How to Cook a Chicken in the Slow Cooker

In my neck of the woods, whole chickens go as low as $0.57/pound. Yes, really. There’s generally a limit of three, but yes, the price is that low. In southern California. Who knew?

I buy the limit and stash them in the freezer. Then when it’s time to cook a chicken, I do it by the easiest means possible: the slow cooker.

Cooking a whole bird in the slow cooker is one of the easiest and tastiest ways to prepare a whole bird. It’s not hard. The meat is tender and juicy. And you do very little work.

Ready to learn? Here we go.

1. Thaw the chicken completely.

Typically whole birds are stored pretty cold, so even the ones I buy from the store are often partially frozen when I bring them home. Store it in the fridge in a dish to catch drips while it thaws.

2. Rinse the bird and remove the giblets.

Using cool running water, rinse the chicken and remove the neck and giblets. Sometimes they are packed in a bag, sometimes not. You can use these for cooking or discard. Your choice. (I ditch them usually.) Pat the bird dry.

3. Season the chicken.

Once you’ve rinsed the bird and patted it dry, place it in your slow cooker. Rub on some butter or oil and then season it. You can use any spice blend you like as well as plain old salt and pepper. Sometimes I give it a heavy sprinkling of dried onion flakes as well as salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Consider thyme, herbes de provence, rosemary, oregano, basil, or sage to add to your seasoning.

4. Cover and cook.

Place the cover on the slow cooker and turn it on to high for 4 hours or low for 6 to 8 hours. You do not need to add any liquid. Chickens today typically have some solution added, so they rarely need added liquid. At the end of the cooking time, the meat will be tender, practically falling off the bone. This is ideal for shredding or simply carve and serve.

I typically serve sliced chicken and chicken pieces one night and then have enough leftover for soup or chicken pot pie the next night. I use the bones and drippings to make broth in the same slow cooker as soon as I’ve finished carving the chicken.

If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can roast your chicken this way.

How do you like to cook chicken?

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Comments

  1. Don’t worry if you don’t have enough time to completely thaw the bird. It will taste just as good if it’s frozen (or partially frozen). I only thaw the bird just enough to remove the neck and giblets. I season the bird the same (maybe put in a sliced orange) and it cooks just fine.

  2. Deborah Jennings says:

    I put my whole chicken in and cover it with barbecue sauce and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours. It is so good! I serve this with potato salad and some kind of beans. Baked beans, Chili beans, Pintos or whatever kind your family prefers. We all love it!

  3. Ginger Riggins says:

    I actually did both (cooked and made broth)at the same time last week. I put my chicken in the crock-pot with a can of Rotel and a can of green enchilada sauce. Seasoned with a little salt and pepper and filled the crock to the top with water. Let it cook all day (6-8 hrs) and what a great flavor it had. I deboned and cut up the chicken for use later on. I also had a pot full of wonderfully flavored chicken broth that I will use for chicken enchiladas later this week!

    • Julie Jones says:

      @Ginger Riggins,
      Can you share the enchilada recipe you would use the broth for???

      • Ginger Riggins says:

        @Julie Jones,
        I usually boil my chicken for 1.5 hrs. De-bone it and put it aside. I reserve the broth to add later as well.
        Here is the main recipe:
        Chicken (from above or from crock pot recipe)
        1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
        1 can Cream of Chicken soup
        1 can chopped green chilis
        8 oz. sour cream
        1-2 cups of chicken broth (also from above)
        1 dozen corn tortillas
        2-4 cups grated cheese (colby jack, sharp, your preference)

        Combine the first 5 ingredients in a dutch oven. Slowly add the chicken broth to the desired consistency. I like my enchiladas to have a little sauce to them. Bring to a boil. Use a 13×9 in pan and coat the bottom with a little sauce. Use the corn tortillas to cover the bottom. (I usually use 2 whole and then half 1 or 2 to cover the bottom) Add the chicken mixture over the tortillas and cover with cheese. Repeat layers until all sauce is used. I get about 3 layers. Cook at 350 for about 20 mins or until bubbly.
        **I sometimes will use a can of green enchilada sauce to jazz the flavor. I usually just layer this dish but you could roll each tortilla with the sauce and make it that way as well. You can add or take away any ingredient to make it your own. I have even used left over beans/refried beans to add to the layers as well. Just try it several ways until you get it just right. I hardly ever make the same dish twice! :-)

  4. I season mine with season salt inside and out and then put balls of aluminum foil under it to keep it up out of the juices in the bottom of the slow cooker. It turns out just like rotisserie chicken from the grocery store (other than Costco’s, they are never big enough to feed our family)

  5. You can do the same thing with a turkey breast and will end up with the BEST moistest turkey for sandwiches. I add a stick of butter along with the seasoned turkey and then make fantastic gravy with the drippings.

  6. What a timely post. I just took a chicken out of the freezer yesterday to cook tomorrow! I was going to crock it, but I’ve always added water. I can’t wait to try it without the added liquid.

  7. We never have chickens that low – I think the lowest is .89cents per pound. There is such a back and forth(ness) about whether or not to rinse a chicken. I am still of the mindset that one should, and then I have the excuse to scrub up the sink and surrounding area REALLY well.

    I have never coated my chicken with butter/or oil in the crockpot — what looks GOOD, I’ll do that next time.

    New(ish) reader – love your site. TY

  8. I like to rub mine with oil and seasoning salt. I put it upside down on top of canning jar rings in the crock pot with no water. Cook on high for 4 hours and it is falling apart, tender and so juicy!

