This slow cooker whole chicken recipe makes an easy weeknight meal all in one pot. The enclosed steamy environment cooks up juicy meat and tender root vegetables for a complete dinner. Plus, I have a quick and flavorful gravy you can drizzle on top.
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Are you looking for an easy dinner consisting of protein and veggies? This slow cooker whole chicken delivers a complete meal using your trusty Crock-Pot. I add fresh herbs and seasonings on the surface and inside the bird’s cavity for maximum flavor, similar to making a roasted chicken. The hot and steamy environment ensures each piece is fork-tender and juicy.
No need to make an extra side dish! Hearty root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and onions cook along with the chicken, and, over time, they absorb the flavorful juices. You can use the drippings on the bottom of the pot to create a delicious gravy. This recipe yields rotisserie-style chicken results, but without the oven.
Make a vegetable nest
For a complete dinner, add chopped vegetables to the bottom of the slow cooker. I prefer waxy types of potatoes like red or Yukon gold as they hold their shape over a long cooking period. I also include pieces of red onion, celery, and carrots. Sprinkle in big chunks of garlic, fresh rosemary, and thyme to add delightful aromas. As the chicken cooks, the drippings will infuse into the vegetables.
I recommend a whole chicken about 4 to 5 pounds in size. Any bigger, and it will be difficult to fit inside a 6-quart slow cooker. If you have a smaller Crock-Pot, chose a lighter weight bird and check for doneness earlier. The chicken is ready when it reaches 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC) in the breast’s thickest part, and the thighs reach about 170ºF (77ºC).
Season the cavity
Placing salt and pepper inside the cavity makes the meat more savory throughout and not just on the surface. As the salt dissolves, it will migrate to other areas for seasoning. I also add aromatics like fresh thyme, rosemary, whole garlic cloves, and lemon wedges. I then tie the legs with twine to ensure the meat doesn’t cook too quickly or dry out. As you bite into each piece, you’ll notice hints of zest citrus, and herbs.
Brush on a flavorful paste
To add color and extra flavor to the chicken surface, brush on a flavorful paste. Combine melted butter or olive oil with a generous amount of paprika, salt, pepper, and freshly chopped thyme. This mix creates a bold seasoning with a red hue. Brush it on the underside of the poultry first, then flip over and evenly coat the breast-side. The warm butter added to the cool chicken creates a hardened crust that sticks to the skin.
Add liquid to the pot
Adding liquid into the Crock-Pot is not required to cook a whole chicken because the fat and juices release and generate steam. Plus, the vegetables also release moisture from their cell walls as they soften. However, after multiple tests, adding just a small amount of chicken stock better tenderizes the root vegetables.
Once hot, the liquid creates extra steam in the enclosed vessel, which more rapidly cooks the ingredients. You can also use white wine instead or add half of the liquid amount for extra flavor. The drippings will be used to make a delicious gravy.
Using the high setting, it takes about 4 to 5 hours to cook the vegetables and a 5-pound chicken. The low setting takes about 7 to 8 hours because it cycles on and off more frequently, extending the cooking time. Although no matter the setting, the vessel’s internal temperature will be between 175 to 215°F (79 to 102ºC).
The seasoned and trussed chicken is placed breast-side up on top of the vegetable nest. There is no need for flipping. The bird sits elevated on the vegetables, allowing the steam to circulate, and it prevents the meat from simmering in its own drippings.
Rest, then slice
Allow the chicken to rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing. The extra time completes any carryover cooking and allows the juices to redistribute into the meat. The result- juicy pieces. Check out my guide on how to carve a turkey for step-by-step cutting instructions -poultry is very similar, just different in size.
Remove the vegetables
The potatoes and carrots should be easily pierced with a fork when ready. The vegetables will be sitting in the wonderful chicken juices, making them very flavorful. Drain the liquid, and keep the veggies covered until ready to serve. Although, you can also broil them with the chicken to add more flavor and texture.
Make a gravy
Depending on your chicken (fresh, frozen, brined) there is typically 1 to 2 cups of liquid at the bottom of the slow cooker. These flavor drippings are full of seasonings and fat, perfect for making a delicious homemade gravy.
I like to thicken the sauce using 2 tablespoons of butter and flour for every 1 cup of liquid. It’s easy to thin it out with more chicken stock as desired. As the starches in the flour start to cool down, the gravy consistency will thicken.
Prepare this meal in advance
You can add the vegetables, aromatics, and seasoned chicken inside the slow cooker insert and place it in the refrigerator overnight. I sometimes like to meal prep the night before and just pop the insert into the heating element to cook during the day.
