Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Slow Cook a Whole Chicken

Part of my money-saving mindset is, not only getting the most from every penny spent, but also getting the most from everything that I've bought.  One of the ways I do this is by cooking a whole large chicken in my slow cooker.  And it's seriously quick and simple to do.  The meat falls off the bone when it's finished and is juicy and tender.  Two added bonuses: no meat goes to waste and less energy is used than if you were to roast the chicken in the oven. Ca-ching!

Remember the reduced large chicken I bought a couple weeks ago? It went in the freezer the day I bought it and came out to thaw the day before it went in the slow cooker.

First I place 3 small upturned dipping bowls in a large 6.5L slow cooker. This will prop the chicken off the bottom of the slow cooker to allow the chicken juices to sit below the chicken during the cooking. If you don't have small bowls, simply ball up some aluminum foil and use this instead.  Another option is to put carrots and onions on the bottom to slow cook with the chicken (check out some other websites), I just haven't tried this yet.
Next, place your chicken on top of the bowls or foil breast-side down/back-side up.  This allows the juices from the dark meat in the back to baste the drier white meat in the breasts.

If you wash your chicken before roasting it, please don't.  From what I read and understand on other websites, this can spread bacteria and salmonella around your sink and kitchen, and it's simply not necessary to do so.  So package to slow cooker (or oven).  Then I sprinkle some salt and pepper on top of the bird.
Put the lid on.  You don't need to add any water to the bottom of the slow cooker either. Oh, and make sure to turn it on! (Not that I've ever forgotten... ahem!)
Allow the chicken to cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for about 5 hours.  I prefer to cook it on low for 8 hours; the one time I tried to cook it on high for 5 hours, the meat wasn't quite as tender and juicy as when I cooked it on low for a longer time.
This is the finshed product.  Perhaps the one downside of cooking a chicken - or any meat - in the slow cooker is that it doesn't brown like it does in the oven. You aren't going to get that perfectly goldened bird.  I simply serve the meat directly onto plates for dinner.  If you do want to brown the skin of the chicken, you can place it on a baking tray and brown it under the broiler for a few minutes. I'm just not that bothered.

Now that you have that wonderful meat, serve it as you would with veg and side dishes.  We like ours with barbecue sauce.  With our family of 4, there is always leftover chicken.  We usually end up using it for chicken wraps for the next evening's meal, but as others suggested on the Finding the Pennies Facebook page  leftover chicken can be used in chicken and vegetable pie, chicken salad and chicken soup. I'm sure there are many, many more uses.

Ok, I'm not finished.  At the bottom of the slow cooker you're left with glorious, golden chicken stock.  Once the slow cooker has cooled (after dinner for us) I strain the juices through a sieve and put it in the fridge. As the liquid cools in the fridge, the fat left in the juices, rises and solidifies on top.  I skim this off and throw it away.  I almost feel guilty throwing away perfectly good chicken fat, but I simply don't know what I can do with it!  I'll have to ask my friend. If she has ideas for me, I'll be sure to pass them along.  I take the jelly-like chicken stock, tip it into a freezer bag, label it and stick it in the freezer for the next time I'm making soup.  I wish I had taken a picture of this step, but I forgot. Sorry :o(

I hope this has inspired you to try to slow cook a chicken. It's definitely worth doing and is something I do at least once a month.  Enjoy!

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