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Kitchen & Cooking

We cooked this game day dip three ways. Which is best?

Oven, slow cooker, or Ninja Foodi?

A bowl of tortilla chips and three pans of buffalo chicken dip laid out on a marble counter. Credit: Reviewed / Danielle DeSiato

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Football season is officially here, so of course we're thinking about game day food! This classic 4-ingredient recipe brings big buffalo flavor and crowd-pleasing dip-ability to parties everywhere.

Buffalo chicken dip is already a pretty easy recipe to add to your game day food menu, but could we make it even easier?

My brother-in-law, Jason, is master of the buffalo chicken dip for all of our game day get-togethers (and every party in between!). He’s got the original stovetop/oven method down to a very delicious science.

I wanted to see if I could translate that recipe to some of the handy cooking appliances I have on my countertop, and streamline the work a little.

I used our best slow cooker, the Cuisinart Cook Central 3-in-1 Multicooker, and the Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker Steam Fryer, which is both a pressure cooker and air fryer, to pit against the traditional casserole dish method.

The stovetop/oven method

Left: chicken cooks in a pot of water on the stove. Right: cheese being sprinkled on casserole.
Credit: Reviewed / Danielle DeSiato

A casserole dish is classic for this recipe but it does require about 75% more dishes than other methods.

Jason usually makes a huge batch of dip using five pounds of chicken, then divides the mixture into multiple smaller oven-ready dishes to heat for serving. If you want to serve the dip on multiple occasions—or if you’re gathering a large crowd and need multiple stations—this is a great strategy.

I decided to cut the recipe down to three pounds of chicken to fit in our favorite casserole dish.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

  1. This method starts on the stovetop, with the chicken in a large pot of simmering water. After 30 minutes, the chicken is cooked through and ready for shredding.

  2. Put half the chicken into a food processor to shred it finely, and shred the rest by hand. Pro tip: This is Jason’s trick for a more dip-like consistency. Mixing hand-shredded and processed chicken gives you a dip that piles nicely on a chip without cascading everywhere.

  3. Transfer all the shredded chicken to a bowl, stir in the buffalo sauce, blue cheese dressing, and half the cheese. Transfer the mixture to the casserole dish and top with the remaining cheese, then bake at 400°F until the cheese on top is browned and bubbly, about 20 minutes.

Slow cooker method

Left: chicken cooking in a slow cooker. Right: Buffalo chicken dip being topped with cheese in the slow cooker.
Credit: Reviewed / Danielle DeSiato

The Cuisinart Cook Central cooks the chicken and heats the finished dip.

While I love a good-looking casserole dish, if there’s a way to save steps (and dishes), I’m here for it. Our favorite slow cooker, the Cuisinart Cook Central, has multiple functions that bring this dip together in one vessel (with the exception of the food processor, which I highly recommend using).

The Steam/Boil function does the same job as a pot on the stove, in about the same amount of time. All you have to do is drain away the hot water before continuing with the recipe, and the stay-cool handles make easy work of maneuvering the insert.

Pro tip: If you have non-metal utensils, you can even shred the chicken right in the cooker—just don’t use metal that could irreparably scratch the surface.

Once all the chicken is shredded, mix the rest of the ingredients right in the cooking insert, top it with the cheese, and set the Slow Cook function to high for one hour.

While you won’t get the same browned topping produced by the oven, you do get melty, gooey cheese and an easy one-pot preparation. Plus, the insert makes an attractive serving dish. $158 at Amazon

Ninja Foodi method

Buffalo chicken dip with browned cheese topping finished in the Ninja Foodi.
Credit: Reviewed / Danielle DeSiato

The Ninja Foodi has a smaller surface area, but makes quicker work of this dip.

The Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker Steam Fryer is a multicooker that combines pressure cooking and air frying, and is the fastest way of making this dip in one pot.

Pressure cooking is the fastest way to get the chicken done. Add one cup of water in the pot with the chicken and set the pressure cooker for 10 minutes. Once the pressure releases, let the chicken cool a bit before draining the water and shredding the chicken. Again, use non-metal utensils if you want to shred directly in the pot.

Once the chicken is shredded, mix everything together right in the Foodi pot. Since the Foodi pot has a smaller surface area than the other two methods, you can stir in more of the shredded cheese, and only reserve one cup for topping.

Once you place the extra cheese on top, set the machine to Bake/Roast. In just five minutes, you'll achieve a nicely browned topping and bubbly mixture.

The Foodi pot isn’t quite as convenient a serving vessel but it certainly works, and there’s no need to dirty another bowl. $280 at Amazon

Can you make this dip in an air fryer?

If you have an air fryer, and that’s your go-to game-day appliance, you can start this recipe on the stovetop and use the air fryer to get the browned and bubbly topping.

Depending on the capacity of your air fryer, you may need to heat the dip in multiple batches—which is a perfect strategy for a game-day feast that goes extra long.

Which one is best?

Top left: Buffalo chicken dip in the oven. Bottom left: buffalo chicken dip in the slow cooker. Top right: buffalo chicken dip in the Ninja Foodi. Bottom right: all 3 together with a bowl of chips.
Credit: Reviewed / Danielle DeSiato

With a delicious mixture like this, you can't go wrong no matter how you make it.

You really can't go wrong

If you want to minimize dirty dishes and have a browned topping, the Ninja Foodi is the way to go.

If you’re looking to streamline, and a melty topping is just fine, the Cuisinart Cook Central works perfectly. Of course, an attractive casserole dish is always a good option—especially if you don’t mind doing dishes.

Jason’s tricks for great buffalo chicken dip

  • The food processor is your friend. Once the chicken is cooked, throw half of it, in large chunks, in a food processor and pulse “so it’s finely chopped and you get the dip-like texture.”
  • Use super-flavorful buffalo wing sauce—not just Frank's Red Hot. Wing sauce is important because it has more in it than just hot sauce. Jason prefers Archie Moore’s for its flavor, thick texture, and lack of added sugar. I had to sub in Sweet Baby Ray’s Wing Sauce for a batch, and it was also great.
  • Ken’s Chunky Blue Cheese Dressing adds the right flavor and texture for the classic recipe, but you can sub in ranch dressing for anyone who’s diametrically opposed to blue cheese.
  • Put a couple teaspoons of water in the "empty" sauce bottles to get every last little bit of goodness out of them—it won't disturb the dip's consistency.

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