Slow Cooker Whole Chicken Recipe
Wondering how to cook a whole chicken in your crock pot? We tell you how, but just because you can, does not necessarily mean you always should. Keep reading to learn when to use your slow cooker.
Most slow cooker resources will tell you that a whole chicken prepared in a slow cooker will result in a “Roasted Chicken” or a “Rotisserie Chicken”. Not exactly.
If you want delicious, crisp-skinned, oven-roasted chicken as the star of a meal, then just use your oven. Why? For starters, the extra step required to crisp up a crock pot chicken isn’t worth the effort involved.
Also, a slow cooker chicken or even an oven-roasted chicken may not be the best use of your time and money. Sometimes a simple store-bought rotisserie chicken can be the better choice, learn more here.
When to use the slow cooker
But perhaps you don’t live near a grocery store that sells healthy rotisserie chickens and you want to use precooked chicken as an ingredient in other recipes — such as Quesadillas or Pesto Pasta. Or maybe your grocery is just running a super special sale on chickens.
In these cases, a slow cooker whole chicken is easier than easy and results in a lot less mess than roasting in the oven. And the white meat is actually juicier than an oven-roasted bird, so you’ll have delicious chicken ready to use in many different weeknight dinners or make-ahead lunches.
How to Cook a Whole Chicken in a Slow Cooker
The method below makes a chicken that is flavorful and tender. And yes, you can safely use a crock pot to cook a whole chicken — just keep the lid on to keep heat in.
Truthfully, all ingredients other than the chicken are optional — just mix and match ingredients based on what you have on hand.
1 small chicken, about 4 pounds — make sure it fits into your slow cooker without touching the lid
Any assortment of aromatic vegetables that you have on hand can be rough chopped: onion, celery, carrots
Garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1/2 lemon (optional)
Fresh herbs (optional)
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt & pepper
Optional seasonings: paprika (adds a little color), thyme, rosemary, etc.
Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Remove the giblets and neck from the chicken. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, both inside and out. Note: reasons not to rinse raw chicken.
If your slow cooker came with a rack insert, place this in the slow cooker, add your chicken, and place any vegetables around the chicken. Otherwise, use the vegetables to create a platform for the chicken to prevent it from cooking in its own juices.
Drizzle the chicken with olive oil. Rub salt, pepper, and any seasonings onto chicken. Stuff the cavity with garlic, lemon and any fresh herbs you have on hand.
Cook breast-side up for 4-5 hours on HIGH. The breasts need to reach an internal temperature of 165°F and thighs 170°F. Juices should run clear when the thickest part of the chicken breast and thigh are pierced with a knife. If you need to cook the chicken for a longer period of time, you can start with 1 hour on HIGH, and finish with 6-7 hours on LOW.
After cooking a whole chicken in the slow cooker, we prefer to simply remove the skin and use the meat as an ingredient in other recipes.
You can also optionally crisp the skin under a broiler: transfer the cooked chicken carefully to a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and broil until the skin is crisp. But again, if you have time for this extra step, we recommend you skip the slow cooker altogether and make oven-roasted chicken instead.
If you are looking to serve the chicken right away, consider serving the hot chicken with fresh greens and a sauce that doubles as a dressing. Chimichurri, rémoulade, romesco, pesto, and other sauces or salsas can be made in advance. Adding warm toasted bread will make for a satisfying dinner.
You can discard the cooked veggies or chop them to use with some of the meat in your other dishes.
Again, nothing beats a hot, oven-roasted chicken, but in a pinch a “slow cooker roasted chicken” is a great alternative. And speaking from experience, if you have hungry teenagers in the house, they may consume an entire bird as soon as it is done — so if chickens are on sale, you might as well pick up two. Enjoy!