Monday, February 20, 2012

The best whole chicken (and chicken stock), made in a crock pot.

I'm very excited to share this super easy method of cooking a chicken with you!
Back story: Several years ago, I tried making an entire chicken in a crockpot, and it was a total flop! I was not impressed with the 'overcooked chicken in a crockpot' flavor, rubbery texture, and watery mess I had before me, and vowed I would not attempt that one again. I'm not sure what I did, but I must have just cooked it way too long while I was away at work all day and maybe used a not so good recipe (not to mention I was still new to cooking and hadn't even used a crock pot very many times, so who knows what went wrong!). But ever since then, I've steered clear of cooking basically any kind of chicken in a crockpot because I just do not like how it tastes when it's been cooked for way too long.

Then, a few weeks ago, I cooked a whole chicken in the oven. For some reason, it took forever. Maybe it wasn't completely thawed, maybe it was just because it was a big bird...I don't know. The past few times I've roasted a chicken, they've turned out great in the right amount of time, but by the time this one was finished and the thermometer was finally reading the correct temperature in the thickest part of the thigh, it was getting late, and everyone was hungry. I texted my friend to whom I had mentioned what I was cooking for dinner, and told her to remind me not to bake a whole chicken again because it can seem like a lot of work when this sort of thing happens.

And then, a week later, I received a coupon for a free whole chicken at Earth Fare. Oh, the irony! Not wanting a repeat of the previous Monday, I decided to try a recipe I found for cooking a whole chicken in a crockpot on 100 days of real food, which claimed that it was wonderfully delicious and super easy. So, I decided I would attempt cooking a whole chicken in a crock pot again because all of her recipes look  good, and it did sound really simple. I read the comments, and everyone agreed that it is a delicious recipe.

The verdict: I am so glad I tried this! This was extremely easy, and it turned out great. The chicken was falling off the bone, tender, and delicious. It wasn't at all rubbery or overcooked. I served the chicken as the main course of our dinner, but this would also be a wonderful way to cook a chicken to have the meat for a soup, casserole, or other dish.

I went exactly by the directions of the original recipe. My only question was about how long to cook it, because after I placed the chicken in the pot, I realized I had a really big bird-4.75 lbs-and wasn't sure it would be done in 4 hours. I read on one of the comments to cook it an hour for pound, so I cooked it on high for 4 1/2 hours, and it was just right. Like I said, the meat was just falling off the bone but not overcooked.

If you read through her recipe, you'll notice she also talks about using the leftover bones and liquid for chicken broth. I did this, too. All I did was take out the rest of the meat that I could salvage and saved it for making some chicken salad, and then I added some vegetables, extra spices, more water, and let it simmer on low all night long. When I woke up the next morning, I had rich chicken broth waiting for me. I strained it, divided it into batches, let it cool in the fridge, and then froze it. And it was delicious in the potato soup I made last week.

I would definitely recommend making a chicken this way! It's easy, foolproof, delicious, and economical. This will certainly be a way I make a whole chicken and chicken broth in the future.

I'm sorry I do not have a picture but it was dark and would not have been pretty, but I promise it is worth trying! Go to the original recipe if you want a picture! There are also some helpful comments there.

Chicken in a crockpot
Original recipe here from 100 days of real food
I N G R E D I E N T S :
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne (red) pepper (I just used a pinch)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 onion
1 large chicken

D I R E C T I O N S :
Combine the dried spices in a small bowl
Loosely chop the onion and place it in the bottom of the slow cooker
Remove any giblets from the chicken and then rub the spice mixture all over. You can even put some of the spices inside the cavity and under the skin covering the breasts
Put prepared chicken on top of the onions in the slow cooker, cover it, and turn it on to high. There is no need to add any liquid
Cook for 4 – 5 hours (for a 3 or 4 pound chicken) or until the chicken is falling off the bone. 
Don’t forget to make your homemade stock! Homemade stock is very healthy and a wonderful alternative to the store-bought version!

For the stock:
Amounts of each ingredient can vary, depending on what all you have on hand. I figure that the more vegetables you use, the better the flavor will be. And I sprinkled very generous amounts of the herbs and spices and my broth was still very mild tasting. 

I N G R E D I E N T S :
1 large onion, chopped
A few stalks celery, chopped
A few carrots, chopped
A few cloves garlic, chopped
a couple of bay leaves
onion powder
garlic powder
salt
pepper
dried parsley
dried thyme

D I R E C T I O N S :
Remove all meat from crockpot, leaving the parts of the carcass.
Add onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and bay leaves.
Fill pot with water.
Sprinkle generous amounts of remaining ingredients. 
Set crock pot to low for 10-12 hours (I did this overnight).
The next morning, remove carcass parts and vegetables.
Run all of the stock through a mesh strainer. I did this three times to get all of the bits and pieces out.
Divide stock into amounts you want to freeze in ziploc freezer bags or containers. I did a couple of 1-2 cup portions and a few 4 cup portions.
Let divided portions cool in the fridge. 
Label and freeze.

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