Making Chicken In The Slow Cooker Vs Instant Pot: How Do They Differ?

Chicken can anchor many weeknight meals because it can be prepared in numerous, diverse ways, seasoned however you want, and it's relatively simple to work with. However, sometimes you just can't be bothered to stand over a hot stove and wait for it to cook. This is where convenient appliances like the slow cooker and the Instant Pot come in. Chicken tastes great when made with either device, but you should understand their respective capabilities before using them. 

The main difference between these two cooking shortcuts is that a slow cooker has only one function — slow cooking — and the Instant Pot has multiple, one of which is slow cooking. Your chicken will cook the same way every time if you opt for the slow cooker, whereas with the Instant Pot, you'll have to select how you want it prepared and have a solid vision of the final product you're looking to create before you start cooking.

Tips for cooking chicken in a slow cooker

If you cook your chicken in a slow cooker, set aside several hours first. Start by submerging the chicken in a liquid of your choice inside the bowl of your slow cooker. Then, turn the device on and cook the chicken until the meat is cooked through and tender. This process works best when your cut of meat is high in collagen or connective tissue; the slow application of moisture and heat will convert sinewy fibers to gelatin, giving you a more succulent texture.

Ideally, choose bone-in cuts like thighs or drumsticks. The bone adds flavor and moisture to the meat, which will fall apart with ease after cooking. It takes about three or four hours for chicken thighs to cook through in a slow cooker. 

Chicken breasts are a less ideal choice for slow cooking. One reason why you shouldn't make boneless chicken breasts in a slow cooker is because they're too low in fat to withstand cooking for a long time. Your final product will likely come out tough and chewy. However, if you choose to put chicken breasts in your slow cooker and hope for the best, opt for a bone-in option and keep the heat on low while it cooks for one to two hours. 

Tips for cooking chicken in an Instant Pot

Before making Instant Pot chicken, you'll have to select from a list of cooking options; this appliance can slow cook and pressure cook as well as saute and warm food. Some versions have even more options for cooking functions, but those are the basics. 

Slow cooking in the Instant Pot looks the same as in the slow cooker and should be approached similarly. Pressure cooking uses high heat, pressure, and steam to cook your chicken quickly. Including at least 2 cups of liquid in your pot when using the pressure cook function is necessary; this creates steam and pressure to cook the food. Like slow cooking, choosing meat with a bone is the key to retaining flavor and moisture when using this cooking method.

Another cooking technique the Instant Pot can handle — and the slow cooker can't — is creating a crispy sear on your chicken's exterior. The Instant Pot accomplishes this with its saute setting. To sear the chicken in an Instant Pot, drizzle oil in the bottom and heat it. Then, add the chicken and cook it until it's golden and crisp outside. After you've created a sear, you can switch to the slow cook or pressure cook function and add liquid to finish your recipe. The Instant Pot's warm function will also keep everything hot for up to 10 hours.