I’ve always been less than impressed with the food that comes out of a slow cooker. Wimpy sauces, vegetables reduced to mush, and stringy dried-out meat were the prices to be paid for convenience.
That all changed for me a few years ago when I bought America’s Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution. The America’s Test Kitchen folks tested 30 slow cookers and 1,500 recipes. They narrowed the recipes down to 200 and included them in this book. Their testing isolated the best performing slow cooker, the Crock-Pot Touchscreen Slow Cooker, which I also purchased. I’ve tried many recipes from this book and we have several that have become over-and-over again favorites (try the Bachelor Beef Stew).
One of the most useful things I’ve learned from this book is how to properly deal with chicken in a slow cooker. I learned that a whole chicken should be cooked back side up to keep the breast meat moist, and that chicken should never be cooked on the high-heat setting; 4-6 hours on low will give you the juiciest, most flavorful results.
The following recipe, while not from Slow Cooker Revolution, uses several principles from the book. You will never achieve a crisp, brown skin with a slow-cooked chicken, but this recipe yields a luscious, juicy bird that gave us both 2 dinners and plenty of leftovers.
- 1 Broiler/Fryer Chicken (3 - 4.5 pounds)
- 1 medium onion, sliced and separated into ¼" rings
- 1 lemon, quartered
- ½ cup water
- 1 cup salt-free chicken broth (optional)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt (omit if using Kosher or brined bird)
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon paprika (smoked paprika may be used)
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt (reduce to 1 tsp. if using Kosher or brined bird)
- 1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
- Combine all "inside bird" seasonings and spices in a small bowl. Combine all "outside bird" seasonings in another small bowl.
- Loosen chicken skin with fingers and distribute "inside bird" mixture as evenly as possible under the skin. Toss lemon pieces inside cavity.
- Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of "outside bird" mixture over breast of chicken.
- Place sliced onions in bottom of slow cooker and pour water over them.
- Place chicken, breast side down, on top of onions. This will keep the chicken from sitting directly on the bottom of the slow cooker.
- Sprinkle the remaining "outside bird" seasonings over chicken.
- Cook on LOW for 4 to 6 hours. My most recent 4.5 pound chicken took 5 hours. Juices should run clear when bird is pierced with tip of a paring knife, and the legs should move very easily. Or, see that minimum internal temperature is 165° on a meat thermometer.
- (Optional) Transfer the onions and juices to a sauce pan. Dilute the mixture with about 1 cup of salt-free chicken broth (the juices from the pan will already be salted). Simmer until slightly reduced and spoon over chicken to serve.