OK, that picture isn’t quite accurate. That’s a picture of a chicken roasted the old-fashioned way, in the oven. But people like to look at pretty pictures of food, and if I started out showing you what a chicken looks like after five hours in the slow cooker, you might stop reading.
And you shouldn’t stop reading.
In the heat of the summer, when the very idea of turning on the oven is enough to make one slightly nauseous, roasting a chicken would seem to be out of the question. But I’m here to tell you it’s not—it’s entirely possible, as long as you’re a little flexible with your definition of “roast.” The not-so-secret weapon is a humble appliance, one that I scorned until junior came along to claim every available moment: the slow cooker.
Roasting a chicken in the slow cooker is about the easiest thing you can imagine. I’m pretty sure even Harry could do it. There are only three basic steps: 1. Season the chicken. 2. Put the chicken in the slow cooker. 3. Turn on the slow cooker. For reals, it’s that simple. The kitchen won’t heat up, you don’t have to monitor it or stick it with a thermometer, and at dinnertime you’ll have a whole lotta cooked chicken to play with.
Here’s what a bird looks like when it’s done:
I’m not going to lie—slow cooker roast chicken doesn’t taste quite the same as oven-roasted. For one thing, the skin never gets crispy (a good thing, in my opinion, since I’m not tempted to sneak little bits of fatty goodness when nobody’s looking). And the chicken itself has a softer texture—it’s more akin to a braise, really, since the chicken releases considerable amounts of water and juices, which the bird then simmers in. In the winter, I’ll scatter whole shallots, small potatoes, and carrot chunks underneath, and we’ve got a one-pot meal. In warmer weather, I’ll put the chicken in the cooker early in the day, and use the cooked chicken in a quick pasta recipe or Whaddya Got Fried Rice.
Here’s a sneak peak at tomorrow’s post, which used one cooked breast:
Not bad for two minutes of prep, eh?
A note on chickens: I’m really grooving on air-chilled chickens lately. Most store-bought chickens in the U.S. are chilled in a chlorinated water bath after slaughtering — which can add 5 to 12 percent of the chicken’s weight in absorbed water. Sounds disgusting, no? In most of Europe they use cold air to chill their birds, and the technique is catching on over here. I buy a brand called Smart Chicken, and Bell & Evans also air-chills their birds. To me, these chickens are more chickeny, less slimy. And opening the package is not the leaky, disgusting, watch-out-for-your-shoes experience I used to have. Bonus: Smart Chickens come already trussed!
Slow Cooker “Roast” Chicken
Serves 4 to 6, depending on how you use it
1 4-5 pound chicken, trussed
Salt and pepper, plus seasoning of your choice (I like Penzeys Northwoods Seasoning)
Spray the slow-cooker insert with nonstick spray. Crumple up two pieces of aluminum foil and put them in the cooker—they’ll make a roasting rack of sorts. (This isn’t strictly necessary, but I like to lift the chicken just a bit out of the fat and juices.)
Season chicken all over with salt, pepper, and whatever seasoning blend you’re using. Put it on top of the foil.
Cover the cooker, and turn it to low. Cook for 4-6 hours (I usually let mine go for 5, then switch it to warm).