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Chicken and dumplings is a dish considered a comfort food in some areas, combining juicy, stewed chicken meat and plump flour-based dumplings in a savory gravy. Crock-Pot® chicken and dumplings fits the same definition, except a slow cooker is used in place of a soup pot to make the recipe. This means the ingredients can be combined early in the day and left to simmer for several hours. The result is a hearty one-dish meal.
Easier and less labor intensive than stovetop preparation, cooking Crock-Pot® chicken and dumpling lets one adapt just about any traditional recipe for chicken and dumplings. This method is beneficial because there is less cleanup at the end of the cooking time. The preparation time also can be shortened, because the seasonings meld together well during the extended cooking process.
The majority of chicken and dumplings recipes suggest that one use a whole chicken. Chicken breasts without the skin can be used for a lower-fat version. One also may includes root vegetables such as carrots and white potatoes in chicken and dumpling, and onions, celery, green peas and water also are sometimes added. Traditional chicken and dumplings, however, is nothing more than the title ingredients, gravy and seasonings.
Adding selected seasoning such as garlic, parsley, thyme, sage or poultry seasoning deepens the flavor of Crock-Pot® chicken and dumplings. Some cooks also use prepared broth or canned creamed soup for variety and seasoning in place of water. The addition of chili powder and curry powder are more contemporary variations for this dish.
Crock-Pot® chicken and dumplings will take considerably longer than the kind prepared on a stovetop. The average time that one cooks this dish on the stovetop is about an hour. The low setting for a Crock-Pot® will require approximately eight hours, which can be beneficial for cooks who want to have dinner ready at the end of a workday. Four hours is the average cooking time with a Crock-Pot® set on high.
Dumplings are somewhat similar to tiny biscuits. These morsels made with flour, water and baking powder do not rise like a biscuit. When they are cooked, their texture provides a pillow-like counterpoint to the meat in Crock-Pot® chicken and dumplings. Using whole wheat flour to make the dumplings can give the dish a nutritional boost and increase its fiber content.
The dumplings do not go into the slow cooker at the beginning of the cooking time. Even with a low setting, they only need 30 minutes or so to become firm, so they can be added just before dinner and left to cook while any side dishes are prepared. Putting the dumplings in too soon will result in a gummy, soft dumpling that will not be an appealing addition to this dish. Adding herbs to the dumpling mixture can create an additional layer of flavor in the finished dish.
I've heard of making cornbread dressing with chicken in the crock pot, but I don't think I've heard of crock pot chicken and dumplings. Like Scrbblchick, I might think twice about whether I really wanted to do dumplings for the whole cooking time. The dough is a simple one, and I can imagine the dumplings just disintegrating into the broth during a long, long cooking time.
So yeah, adding the dumplings toward the end of the cooking time makes the most sense to me, especially if you're like me and you do very small dumplings, not the ones that are the size of fig bars.
I don't know how well dumplings would do in a crock pot. I might put them in say about 30 minutes before the cooking time ended. I'd think they might fall apart, otherwise.
My mom always said using the whole chicken made better dumplings because the extra fat meant extra flavor. Using chicken breasts is a lot easier, though, because it's a pain in the neck to cut up a whole chicken, better flavor or not.
I'd probably opt for making the dumplings on the high setting, since the long cooking time can dilute flavors in a crock pot.
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