Tips on Cooking a Whole Chicken in a Slow Cooker
A slow cooker contains a removable crock or vessel that is housed in a metal cooking unit. The coiled heat in the unit slowly cooks the food inside the crock, and the tight-fitting lid aids in keeping the moisture inside the pot. Not only does the slow cooker help busy families enjoy a nutritious meal at the end of a busy day, it saves money, too, because less expensive cuts of meat become tender and delicious when they are braised slowly over the course of several hours. If your slow cooker is large enough, you can cook a whole chicken with a few simple tips.
If your chicken is frozen, thaw it fully in the refrigerator before preparing it for the cooker. Any poultry or meat must be thawed before placing it in your slow cooker. Once the chicken has thawed, remove any organ meats and reserve them for later use or discard them. You do not need to preheat your slow cooker.
Place your whole chicken on a cutting board and break it down into smaller pieces with a very sharp knife. For an entire chicken to cook evenly and safely, it should be cut into the traditional pieces: breasts, thighs, drumsticks and wings. Trim as much fat as possible and then remove the skin from each piece to ensure healthier and more evenly cooked cuts of chicken.
Although it’s not necessary, consider browning the chicken pieces first to aid in flavor and moisture retention. The USDA recommends that you fill your slow cooker at least half full with the meat, vegetables and liquid, but no more than two-thirds full for optimum cooking. Don’t forget to adjust your cooking time to factor in the boned pieces of chicken, which will take longer than boneless pieces of chicken. Resist the temptation to lift the lid while the chicken is cooking, or you will need to add an additional 15 to 30 minutes of cooking time. Ensure that the meatiest part of each chicken piece registers an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
The juices released from the chicken enhance the flavor of vegetables, and if your recipe calls for them, spices will infuse flavor into the featured ingredients as they simmer slowly. Add an appropriate amount of broth, water, wine or liquid, depending on the recipe. Typically, only a small amount is needed, as little as ½ or 1 cup, as the water does not cook away.