Introduction: Bake a Whole Chicken in a Slow Cooker

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I know, baking a chicken in a slow cooker sounds a little strange. But it works! I recently heard about this technique while browsing the food section on NPR's website and it just sounded so crazy. I had no idea you could cook a whole chicken in a slow cooker without adding any liquid.

I decided to try it out, and while I have to tell you it will not beat a oven roast chicken with crispy skin, it is a super simple and amazing way to cook a chicken so you have dinner 75% ready when you get home.

Here's the original article. I modified the KFC spice recipe a bit as I didn't have everything on hand, so I'll share my version in a couple steps. :D

Step 1: Ingredients + Tools

For best results, you will want to use a small 3-5 pound chicken. The chicken I chose to use here was a small free range one - about 3.5 pounds. If you can get your butcher to skin it, do that! It'll make it easier later. :)

I also recommend having a 6 quart slow cooker to make it in - any smaller and it might not fit the chicken. I use this one at home, and I love it.

Step 2: Prep the Chicken

Since we won't be getting a nice amount of heat like we would in the oven, we're going to want to remove the skin. Rubbery skin is one of my least favorite things ever to eat.

To do this, I cut a slit in the skin covering the breasts and begin to pull. I cut off the wing tips entirely because they're nearly impossible to de-skin and they don't taste that great when they're not roasted.

Keeping the skin in large pieces makes it easier to pull off, too.

Once the skin has been removed, trim away any excess fat. This often occurs near the neck and down near the body cavity, too.

Step 3: Apply a Spice Rub to the Chicken

You can really use whatever spice rub you like, but I chose to try the one from the original article. Upon closer inspection, I didn't have all the spices, so I subbed a bit.

KFC-inspired spice rub:
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • pinch of celery seed
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Measure out all the spices into a bowl and mix. Rub the entire rub mix over the bird until it's nicely coated. If you have any leftovers, rub it inside the body cavity.

Step 4: Slow Cook Your Chicken

Cooking times will depend on the weight of your chicken:
On high, you'll cook it for 3-4 hours.
On low, you'll cook it 6-7 hours.

I put my chicken in breast side up even though the author of the original recipe cooked hers the other way. Mostly out of habit and/or lack of reading comprehension. :)

Add NO liquid to the slow cooker whatsoever and put on the lid. Try your hardest not to open the lid while it cooks - all it's going to do is add time!

Once the legs begin to separate from the body of the bird, it's close to being done. It's a good idea to double check to make sure the chicken has reached 165 F (check the thigh!) and is cooked all the way through. If you have a crockpot like mine, you can even insert a probe and stop the cooking right when it hits that temp.

Step 5: Final Thoughts

The chicken tasted great! The rub really made up for the lack of skin. For the amount of effort I put in I was very happy with the results.

The chicken was nice and moist and fell apart easily, but I think next time I'll cook it for a little less time. This time I did the full four hours which might have been a little long for the size of the bird.

While it cooks the chicken releases a ton of liquid and fat that would probably really help to keep the breasts moist, so I'm going to try it breast side down.

I'm definitely going to do this again soon! It was so easy to do and we got some really great sandwiches and salads out of the chicken I cooked.

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