When cooking poultry, especially chicken or turkey, in a slow cooker or Crock Pot, there is often debate over whether the breast should be placed facing up or down. Both methods have their pros and cons when making a Big Easy recipe.
Placing the breast up has a few advantages:
- The breast meat is closer to the top of the slow cooker where it is warmer, which helps it cook faster and more evenly.
- The breast stays submerged in the cooking liquid better when facing up.
- Any browning or crisping of the skin is more visible/accessible.
- You can add vegetables and aromatics around and under the breast more easily.
However, there are some downsides to cooking breast up:
- The breast meat may overcook and dry out since it’s more exposed to heat.
- The thighs and legs under the breast may be undercooked.
- The breast may fall off the bone more easily.
Cooking with the breast down has some advantages of its own:
- The breast stays very moist and tender.
- The thighs and legs cook faster, ensuring even doneness.
- The meat holds onto the bone better.
- The presentation looks nicer when served (breast side up).
Some potential cons include:
- The breast takes longer to cook through.
- The skin doesn’t brown or crisp as efficiently.
- The breast may steam rather than baste in juices.
So in summary, there are good arguments on both sides of whether to cook poultry breast side up or down in a slow cooker. Here are some final tips when deciding:
- If cooking a whole chicken or turkey, breast down often works better to ensure even cooking.
- For bone-in chicken pieces like thighs or legs, breast up is usually preferred.
- For boneless breasts, cooking down keeps them very moist.
- Cook a little longer or on high if breast down to ensure doneness.
- Use a meat thermometer to test for safe temperature either way.
- Tent foil over the top if breast up to prevent overcooking.
- Add vegetables below breast down to add flavor.
There is no one right way to cook poultry in a slow cooker – it often comes down to personal preference. The most important thing is to control the temperature and cooking time to prevent over or undercooking. As long as the safe internal temperature is reached, both methods can produce delicious Big Easy chicken or turkey!
Why would I choose breast up vs. breast down?
Cooking breast up browns the skin better, cooks the breast meat faster, and lets you add veggies and aromatics easily. Breast down keeps the breast very moist and lets the thighs and legs cook through.
What if I’m making pulled chicken or shredded turkey?
For pulled or shredded meat that will be broken up anyway, breast down usually works better to keep all the meat very tender. The presentation doesn’t matter as much in this case.
How long should I cook a whole chicken breast down?
A whole chicken cooked breast down will take 5-8 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high typically. Use a meat thermometer to confirm it reaches 165°F in the thickest part of the breast.
Should I flip halfway through cooking?
Flipping halfway isn’t usually necessary. The bird will cook evenly breast up or down as long as you monitor the temperature and time. Tent foil over the breast if up and add extra liquid if down.
Cooking Time Tables
Approximate slow cooker cooking times for poultry breast up vs. breast down:
|Cut of Meat||Breast Up||Breast Down|
|Whole chicken||4-6 hours on low||6-8 hours on low|
|Chicken pieces||3-4 hours on low||4-6 hours on low|
|Turkey breast||2-3 hours on low||3-4 hours on low|
|Whole turkey||8-10 hours on low||10-12 hours on low|
Always use a meat thermometer to confirm safe internal temperatures. Add extra time if needed.
- Use a slow cooker liner or cooking spray to help lift out the meat easily.
- Cook on high for the first hour to jump start the cooking.
- Let the meat rest 15-30 minutes before carving for juicier results.
- Make an extra flavorful cooking liquid with broth, wine, herbs and spices.
- Layer vegetables under or around the meat to add even more flavor.
With the right techniques and temperature, you can get perfectly cooked poultry breast side up or down in the slow cooker. Experiment to find your favorite way to make Big Easy chicken, turkey and more!