I know, it’s kind of a lame cover photo but there was no time for mom to try to take stylish pictures that night. Chickens aren’t that photogenic anyway. By the time we left soccer practice Ella was in a complete meltdown because she thought her sister and I were leaving her. For the record, we weren’t, I tend not to just drive off and leave my seven year olds to fend for themselves, but after repeated attempts to get her off the playground we did start walking to the car and that was enough to send her in to a full panic. She had stopped crying by the time we got home but I knew she was exhausted (she’s not usually the fit thrower in the family) and she and Hailey were both starving despite plenty of afternoon snacks. Some days are hungrier than others. I sent them to lay on my bed and watch TV while I got dinner on the table, quite a treat on a school night but we all needed a break from each other, followed by food, before moving on to homework or anything else productive. I was thankful I’d planned ahead.
This was my first time cooking a whole chicken in a slow cooker but it certainly won’t be my last and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to try it. The obvious drawback is that the skin doesn’t get nice and crispy but I solved that problem by throwing it under the broiler for ten minutes before resting and serving it. You could certainly skip that step but I wasn’t going to risk another meltdown given the fact that the crispy skin is Ella’s favorite thing about chicken. If you want shredded chicken the slow cooker is an excellent way to go and you can just remove the skin. I will be doing that next, maybe for enchiladas… Stay tuned.
Slow Cooked Whole Chicken with Root Vegetables
(serves 4 – 6)
4 -5 lb whole chicken, innards removed
1 large russet potato, peeled
1 large yam, peeled
1/2 large sweet onion
1 whole head of garlic
1 lemon, halved OR 1/2 lemon + 1/2 Granny Smith apple
*spice rub (recipe below)
1 TB kosher salt (reduce by 1/2 tsp if using finer table salt)
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 dried sage
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
*If you already have a premixed chicken rub you like, by all means use it and make your life easier!
Place all the ingredients for the spice rub in a small bowl and combine with your fingertips. Set aside.
Peel yam and potato, cut lengthwise into quarters, then cut in large chunks.
Set in bottom of slow cooker, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.
Remove any giblets, etc. from inside the chicken, pat it dry with paper towels, then place on top of the vegetables in the slow cooker.
Peel the outer layers off the head of garlic and slice it in half, crosswise. Place it in the cavity of the chicken along with the lemon and/or Granny Smith apples. What you’re doing here is providing aromatics that will add flavor and, at the same time, stuffing the chicken to keep it from drying out. You can use the lemon/apple combination or just use one or the other depending on what you have. You could tie up the legs after you stuff it like you would if you were roasting it but I found that step unnecessary.
Chop onion into large chunks and place in the crockpot around the chicken.
Rub the entire chicken all over with the spice rub.
You may need to move the veggies around a bit in order for the chicken to fit, then cover and cook on high for 4 – 6 hours or on low for 8 hours. The time will depend on your slow cooker, as some run hotter or cooler than others, as well as the size of your chicken. My chicken was on the larger side, about 5 pounds, and it took 6 hours on high for my particular slow cooker (6 quart Crock Pot).
Test for doneness by inserting an instant read thermometer. The juices should run clear and the temperature should be at least 165 degrees in the thickest part of the chicken. You may serve it at this point with the vegetables (remove them with a slotted spoon and place in serving bowl) or read the steps that follow to broil it.
Preheat oven to broil (450 degrees).
Lift chicken out of the slow cooker (I used a large spatula and made sure I got all the way underneath it before I carefully lifted it out) and place in a 9×13 inch pan. Leave the vegetables in the slow cooker on keep warm setting. Brush or rub about 1 TB butter or oil on the the skin to help it brown. Broil for 10 minutes, remove from oven and allow chicken to rest for about 15 minutes before carving to lock in the juices.
Using a slotted spoon, remove vegetables from the remaining juices and place in a serving bowl. You can make gravy with the remains if you are so inclined. I wasn’t.