i should be mopping the floor: Cooking A Whole Chicken in a Slow Cooker {And making broth, too!}

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cooking A Whole Chicken in a Slow Cooker {And making broth, too!}


The thought of reaching into a chicken and pulling out all of its innards is, well, creepy and gross. But, sometimes, ya gotta do what ya gotta do. I keep a freezer full of chopped chicken meat and homemade broth. Both of which cost me a fraction of what I used to spend on chicken breasts and Swanson broth. Plus, when I need chicken for casseroles or other recipes, it's ready to go. I've seen this done several ways on other blogs, this is just what works best for me, so I thought I'd share my own method.

 I LOVE when my grocery store (I shop at HEB in Texas) puts their whole chickens on sale. I've seen them as low as $.44 a pound. More often, they're $.77 a pound...which is still a fabulous price. I'll buy 3-4 chickens every time they do this. And my house will smell like Chick-fil-A for days. And I'll feel like a total Holly Homemaker for preparing this many birds in such an easy fashion (that cost so little).

The part you'll hate the most....cleaning her out. This is a bigger chicken...but still for $4, I'll get at least 2 meals and a quart or so of broth out of this bird.

After you cut off the plastic wrapper, reach in and pull out the above pictured grossness. It's a neck, gizzards and other fun things. I also pull off the big piece of fat that's usually surrounding the opening as well. If you're lucky, your chicken will have it all in a little bag that you can easily pull out. My chickens never have that. It's literally my hand fishing around inside a chicken for all these lovelies. 


(Seriously can't believe I photographed a chicken from this point of view. Nice.) But, this is how she should look all cleaned out. I usually run water through one side of her and out the other to make sure no little bits of liver or heart got caught up on a bone. That way I know she's totally cleaned out.


Spray your slow cooker with non-stick spray. You really don't want to add any extra fat by using butter or oil here... that would mess up your broth's consistency later (actually it would probably just add a ton of calories to it, which you probably don't want anyway...the fat in the chicken will render plenty of flavor on its own).


Put your bird in breast side up. You will not add any additional liquids. Seriously...none whatsoever.

I season with a few sprinkles of garlic powder...

...and onion salt (but it's your call on what you use...get creative)!

Set your slow cooker to low and cook for 7-8 hours. 

When it's done, it will literally fall a part. I pull the chicken out (sometimes piece by piece since it falls apart) and try to pull as many bones out and return them to the slow cooker. I get the bulk of the bones out right at first. At this point, I refrigerate the rest of the chicken overnight (which still has small bones in it that are harder to find). Once the chicken is cold, I pick it a part meticulously the next day and discard the rest of the bones. Chicken is easer to pick when it's cold. I hate missing bones (it freaks me out to find one in a casserole)...so I'm kind of OCD about it. Once your chicken is picked over, it's ready to freeze. I freeze mine in one cup containers so it's ready for casseroles and pre-measured.

Making the broth (or stock):

Once you've removed your chicken from your slow cooker, add the bones back in to the cooking liquid (like I mentioned above). I also throw in the skin, too, since we don't eat it. Then add a splash of apple cider vinegar (this helps draw more flavor & nutrients from the bones.)

Then add 5-6 cups of water. I happened to have carrots on hand that were about to go bad, so I threw them in, too. Sometimes, I'll add an onion or celery as well. But, if I'm lazy...I add nothing! :)
Turn your slow cooker on low (it may still be warm from the chicken cooking...I always feel like it does a marathon when I cook these things), cover with your lid and cook overnight (or about 8 hours). 


The next morning, your broth is ready to go (and smells so yummy).


Strain out all of the bones, skin and veggies.

Pour your broth into the containers you'll use to freeze them in. I like these clear plastic ones that are from our lunch meat. I can quickly glance at it in the freezer and tell that it's broth. Set your broth in the refrigerator (uncovered). Leave them for 24 hours.

