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I'd like to cook chicken in my Crockpot but just about every time it comes out so well done that it shreds when you try to cut it. How can I make it so it's not as well done; more like it comes out when cooked in an oven?

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Crock pot cooking is usually essentially braising--it sounds like you are getting a good outcome for a braised chicken. The problem is that you are up against a time/temperature curve. So unless you monitor the chicken, and remove it from the crockpot when it is just done to your liking, it is eventually going to get up to the appliance's set temperature. Over time, in a moist environment, the collagen in the chicken will break down, and the chicken will shred easily. –  SAJ14SAJ Dec 19 '12 at 21:42
    
That sounds like a pretty fine answer, @SAJ14SAJ :) –  JoeFish Dec 19 '12 at 21:53
    
@JoeFish Thank you, I will transfer it down. I just couldn't shake the feeling I was missing something. –  SAJ14SAJ Dec 19 '12 at 21:55

3 Answers 3

Funny you should ask about this as I have just been experimenting with tough old chickens.

Your chicken is falling apart because the connective tissues in the meat are being turned into gelatin.

Cooking meat in a wet environment at low temperatures causes the connective tissues (collagen) in the meat to dissolve into delicious gelatin and makes the meat more tender. Cooking at the lower temperatures means that the meat can cook for longer without over heating and maximize the gelatin conversion.

This is often a very desirable thing. Cheap, tough meat can be made delicious. Crockpots are designed to make this very easy.

Roasting in the oven is hot and dry. The meat cooks faster, not very much gelatin is converted and the meat holds together better (or is tough depending on the meat).

The solution is simple: Don't cook your chicken as long.

To taste done, your chicken needs to reach 140F. To be safe from bacteria, your chicken has to get up to 165F. (Actually, it can be safe at as low as 135F but you have to hold it at those temperatures longer to kill the bad bugs. This document has the whole time chart.)

You should use a thermometer to determine when the interior of your chicken is done and then stop cooking it. How long it will take to get your chicken to those temps will depend on your recipe, how much meat there is, what shape it is, and the properties of your crock pot.

Keep in mind that a crockpot is still wet cooking (braising) where an oven is usually dry. The outside of the chicken will never be as browned or crispy from a crockpot as from an oven.

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Wow, lots of info...you guys really know you're cooking. Thanks for the info/advice. Dolores –  Dolores Dec 20 '12 at 14:43
    
go the extra mile and sear the whole thing before putting in a crockpot –  dnozay Feb 19 '13 at 17:22

Crock pot cooking is usually essentially braising--it sounds like you are getting a good outcome for a braised chicken. The problem is that you are up against a time/temperature curve. So unless you monitor the chicken, and remove it from the crockpot when it is just done to your liking, it is eventually going to get up to the appliance's set temperature. Over time, in a moist environment, the collagen in the chicken will break down, and the chicken will shred easily

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Okay, my answer isn't quite th wonder that Sobachatina's was, but why would anyone mark it down? It is almost exactly the same information? –  SAJ14SAJ Dec 19 '12 at 22:35
    
FWIW- I agree with you. Great (or at least similarly deranged) minds think alike. –  Sobachatina Dec 19 '12 at 22:50
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There seems to be a drive-by downvoter. –  JoeFish Dec 20 '12 at 17:12

Besides the answers already given -- if you cool down slow cooked meat, it'll firm back up again (although, without the collagen), and can then be reheated later.

The problem is getting the chicken out of the crockpot so that it can cool down in a timely manner. I use something that's a cross between a slotted spoon and a spider; it's relatively flat, but with holes in it to drain. Move it to a plate to cool down for a bit, then transfer to the fridge. The next day, you can slice it without it completely shreding on you. (although, it'll still be really tender).

As has already been mentioned, it helps to pull it out before it's cooked too far ... but this can give you a larger time window to deal with, or to recover something that's cooked past where you'd like.

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