Whole chicken in a slow cooker

When cooking a whole chicken in a slow cooker, which side should go up?



sd2003 August 28, 2012
I love to slow cook a whole chicken. As long as you don't over cook it comes out juicy tender and full of flavor. I always do breast side up. If you wanna add a little extra broil it in the oven about ten minutes after slow cooking. It gets the skin a little crispy and adds beautiful color.
ChefOno May 3, 2012

Dinner is served!


Okay, that's it going into the oven and it's not in a Crock-Pot ® but it is or soon will be a braised chicken. Yum!!!

pierino May 3, 2012
Love that photo chef, and that ain't no slow cooker you got there.
ChefOno April 30, 2012

Cutting the chicken into pieces won't reduce its mass / thermal load on the cooker but it could turn the operation from a braise into a stew (which of course is fine if that's what you're aiming for).

I absolutely agree with Sam and others, "hours upon hours" is counter to a properly braised bird. Once the liquid is at a simmer, it shouldn't take more than two hours to be properly-cooked / juicy, tender yet firm / 160F / safe.

Perhaps the problem is attempting to cook by time rather than temperature? Dry and stringy would seem to indicate somewhere closer to 200F.

Slow C. April 30, 2012
@ChefOno, perhaps Sam1148 was more clear than I was. By the time you have cooked a chicken long enough in a slow cooker to ensure it is safe to eat the whole thing will be a mess (with the exception of an old bird, again as noted by Sam1148--but these can be very difficult to get your hands on and are a treasure and should probably be given better treatment than a crockpot anyway!). My suggestion to cut the chicken was just an idea for achieving more control over cook time and the end result.
Sam1148 April 30, 2012
I've always found that chicken cooked in a slow cooker for hours upon hours. Turns out very dry, stringy and tasteless. (we are talking crock pot here no?).

There are always exceptions to this, especially if you're using an tough old fat cock which can take a long slow cooking instead of a pump chicken. (okay no puns there).

ChefOno April 30, 2012

I'm not following the logic here. As long as the chicken eventually gets to the pasteurization point, where's the problem?

Slow C. April 30, 2012
The problem with a whole chicken in a slow cooker is not that it falls apart--the problem is that because the heat is not controlled, it takes too long for a whole bone-in chicken to get to an appropriate temperature to make it food safe. Read your slow cooker book, they are not recommended for large pieces of meat, especially one with bones. A slow cooker is NOT the same as cooking in an oven (or even stove top). Therefore, in order to get your chicken to a place where it is safe to eat then you must cook it long enough for it to fall apart AND be hot enough to kill salmonella. I'm not even a huge fan of food safety recommendations, but some things are too important to ignore. I highly recommend that you cut your chicken into pieces (or buy it pre-cut), you will have much more control in your slow cooker and you can then choose to either eat it while it still clings to the bone or leave it long enough to fall apart.
lloreen April 29, 2012
The chicken does fall apart, but I think it is delicious that way and it makes it easy to separate the meat from the carcass for chicken stock! I make this recipe for lemon garlic chicken: http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-slowcooker-lemon-garlic-47100. Once you take out the chicken, reduce the sauce because that stuff is liquid gold and can be added to any dish for a punch of flavor.
Oh, and breast side is up so it doesn't over-cook.
ChefOno April 29, 2012

What you guys are describing are timing mistakes, not an issue with technique or the device. One of my all-time favorite dishes is Poule au Pot -- braised whole chicken, a classic, and one of the best chicken dishes you'll ever eat (and coincidently, tonight's dinner).

ChefOno April 29, 2012

Just cook to 160-165F like any chicken.

pierino April 29, 2012
I'm sure that ChefOno's Poulet au Pot is delicious, I certainly wouldn't question that. Olney has a fine recipe in "Simple French Cooking". But the classic ought to be cooked in a Dutch or French oven. And the unspoken thought here is that the chicken really should be trussed to protect against the fall apartedness. That takes a little skill.
ChefOno April 29, 2012

I don't disagree, Pierino, a slow cooker is not the best tool for the job. But there are some now that have removable inserts allowing you to brown the meat on the cooktop so you don't have to dirty two pots or -- heaven forbid -- skip that important step. And the oven gives you better temperature control than "low" and "high" which likely is the source of -- how did you put it? -- risk of having the whole thing fall apart. Set it to low and go off to work and the bird might well carve itself in your absence. A two hour braise to 160F is a completely different story, that's really all I'm saying.

inpatskitchen April 29, 2012
I too agree with pierino, ATL and wssmom...but that lush fall apart meat could be wonderful in fricasse or stew!
wssmom April 29, 2012
Agree with pierino and ATL; a whole chicken in a slow cooker just falls apart, thus obviating the point of making a whole chicken.
ATL April 29, 2012
I agree with pierino. I've tried a whole chicken in a slow cooker more than once to disastrous results--a floppy, stewed chicken that completely falls apart.
pierino April 29, 2012
Slow cookers aren't the best appliance for a whole chicken. You run the risk of having the whole thing fall apart. It's not like you are braising a single piece of muscle.
ChefOno April 29, 2012

I've never thought about it but I'd argue for breast side up. Heat transfer via liquid is considerably more efficient than through air so there could be some uneven cooking of the breasts in the other orientation. I'd rather have the thighs sitting in the braising liquid. It also makes for a better presentation and easier transfer to the carving board.

sexyLAMBCHOPx April 29, 2012
IMHO, breast side up.
Recommended by Food52