When you come back to them, they will have a solid layer of fat on the top. If you try to remove it before 24 hours, it's soft and often crumbles back into the broth. The harder it gets, the easier it is to remove it.

Break the fat and start pulling it out. I usually discard mine, but lots of people I know save it for other recipes or to have grease on hand. Occasionally, I have used some of this fat to start a gravy with. But...gravy is rare around here, so that doesn't happen a whole lot.

The left one has been skimmed and the right one has not. It's almost a jelly consistency when it's cold like this. Once it's warmed for a recipe, it turns back to liquid.

I truly love preparing chickens like this. You really get the most out of one bird. I use the broth for soups and such. It's unbelievable compared to the store-bought kind. I just defrost everything in the microwave and I'm ready for an easy homemade meal. Once you start preparing birds this way, you'll never go back. I noticed the other day that a 4-pack of chicken breasts was $11. And that's just for one meal. For $4, I stretched this to two meal's worth and lots of broth for a third. That's crazy good if you ask me!

Variations: Sometimes, I won't make the broth, but rather prepare the chicken as a meal for that night. I'll throw in barbeque sauce and an onion at the start of cooking. After sever hours, I'll have barbeque chicken for dinner. Or often, I'll use Target's Archer Farms brand of Hawaiian BBQ Sauce, along with a can of crushed pineapple and we'll have Hawaiian Chicken. The possibilities are endless. I'd love to hear how you prepare chickens, too!








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16 comments:

  1. I love this! I'm going to give it a go on Friday!! Thanks for sharing..

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  2. Awesome post! I really need to trying making a whole chicken in my slow cooker.

    Mrs. Delightful
    www.ourdelightful

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  3. I have never thought of this, I am so doing it. I cant wait to go to the grocery store and get some whole chickens.
    I am now a follower
    www.newlifeovernightblogspot.com

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  4. Thanks for this tip! I can't wait to try it. I always tell my hubs we should buy the chickens when they are super cheap....this would save soooo much time!

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  5. Such helpful and clear instructions! I am definely going to do this! Thanks!

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  6. I have never thought of cooking a whole chicken in a crock pot - thanks for the tips!

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  7. Love this method of cooking a whole chicken!! Thanks for a great post Kristi!! :)

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  8. Thank you so much for this! I don't do a lot with chicken because my husband doesn't like it, but my girls and I do!

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  9. I've made my chicken stock several times in the crock pot, so easy to do, so yummy. so much better than thin, unfavored chicken stock bought. Love how tender the chicken comes out, so many ways to use. Thanks for sharing your creative inspiration at Sunday’s Best.

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  10. What a great idea! This is fantastic! Pinning and thanks for sharing at Mom On Timeout!

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  11. I've never thought of making broth in a slow cooker! Also that tip about the apple cider vinegar is definitely something I have to try!

    Thanks for linking up at Beautify It Monday! We were thrilled to have such a great turn out for out first party! Features will go up on Saturday and we hope to see you back again on Monday for week 2!

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  12. Love this - thanks for all the detail. Thanks for linking up to our "Strut Your Stuff Saturday." We love having you and hope you'll be back next week! -The Sisters

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  13. We have a whole chicken in the freezer just waiting for me to try this. I'll be trying this out tomorrow night. Thanks for linking up on SweetTalkin' Sunday!

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  14. if you're really freaked out by innards, use some tongs to fish them out. i used to do this but now I am ok using my hands. thanks for the ideas.

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  15. one man's "yukky" innards is another man's delicacy. cleaning a grocery store chicken is much nicer than cleaning one you just killed, but the latter is so much fresher (is that a word?).

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  16. I did this, and it turned out exactly as detailed above. It's fool proof. It's sleep-walker proof. Yes, I tried to mess with the crock pot in the middle of the night while the bird was cooking, and it still turned out fantastically. The chicken was moist and fall-off-the-bone delicious and easy to pick. Thanks for the money-saving and great tasting tips.

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