Chicken Enchiladas


  • 2 pounds chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1 (10 ounce) can enchilada sauce, divided
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chiles
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded cheese like cheddar or pepper jack


  1. Add chicken, half the enchilada sauce, and green chiles to slow cooker.
  2. Cook on low 6-8 hours until chicken is tender and shreds easily.
  3. Shred chicken in slow cooker using two forks.
  4. Fill tortillas with chicken mixture, roll up and place seam side down in pan.
  5. Pour over remaining enchilada sauce and cheese. Cook on low 30 minutes more until hot and bubbly.

Common Slow Cooker Chicken Questions

Can I put frozen chicken in my slow cooker?

Yes, it is completely safe to place fully frozen chicken directly into the slow cooker. Add extra cook time and use lower heat. Frozen boneless breasts may take 6-8 hours on low while bone-in thighs may need 10-12 hours to cook through fully.

Should I sear chicken before slow cooker?

It is not required for safety, but browning chicken first adds nice color and seals in flavor. Quickly brown pieces in a skillet before slow cooking. Deglaze the hot pan to get up browned bits to add to the sauce.

What temperature should chicken be after slow cooking?

Chicken needs to reach an internal temperature of 165°F and hold that heat for safe cooking. Always use a thermometer to confirm doneness after cooking time. Check temperature in thickest part of meat without touching bone.

Do I need liquid to braise chicken in slow cooker?

Yes, raw chicken should be submerged in at least 1 inch of liquid like broth, salsa, condensed soup or sauce to cook properly. The liquid bastes the chicken keeping it moist and helps conduct heat evenly.

How long does it take to cook frozen chicken in a slow cooker?

Cooking time depends on the cut and amount of frozen chicken:

  • Boneless breasts – 6-8 hours on low
  • Bone-in pieces – 8-10 hours on low
  • Whole chicken – 10+ hours on low

Always check internal temperature to ensure chicken is fully cooked through. Add more time if needed.


Placing raw chicken right into the slow cooker is a safe and convenient cooking method. The low steady heat gently brings the chicken fully up to a safe internal temperature of 165°F to destroy any bacteria present. Submerging the chicken in at least 1 inch of liquid, using smaller pieces, avoiding lid peeking, and verifying temperature creates a fool-proof method for cooking chicken from scratch in the slow cooker. Follow proper food safety protocols and use a thermometer to guarantee safely cooked chicken every time. With the ease of this “set and forget” cooking technique along with time to infuse spices and flavors into the chicken, preparing raw chicken in the slow cooker results in extremely tender and delicious chicken dinners.

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