For our second “slow cooker support group” dinner, Aviva and I decided to do chicken. With a recipe from one of her readers in hand, we expanded the support group to include Colleen, and set off on another culinary adventure.
Directions from original recipe (paraphrased)
- Mix a bunch of spices
- Throw them on a roasting chicken
- Put it in a plastic bag and refrigerate overnight
- Put chopped onion on the bottom of the slow cooker
- Take chicken out of bag and move it to slow cooker
- Let it cook for a few hours, then eat it
I played with the recipe (a lot), but kept the basic concept of dry cooking a whole chicken rubbed with spices. Amazingly, you do not add any liquid, yet at the end, the chicken and spices produce a small, but lovely bit of broth to spoon over the dish when you serve it.
My changes began with the spice rub proportions. The recipe called for 4 teaspoons of salt, but I halved that. (Except as a brine, which is rinsed off, the mere thought of so much salt makes me gag.) Then I halved some of the other ingredients too. The recipe called for paprika, but did not specify whether it should be the sweet, hot, or smoked variety. I used equal amounts of sweet and hot. Because I don’t have onion powder and didn’t feel like buying any, I eliminated that ingredient entirely.
I couldn’t find a roaster, so I bought a regular chicken. I meant to let the chicken sit overnight with the spice rub, but didn’t get around to it, so I did that step in the morning. Although not essential, even a few hours of resting time helps infuse the chicken with spices. If you skip this step, there is no need for the plastic bag.
Although, I know it’s unhealthy and I really should take the skin off, I love crispy chicken skin. Slow cooking does leaves the skin soft. After research I decided to move the fully cooked chicken to a roasting pan and broil it for a few minutes at the end. You can ignore this optional step if you don’t eat the skin, don’t care if it’s crispy, are too timid to move the whole chicken from the slow cooker to a roasting pan, or are too lazy to try it.
Finally, I thought it would be a shame to cook chicken without vegetables. So I added a layer of carrots, parsnips, and potatoes at the bottom of the slow cooker.
Using a slow cooker entails thinking ahead, but the process does not require you to be in the kitchen for long. In fact, you’re not supposed to lift the slow cooker cover off before the dish is finished cooking, as that allows heat to escape and slows the cooking process even more. So, except to use an instant read thermometer to make sure the chicken was fully cooked, I never checked my dish as it cooked. For those, like me, inclined to hover over food as it cooks, this aspect of slow cookery is an exercise in self-restraint.
I refrigerated the chicken with spices at 9 am, put it in the slow cooker at 12:30 pm, left it cooking for the afternoon, put the final touches on dinner about 6:30 pm and we sat down about 15 minutes later. I spent barely an hour putting the whole dinner on the table – 35-45 minutes in the morning and 15-20 minutes just before dinner. The result was tender, moist and pleasantly spicy chicken, with vegetables that were soft but not mushy
Slow Cooker (Crock Pot) Whole Chicken
Servings – 4 Total Cost – $11.73/$2.93 per serving
- 2 teaspoons salt (preferably Kosher)
- 2 teaspoons paprika (1 teaspoon sweet & 1 teaspoon hot). If you only have one kind, taste a little on your tongue to see how it tastes. Don’t use 2 teaspoons of hot unless you like very hot taste. Smoked paprika also works.
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 chicken 3½ – 4 pounds. Does not have to be a roaster.
- 2 medium onions, chopped in large pieces
- 2 carrots, chopped in large pieces
- 2 parsnips, chopped in large pieces
- 2-4 medium yellow potatoes, quartered
Equipment (Oops – paper towels not pictured.)
- Slow cooker
- Cutting board
- Vegetable peeler
- Measuring spoons
- Small bowl (to mix spices in)
- Digital thermometer
- Optional: Gallon Ziploc plastic bag and plate or large bowl (to hold bagged chicken in while “resting” in refrigerator)
- Optional: Roasting pan and two large spoons to move chicken and potatoes
- Combine the spices in a small bowl.
Mix and set aside.
- Peel or wash the vegetables. (I peeled carrots and parsnips, which were not organic, and just washed the potatoes, which were.) Of course, onions are peeled. Chop the vegetables and set aside.
- Reach inside chicken and remove the small bag containing giblets. If you’ve never done this before and it grosses you out, get someone else to do it. Knowing when to bring in the “special teams” is essential in cooking, as in football – and in life. Now I’ve exhausted my football knowledge, so back to cooking. Put the giblets in a freezer bag and freeze them. We’ll use them for chicken soup soon.
- Rinse and dry the chicken with paper towels.
- If you are resting the chicken in the refrigerator, put chicken in a gallon Ziploc plastic bag, then add spices and press them on chicken with your hands. Close the bag and set on a plate or in a large bowl. If you are putting chicken directly into the slowcooker, skip the bag and plate/bowl steps.
- Wash your hands in hot soapy water. (Wash your hands frequently to avoid contaminating surfaces, equipment and other food with raw poultry. After poultry has touched equipment or surfaces such as counters or cutting boards, wash them thoroughly before using them to prepare anything else.)
- Refrigerate the chicken in the bag, in the bowl or on the plate, for about 3 hours.
- To cook: place vegetables at the bottom of the slow cooker. Take the chicken out of the bag and put it on top of the vegetables.
Cook on the low setting for 4-6 hours depending on the size of the chicken and your slow cooker.
- Test the chicken temperature with a digital thermometer to make sure the internal temperature of the meat is at least 165 degrees, the safe temperature for cooked poultry. (Place the thermometer under one of the legs and angled into the breast meat, without touching the bone.)
- If you like brown chicken skin and crispy potatoes, use the broiler. Carefully take the chicken out of the slow cooker and place it in a roasting pan with the potatoes. Add a few dots of butter to the top of the chicken skin. (You can leave the other vegetables in the slow cooker for a few minutes.) Broil for 5-10 minutes, watching carefully to make sure the chicken does not burn.