This blog is updated in 2021.
Cooking chicken in a slow cooker can be a challenge. It’s so easy to overcook it resulting in a stringy or mushy texture, and often it is flavorless to me. No more! Slow cooking a stuffed whole chicken (rather than chicken pieces) results in better flavor and even cooking. Also, when chicken is cooked still attached to the bones/carcass (as opposed to boneless chicken) it improves the flavor, moisture and nutrition of the cooked chicken meat. That’s because chicken bones are packed with nutrients and flavor that are absorbed into the meat as it cooks.
Turns out that cooking a whole chicken in a slow cooker couldn’t be easier. This method is a great healthy DIY substitute for grocery store rotisserie chickens. Although those rotisserie chickens are delicious and SO convenient, they often are injected with high-sodium flavors. Now that I’ve figured out how easy it is to cook whole chickens in a crock pot, I’m loving that I can purchase a good quality organic chicken and season it with real herbs with no added mystery ingredients.
Flavored from top, bottom, and inside. After testing King-Man’s patience with perhaps too many slow cooker chicken experiments in one week (I’m pretty sure he’s chickened out at the moment), I settled on this recipe that cooks the whole chicken on top of a bed of onions and herbs. Those same ingredients are stuffed inside the bird, too, so flavor is added to the meat from the inside out as it cooks. Herbs are also rested on top of the chicken while it cooks. My surprise ingredient is a bit of soy sauce. I pour it inside the bird to add both flavor and color to the chicken and broth. The soy sauce also contributes to caramelizing the onions in the bottom of the slow cooker. I initially added the onions only to provide flavor during the cooking; but they turned out to be so deliciously caramelized that they became part of the finished recipe. I served my chicken with the caramelized onions spooned over the top. Crazy delicious.
A low sodium recipe, so add salt to taste. Although the soy sauce adds some salt to the chicken, you may need to sprinkle the cooked chicken with additional salt. We’ve cut way back on salt in our house, so I prefer not to add much when I’m cooking. We add salt to taste, if needed, at the table.
Step-by-step photos for making
Slow Cooker Whole Chicken
Step 1. Assemble the ingredients
- 4-5 pound whole chicken, giblets removed
- ground black pepper
- low-sodium soy sauce
- fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme
There’s no need to add any more liquid to the recipe. The chicken creates it’s own broth as it cooks.
Step 2. Chop each peeled onion in half; then quarter each half.
Step 3. Peel the garlic. To make this fast and easy, roll the garlic cloves in a garlic peeler. After a few turns, the peels slide right off.
view on Amazon: garlic peeler tube
Step 4. Spray or brush the inside of the slow cooker with oil.
Step 5. Scatter one or two chopped onions in the bottom, separating the onion layers as you scatter them. Add 2 garlic cloves and sprigs of rosemary, thyme and sage.
view on Amazon: my slow cooker (rated #1 by Cooks Illustrated)
Step 6. Prop the chicken up inside the slow cooker with the legs and open cavity facing up. This makes it easier to stuff. Also, when the soy sauce is added, some will run through the cavity into the slow cooker and some will stay in the cavity; this way it flavors the inside and bottom of the bird as it cooks.
Step 7. Add ingredients to the inside of the cavity: sprinkle in the black pepper, stuff in sprigs of each herb, add 2 garlic cloves, stuff in chopped onions until the cavity is full, then pour soy sauce over the onions.
Step 8. Place the chicken breast side down in the slow cooker. The dark meat is naturally more moist, and it’s juices will run down into the breast meat to make it moist, too. (I got this tip from Cooks Illustrated’s Slow Cooker Revolution cookbook.) Add sprigs of each herb on top, put the lid on, and cook on low for 5-6 hours.
- Note: Slow cookers can vary considerably in the heat level and amount of cooking time required. In my slow cooker, a 4.5 lb. chicken took 6 hours to cook. The best way to determine if the chicken is cooked is to insert an instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the breast meat; it should be 165 degrees when it’s done. Another test to is to jiggle the legs, if they easily separate from the carcass, the chicken is done.
Browning tip (optional): When the chicken is finished cooking and you lift the lid, it doesn’t look particularly appealing, as you can see in the photo below. That’s because the side that is facing up doesn’t brown at all in the slow cooker. The breast side that is facing down will brown some, especially with the added soy sauce. So, when you turn it over, it should be partially browned; but the skin still isn’t crispy. That’s not a problem for us, because we don’t eat the skin anyway. If you like to eat the skin or want your chicken to look prettier, you can transfer it to an oven safe pan and put it under the broiler for a few minutes–it doesn’t take long for it to get brown and crispy.
Caramelized onions in the bottom of the slow cooker are a great accompaniment for the chicken. Use a slotted spoon or spatula to remove the onions and set them aside to serve with the chicken.
Don’t forgot that scrumptious broth. The broth in the bottom of the slow cooker is dark and rich tasting. Pour it through a wire mesh strainer to remove the solids. I usually have a little more than 1 cup of broth. Remove the grease from the broth by:
- spooning it off as best you can
- using a grease separator (I have one of these and LOVE IT!)
- chilling the broth until the grease solidifies on the top and you can scrape it off (this only works if you aren’t eating the chicken and using the broth right away and have time to chill it)
You can spoon the strained broth over the chicken or serve it on the side. If you prefer a thickened gravy, thin the broth with an equal amount of canned chicken broth, and thicken it with flour or corn starch.
How I serve it. For simplicity, I skip the broiler, flip the chicken over and put it breast-side-up on a patter. (Cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes so juices can settle into the meat.) Spoon some of those luscious caramelized onions on top and it makes an appealing presentation.
Or, cut the chicken into serving size pieces, and spoon some of the onions on each piece.
For a main course, or chopped or shredded. You can serve this chicken as a main course, or shred/chop it for use in other recipes. I made this chicken last week and served it for a main course with potatoes, gravy, and a side salad. Then I shredded the leftover chicken and used it in enchiladas the next night. Tasty & moist both times. The chopped or shredded chicken can be frozen, too. It’s great to have on hand for use in Healthy Yogurt Chicken Salad, Fiesta Salsa Chicken, and Chicken Parmesan Pasta Sauce.
However you serve it or use it, this slow cooker method is any easy, healthy, tasty way to make amazing chicken for any meal.
Make it a Yummy day!