For the past year, MC and I have been looking for ways to save time (and money) while cooking without relying on packaged foods.
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As soon as I started cooking more often, I dusted off my trusty slow cooker. Even in my small kitchen, I’ve made room for a 5-quart slow cooker because I can prepare meals in the background while working from home, watching my favorite shows on Amazon Prime, or doing craft projects. Last year, while perusing my cookbook collection, I learned the basics of cooking a whole chicken in a slow cooker from Beth Hensperger’s Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook. (Though I generally find the whole “not your (grand)mother’s…” device quite tiresome, this is actually a good cookbook!) This summer, when having the oven on was absolutely out of the question, we relied on our slow cooker to get chicken prepared without heating up the apartment.
Once the chicken is done, it quite literally falls off the bone, so preparing a whole chicken in the slow cooker ends up being cheaper than buying cut up parts and less laborious than taking apart a raw chicken. It also makes the most amazing stock which we use in other meals throughout the week. In the hopes that I can help you out in the kitchen, too, I’m going to share my tutorial for cooking a whole chicken in the slow cooker.
How To Cook a Chicken in the Slow Cooker
Recipe/Tutorial by Underground Crafter
Ingredients and Supplies
- One 3- to 4-pound whole chicken.
- Salt and black pepper.
- Slow cooker large enough to comfortably fit the chicken.
- Meat thermometer.
Here are the answers to a few questions my friends have asked about this ingredients list.
- Can I use a larger chicken? Absolutely! I’ve used the same recipe for a 5-6 pound whole chicken. It may take a bit longer to cook through, so be sure to check the internal temperature before turning off the slow cooker. (Also, be sure the chicken can fit into your slow cooker!)
- How much salt and black pepper do I need to use? I would err on the side of caution because you can always season the chicken to taste once it’s cooked, but you can’t un-season it.
- What type of salt and pepper do you use? I use sea salt and freshly ground black peppercorns, but I’m sure all would be well if you substituted Kosher or table salt and ground pepper.
- Remove any giblets or packaging from the chicken’s cavity.
- Wash the chicken thoroughly. Place the chicken in the slow cooker to prep.
- Pat the chicken dry using a paper towel. Cut off any visible fat. Season with salt and pepper, being sure to rub under the skin and inside the cavity. (Don’t worry too much about getting the perfect amount of seasoning because you can add seasoning to taste after the chicken is cooked.)
- Position the chicken with the breast side facing up.
- Cover the slow cooker. Cook on low for approximately 6-7 hours, or on high for approximately 3-4 hours.
- Insert a meat thermometer into the thick part of the thigh to check for doneness. (Be sure the thermometer isn’t hitting the bone.) When the chicken is cooked through, the thermometer should measure at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Using two forks or tongs, remove the chicken from the slow cooker. It will be falling off the bone, so be sure to have a bowl nearby to process it in.
- Using a fork, remove and discard the skin and any visible fat. (The skin will be pretty soggy and unappetizing, but it keeps the moisture in the chicken while it’s cooking, so don’t remove it beforehand.)
- Use the fork to shred the chicken, removing bones and cartilage as you work. You can also cut the chicken into smaller pieces if your recipe requires it. (We usually leave the pieces large to give us more flexibility in how we use it later.)
- You’ll also have several cups of stock in the slow cooker. This can be used for soups, gravy, and other recipes. If you like to cook with chicken fat as we sometimes do, refrigerate the stock and then skim the fat off once it rises to the top.
- Refrigerate any chicken or stock you plan to eat within the next few days, and freeze the rest for up to 3 months. (According to the USDA, foods can be safely stored in the freezer indefinitely, but after three months, you will notice a loss in flavor quality.)
Meal Ideas for Your Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken
- Make a chicken pot pie. (Get my chicken pot pie recipe, which uses about 1/3 of a 2-3 pound whole chicken, here.)
- Serve over rice or pasta with a bit of olive oil or butter and your favorite vegetables and seasoning.
- Add to beans for tacos or burritos.
- Include in a stew or chili.
- Make chicken soup using your stock.