Your local grocer may be a very helpful place, especially on those days when you dash in after work to grab a rotisserie chicken to rescue your dinner. But you may be giving them too much credit. You can make a whole, 4 1/2-pound chicken right in your slow cooker, replicating the tenderness of a rotisserie chicken that supplies ample portions of white meat and dark meat. You can even toss some veggies in with your bird and come home to a stew. Slow cooking allows chicken to baste in its own juices and produces an evenly cooked and succulent outcome -- qualities that may shift your focus from your grocer's rotisserie section to its fresh chicken section.
Things You'll Need
Chicken broth or white wine (optional)
Whole or diced tomatoes and some root vegetables (optional)
Lemon slices and garlic cloves (optional)
Olive oil or butter
Herbs and spices
Parmesan cheese (optional)
Parsley flakes (optional)
Ensure that your Crock-Pot is large enough to accommodate a 4 ½-pound bird. Slow cookers are sized by the quart and can successfully cook one pound of meat or poultry for every quart. So while a 4 ½-pound chicken will fit in a 5- or 6-quart Crock-Pot, you might need a 7- or 8-quart Crock-Pot if you wish to add vegetables, too.
Add between ½ and 1 cup of water, chicken broth or a little white wine before you cook your plump bird. Resist the urge to submerge the bird in liquid, as this cooking method allows the chicken to baste in its natural juices. To make a stew with the chicken, however, add more liquid, as well as whole or diced tomatoes or tomato sauce, if desired.
Rinse the chicken thoroughly and remove the giblets. Stuff the cavity with lemon slices and garlic cloves, if you wish, to infuse the inside with flavor.
Coat the chicken with olive oil or butter. Sprinkle the chicken with your preferred seasoning mixture -- perhaps a blend of salt, pepper, onion powder and paprika --but only use half of your intended herbs and spices. Add the other half toward the end of the cooking time. The flavoring of the herbs will dissipate the longer they cook. Always taste and make any seasoning adjustments to your Crock-Pot meals during the last 15 to 30 minutes.
Set the Crock-Pot to "low" and place the chicken inside. Arrange some aromatics like chopped onion and celery around the chicken, if desired. To make a stew, add some of your favorite root vegetables. Cook the chicken for 8 hours, but don't feel as though you must punch a clock; the chicken will simply become more tender if you cook it for 9 or even 10 hours since it is cooking on a low temperature (about 200 degrees Fahrenheit) in its own juices.
Check the internal temperature of your whole chicken. It should hit 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the chicken from the slow cooker and slice it, separating the thighs and drumsticks (the dark meat) from the breasts (the white meat). If you're making a stew, put the cut meat back into the Crock-Pot and stir the ingredients, or leave intact for a more rustic feel. Add some fresh or grated Parmesan cheese, if you wish, and some dried parsley flakes on top.
Save the stock created by the slow-cooking chicken. Store it in the refrigerator and use it in soups and other dishes.