Why Thigh Meat Is Ideal For Slow Cooker Chicken And Dumplings

Slow cookers were made for comfort food, and chicken and dumplings are at the very top of that cozy category. Tasting Table recipe developer Michelle McGlinn's Chicken and Dumplings are the perfect weeknight version of the dish and use a method for turning chicken thighs into meltingly tender shreds that makes each bite heavenly. McGlinn recommends using chicken thighs for slow-cooker preparation because they are very easy to pull apart after a long simmer.

You'll find many variations on the dumplings for this homey meal, from slippery noodles to firm biscuits baked on top. Some recipes plop dough directly into simmering broth, while others wait until the end to dunk cooked dough inside. Regardless of the other variations, the chicken texture is always key to a prize-winning plate of comfort. Chunks or slices of chicken are good for potpie, but you'll want shreds of chicken that enrich the brothy texture and flavor in a hearty chicken and dumplings recipe. Tender, slow-cooked, shredded chicken thighs bring just the right mouthfeel.

Why thigh meat braises so well

Chicken thighs are the best choice for slow cooking due to their higher fat content and connective tissue, which melt into a more flavorful and tender end result after a simmer. The slow-cooking process allows the meat to break down gradually until the thighs are fork-tender and shred easily. Lean chicken breast, on the other hand, tends to become dry and stringy when cooked for a long time. Chicken breast is one large muscle and lacks the internal connective tissue that makes thighs such a great choice for this preparation method. So, whether you are using your slow cooker, oven, or stovetop to braise chicken, the best result will come from chicken thighs for both texture and shredability.

Recipe developer Michelle McGlinn recommends simmering the chicken thighs with aromatic vegetables and chicken stock to add even more rich flavor to the stew. The brothy goodness of these braised chicken thighs could be eaten as is, but to really transform them, they are enrobed in a creamy sauce and then finished with parbaked biscuit dough dumplings, resulting in a slow-cooked dream dinner.