Cheap Recipe: Slow-Cooker Whole Chicken & Homemade Stock

29 Jan

For a printable version of this post and complete ingredients listing, click here.

slow-cooked whole chicken
This is the easiest chicken you’ll ever call homemade…

I get so tired of flipping through new cookbooks only to find that half the slow-cooker recipes in them call for already-cooked chicken or already-browned ground beef. My reason behind using my Crock Pot is so I won’t HAVE to mess with cooking a chicken or browning meat first and STILL being able to come home to something yummy hours later.

That said, I was super excited to snag a cookbook over the holidays that was called something like 150 Things to Do with a Storebought Rotisserie Chicken or something like that…that’s not the real name, but I’ll look it up and correct this later. Anyway, I leafed through the pages spotting recipe after recipe I couldn’t wait to try. However, as I looked at all the pages I’d earmarked along the way, I thought, “Dang, that’s a lot of $6.99 chicken carcasses to chisel meat off of.”

That’s when I had two other thoughts simultaneously:

1.) I hate sawing at hardened chicken carcasses with a serrated knife like Paul Bunyan just to get as much meat as I can off the bones before pitching the remnants. Not only do I always give up without getting anything close to all of the actual edible chicken separated from the carcass, it’s also a pain in the neck, takes at least ten minutes, and I’m perpetually afraid of stabbing myself on the (sometimes VERY) dry patches of chicken.

2.) $6.99 apiece. Need I say more?

Chop up some veggies to flavor your meat and broth.

With this in mind, I decided to experiment with the slow cooker, which cooks meat so tender it falls off the bone (eliminating the wasted chicken bits and also the time-consuming bone-sawing) and also can cook a whole 5-lb. chicken start-to-finish while I’m busy at work or elsewhere without messing with oven times and a meat thermometer.

Not only did this method work beautifully, with NO wasted chicken or time, but as an added bonus, I wound up with a batch of rich and lovely homemade chicken stock as a happy byproduct!

Season the veggies underneath instead of directly touching the chicken to avoid harsh pockets of flavor later.

Start out by chopping up a couple of carrots and a couple of celery stalks. Put them in the bottom of a 4-quart slow cooker.

Sprinkle the vegetables with 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon powdered thyme (optional) and salt/pepper to taste. I also shredded up some fresh parsley, just because it was going limp in the crisper and needed to be used in something before it became compost fodder.

Chef’s note: I like to sprinkle the spices over the vegetables before adding the chicken, rather than directly on the bird, for a more

One $4.50 bird will give you meat for several recipes!

well-rounded flavor later. It’s sitting in the slow cooker all day, so the flavors will circulate around the chicken without any particularly heavily-seasoned pockets of chicken flesh later. This is good because you’ll be using the leftover chicken for a variety of different things, so there’s no overwhelming spots of flavor to taint later recipes.

Remove a 5-lb. chicken (thawed) from its packaging and clean/skin only if desired. (The meat will fall apart so easily after cooking that it’s a breeze to separate everything out later when it takes less time because the poultry is no longer raw and tough.)

The chicken should touch the sides of slow cooker comortably in a few places.

Place the whole chicken directly over the vegetables in the slow cooker. It should fit snugly.

Pour 2 or 2-1/2 cups of water over the chicken and place lid on slow cooker. Heat on LOW setting for 8 hours.

A fork is all it takes to separate this carcass!

When fully cooked (temperature should read at least 165, but mine was closer to 200 degrees and had not dried out at all!), remove chicken from Crock Pot and place on platter to divide meat or serve.

Skin and gizzards will fall away without effort, as will the entire carcass. In fact, mine separated so cleanly the moment I set it on the platter that I wound up with two beautiful piles of shredded meat–all dark on the left, all white on the right–before I’d even set about checking for smaller bones. It just sort

Separate but equal. (Dark meat and white meat)

of landed that way. I didn’t even need a knife; a meat fork was all it took to remove the undesirables from the meat!

Don't forget to label and date your freezer items!

Bag up the shredded meat into 2- or 3-cup portions and seal in freezer bags for later use, minus whatever you want to serve right away. We left one of the freezer bags of white meat in the fridge rather than the freezer for my husband to make sandwiches off of for his lunches. He loved it! (Be sure to label and date the freezer bags so you can keep track of shelf life, particularly if you’re planning on stocking your freezer with two or three birds’ worth over time.)

Don't you waste that yummy stock!

To reserve the chicken stock: Once the chicken meat has been removed from the slow cooker, you can easily salvage a few cups’ worth of valuable homemade chicken stock simply by straining the juice and discarding the cooked vegetable pieces. Label the stock well before refrigerating. Once chilled, open the container of stock and skim the fat from the top before using.

Don't let those empty formula cans take up space in your garbage can without putting them to good use!

Point of interest:

If you have little ones in your household, empty formula cans make TERRIFIC receptacles for chicken bones, juicy pieces of fatty skin, and other bits of garbage you don’t want to throw straight into the trash can. The well-designed cans contain the excess juice, sharp edges, and strong odors until the bag is full so you don’t have to waste a bag by taking it out when it’s only half-full! Just fill the formula can with refuse, seal the plastic lid well over it, and place it upright in the center of the trash bag surrounded by other waste so it doesn’t fall right over. Plus, this way you’re not taking up the whole interior of the formula can with empty air space, making your trash bag dollars stretch even further! Hooray for creative recycling!

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10 Responses to “Cheap Recipe: Slow-Cooker Whole Chicken & Homemade Stock”

  1. Linda January 30, 2010 at 7:30 AM #

    Yay! You’re back!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] with 2 or 3 cups of thawed, leftover cooked chicken (see this post for great tips on scavenging chicken & stock) and a can of Chopped scallions lend some greenery to this pretty […]

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