Tossing Them In Together
With a little prior planning and menu decisions, you can certainly cook chicken and raw beans together. Some methods result in chicken cooked down to silky threads while other methods keep large chicken chunks intact. The best methods involve cooking or soaking the beans to some extent before adding the chicken; the beans will still be too raw to eat, but will continue to cook along with the chicken.
It's All About Timing
Soaked raw beans take five to six hours in a slow cooker on the high setting. Unsoaked beans take closer to seven or eight hours. Chicken can handle the slow cooker set on high for five to six hours, but most recipes recommend four. As the chicken cooks longer, it will keep breaking down, and you will soon be left with small threads rather than large chunks. The same is true with beans. If cooked longer than the recommended time, they will also lose their shape and turn into a soupy mush.
If large chunks of chicken is what you are going for, there are a few ways to make it happen. Soak the beans for at least eight hours or overnight. For best results, begin cooking beans two hours before the chicken, adding the chicken in the last four hours of cooking. Note that it is also important to make sure to cook the chicken for long enough -- undercooked chicken can make you sick. It must reach at least 160 and not be pink in the middle.
A Note About Beans
Good bean choices include black beans, pinto beans, white beans, kidney beans or lima beans. If you don't have time to soak the beans, consider using lentils or split peas. These cook more quickly in the slow cooker because they are smaller. Unsoaked, they will take four to five hours, so these might be a better alternative if you need to put everything in the slow cooker at once and leave for the next four hours.
Choosing the Right Chicken
When slow cooking beans and chicken together, going for the right cut of chicken is integral. Since the chicken will cook for long enough to fall apart and break down, any bones or skin will be difficult to pick out. Opt for boneless, skinless breasts and thighs.