Just make sure to wait to add the chicken stock until right before cooking so that it doesn’t take so long to warm up. A cold insert may also slightly extend cook time to account for it needing more time to heat up. Check for doneness and add more time as needed.
Do you want crispy skin?
The only downside to cooking chicken in the slow cooker is that skin does not get crispy. If you want to go the extra mile, you can brush the surface with olive oil after cooking, then broil until crisp. The process takes about 10 minutes, depending on your oven and how crunchy you like the skin without charring the paprika crust.
What to serve this with
The slow cooker creates fall-off the bone results
Whole chickens consist of lean white meat, dark meat, and the carcass. Cooking in a steamy, moist environment for several hours allows plenty of time for any tough pieces to break down and soften completely. Held at 210ºF (99ºC) for at least an hour, the collagen in the bones and connective tissue transform into rich gelatin and tender pieces. The gelatin and bones add a lot of body and flavor into the liquid, which is why the gravy tastes so good.
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Slow Cooker Whole Chicken
- 1 pound baby red potatoes, quartered, about 1-inch pieces
- 2 cups celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 cups carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- ½ red onion, peeled and cut into 4 wedges
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed, divided
- 4 sprigs of rosemary, divided
- 6 sprigs of thyme, divided
- 5 pound whole chicken
- 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more for seasoning
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, divided, plus more for seasoning
- 2 lemon wedges, plus more for garnish
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted or olive oil
- 1 ½ teaspoons paprika, sweet or smoked
- 1 teaspoon chopped thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried
- ½ cup unsalted chicken stock, or broth
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- chicken stock, or broth, as needed
- In a 6-quart slow cooker, arrange potatoes, celery, carrots, onion, 3 garlic cloves, 3 rosemary sprigs, and 4 thyme sprigs. Place most of the vegetables towards the edges so that the chicken can be placed in the center.
- Remove the giblets and neck from the chicken. Dry the outside and inside surfaces with paper towels. Massage the cavity with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Add 1 sprig of rosemary, 2 sprigs of thyme, 1 garlic clove, and lemon wedges to the chicken's cavity.
- Tuck the wings back and tie the legs together with butcher's twine.
- In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons melted butter, 2 teaspoons salt, paprika, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Set the paste aside. If the butter hardens, microwave it in 5-seconds intervals to melt.
- Place the chicken on a sheet pan breast-side down. Brush the seasoning paste over the bottom. Flip over and brush the top of the breast, wings, and thighs. Place the chicken breast-side up on the bed of vegetables.
- Add ½ cup chicken stock to the pot. Cover and cook on the “High” setting for about 4 to 5 hours, or “Low” setting for about 7 to 8 hours, or until the breasts reach an internal temperature of 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC), and thighs reach about 170ºF (77ºC). The potatoes should be fork-tender.
- Place a large spoon in the chicken's cavity, use it to tilt, and drain the juices into the pot. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and rest for 15 minutes before carving. See notes for how to make a crispier skin (optional).
- Use a large spoon to scoop the vegetables into a platter or bowl, cover with foil to keep warm.
- Transfer chicken drippings to a measuring cup. Add additional chicken stock until the volume reaches 2 cups.
- Heat a medium-sized pan over medium heat. Melt the butter and then whisk in flour. Whisk and cook until a pale yellow roux forms, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Gradually whisk in 2 cups of chicken drippings. Turn the heat up to medium-high, continuously stir until thickened, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add more chicken stock if desired to thin the sauce, it will thicken more as it cools. Season gravy with salt and pepper.
- Once the chicken has rested, carve it into smaller pieces and slice the breast. Serve with vegetables, lemon slices, and gravy on the side.
- For Crispy Skin: Carefully transfer the chicken to a foil-lined baking tray with a wire rack on top. It helps to place a large spoon inside the cavity to lift it out of the pot. Brush the surface with olive oil and broil 10-inches away from the top of the oven until the skin browns, about 5 to 10 minutes.
- To Brown the Vegetables: Place the vegetables on a foil-lined sheet tray. Broil 10-inches away from the top of the oven until lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Make it Gluten-Free: For the gravy, substitute all-purpose flour with gluten-free flour or cassava flour. The liquid for the gravy can also be thickened with a cornstarch slurry. Combine 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with ¼ cup of cold water. Bring the 2 cups of chicken liquid/stock to a boil over medium-high heat, then slowly whisk in the slurry until thickened, about 1 minute.
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