  9. I put a whole chopped onion in the bottom of the slow cooker. I don’t understand why you’d use oil…you really don’t need it and most of you probably take the skin off anyway. The slow cooker does it all by itself. Nice, juicy, moist..delicious! Just my personal opinion of course.

  10. wow, what a great post, and really helpful comments. We dont eat a lot of chicken, because my husband really likes white meat and i can’t seem to roast chicken breasts – bone in or not – without them coming out dry. but just putting it in the crockpot sounds great! I love rotisserie chicken, and lately have found that the various stores all seem to be using some seasoning that I can’t stand! so they are out as a dinner option. but this will bring them back . so glad I read this!

  11. I did this today, in fact. I do pretty much all of the things you mentioned with the chicken, except the next day I usually make burritos, taco casserole, pasta, or something that requires bite-sized chicken. Thanks to your freezer cooking info, I froze the last leftovers so I’d have chicken ready to go in a pinch someday. Today I just put the chicken in and poured some teriyaki sauce I’ve had sitting in my cabinet for a long time (almost out of date, but still good) over it for the first time. We’ll see how it comes out.

  12. My family absolutely loves whole roasted chickens, but we don’t ever see them at THAT great of a price where we are in So Cali. Would you mind sharing the name of the store that you find such great deals at? We normally end up settling for a Costco rotisserie bird, just because it’s cheaper than buying a whole bird for 12.00 or 14.00 dollars and then roasting ourselves. I’d really rather do it myself so I know exactly what my family is eating.

  13. Thanks, I’ll start keeping an eye on their ads! :)

  14. I love to do a whole chicken in the crock pot. It’s on our menu for tomorrow night. I like to put olive oil on the chicken, then use Emeril’s creole seasoning. (I got the link to that recipe here on your site.) It makes the chicken have more of a “roasted” look.

    • I love Emeril’s spice blends. I’ll have to try the creole on a whole chicken. Quarter a lemon and an onion. Stuff the cavity with both and it adds so much flavor to the chicken.

  15. I do this all the time! In fact, I usually do 2 birds in the crock at the same time. One for dinner, one to shred for tacos/enchiladas later. One thing I for the life of me can’t understand is how you hav e leftovers?!?! We are a family of 3: me 5’2″ 110lbs, hubs 6′ 170 lbs and a five-year old girl 32lbs. We usually only have enough chicken left over from o e bird for “1″ of us to have lunch the next day! And that’s with at least 2 side dishes!

    • Rob Dobbs says:

      @Michelle, If you want more leftover chicken, increase the number of side dishes beyond your normal 2, such as serving potatoes and bread or stuffing, 2 different raw or cooked vegetable sides, and fruit.

  16. Where are you getting chickens at that price, I must know! I’m in L.A. Also have been loving the pantry challenge. I haven’t been quite as organized as you in planning but I’ve still made quite a dent and saved money.

  17. Hey Jessica :) Does the skin come out all white and yucky when you cook a bird in the crock pot or does it brown like in the oven? I’m not a skin eater but the thought if white yucky skin has been enough to keep me from attempting this in the past… Thanks!

    • I would describe it as somewhere in between. I wouldn’t call it browned, but it’s not white either. But, definitely NOT crisp. It’s not gross, though. imo

  18. I don’t usually find conventional chickens that low in IN- maybe .89/lb. I’ve been trying to move to organic (or at least hormone/antibiotic-free) for the past few years and have found that buying whole chickens is the only way we can afford to. When I find the organic chickens on sale at $1.50/lb, I try to buy 3-5 and freeze them.
    I “roast” a chicken in the crockpot 1-2x/mo and dice/shred the leftovers for other meals. We had a chicken for supper Thursday night and the broth made over night is now simmering with black beans for soup. There are a few good flavor options at http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/

  19. I’m going to try this! I bought a couple whole chickens real cheap and didn’t know how to cook them. This looks perfect!

  20. sounds like a great way to make a whole chicken!

  21. I cannot wait to try this! Thanks for a great idea. This sounds perfect for my big family!

    • If it wasn’t for chicken my large family would have starved. We use to take chicken and bake it and then take left over pick off bones and make chicken salad sandwiches or chicken nachos you have to be creative we didn’t have the benefit of the Internet then

  22. Deborah says:

    Finally tried this yesterday. How simple! Much easier than roasting the chicken in the oven, simpler cleanup. Need to play around with the cooking time, as 7 hours on low was too long for this bird in my crockpot, but the chicken was nonetheless a hit at our house! Thanks!

  23. Yes, and keep the broth going. I throw the bones back in with seasonings and vegetable peels, etc. Take out what you need; then, add more water. Another blogger calls this perpetual broth. Usually lasts for about a week. Then, I start the process over again.

    Last night I made Chicken and Dumpings. Not sure what we’ll make tonight, but the house smells delicious with the broth simmering.

  24. I like the recipe with the mason jartop in the bottom of the crock and the chicken placed on top. I think I’ll try that one. Got some good ideas from this site.

  25. Can you cook just a whole chicken breast this way and not the whole chicken? And if so, do you need to add broth?

    • I often fill the crock with chicken breasts to cook them. It’s so easy and the meat stays super moist. I never add liquid. Unless you’re buying organic or kosher, you won’t need liquid. Conventional chicken has solutions added that make up for the liquid.

  26. I would like to try the chicken in the crock pot. What size crock pot would I need. Thank’s for your help.

  27. Christine says:

    Just wondering about the liquid when you are done cooking the chicken. I usually use the leftover chicken, bones, etc. with veggies to make broth the next day. Do you ever use the first liquid you get from cooking the chicken as broth? It looks good – wondering if it would make good soup all on its own.

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