Recipe: $12.70 | Per Serving: $1.59 | Yield: 8 servings
We're talking simple, super juicy slow cooker whole chicken with ZERO fuss. This recipe will result in perfect chicken every time.
Friends: it is finally time to share the most used recipe in my repertoire. The Simple Slow Cooker Whole Chicken. It is my favorite recipe for meal prepping and we usually make it several times a month.
There are plenty of ways to cook chicken in the slow cooker, but the basic gist is the same. Buy chicken. Place in slow cooker. Season. Turn on slow cooker. Wait.
You can change up the seasonings, of course. You can add things like butter under the skin, half a lemon in the cavity, or coat the chicken in olive oil. All of these things are lovely, but none of them are necessary for perfectly cooked slow cooker chicken. I promise.
The one little trick that I highly recommend is the broil. If you have an oven, I do recommend giving that chicken a quick broil to get crispy skin. Because what's the point of the skin if it isn't perfectly browned and crispy?
When I was in college, my roommate's mother gave us a whole frozen chicken and we had NO IDEA what to do with it. I worked at a restaurant and asked the chef what he would recommend and he launched into this incredibly complicated brining and roasting and basting method that was probably delicious but highly off-putting to 20-year-old me.
In the end, we let the chicken languish in the freezer for months and months until we finally tossed it, frostbitten and heavy, straight into the trash. This slow cooker whole chicken recipe is dedicated to all the kitchen-illiterate college kids, singletons, and home cooks: may your chickens not languish in the freezer, only to be sacrificed to the gods of frostbite.
How to Cook A Whole Chicken in the Slow Cooker
All you really need to do is get a whole chicken, season it, and cook it in the slow cooker for about 6-8 hours on low. It hardly even warrants a recipe! However, I've included step-by-step instructions in case you're new to this.
- First, remove any packaging or organs / giblets. If your chicken comes with a neck or heart, you can just cook them in the slow cooker with the whole chicken, but set them aside for now. Place the chicken in the slow cooker.
- Next, with clean hands, prepare your seasonings. I like to use about 2 teaspoons of sea salt, but all other seasonings change depending on the mood.
- You can use traditional flavors like thyme or rosemary with garlic, and black pepper, or change it up a bit with cumin, cayenne, and smoked paprika. Measure out your seasonings and combine them in a small bowl.
- Sprinkle the seasoning blend all over the chicken, flipping the chicken over with one hand to get both sides. Feel free to pull the skin away from the bird to really get the seasoning all over.
- If you don't want to touch the chicken - then don't! You can sprinkle the salt over the chicken and sprinkle a little into the base as well. It's not ideal, but it gets the job done. (Also - you can just use utensils to flip it over.)
- Optional add-ins: garlic cloves, half a lemon, dried spices and herbs, sprigs of hearty herbs like rosemary or thyme, and butter. You can squish softened butter under the skin for extra flavor, or even coat the chicken in olive oil before you add the seasonings - your choice!
- Cook the chicken. 1-2 hours on high or 4-8 hours on low.
- Optional: broil or sear the skin. I learned this trick in Japan when we had very limited kitchen appliances.
- Once the chicken is done, using a large spatula and tongs, transfer it to an oven-proof pan or skillet and broil it in the oven for a couple of minutes to make the skin nice and crispy.
- You can also sear it on a skillet. Heat up the skillet. Carefully flip the chicken so that the top skin is now on the skillet. Sear until crispy. Consider flipping it and searing both sides if your chicken can handle it!
- This works best if you cook it for 6 hours or less, otherwise it might be too fall-apart-tender.
How Long to Cook Chicken in the Slow Cooker?
On high: about 2 hours
On low: about 4-8 hours
I recommend cooking the chicken on low, but when I'm meal prepping on weeknights I will sometimes cook it on high just to have it finished and cool by the time we go to bed.
Benefits of Slow Cooker Whole Chicken
- It's delicious
- It's affordable: a whole chicken is one of the cheapest prices-per-pound you can find for meat. When I started cleaning up my animal products, whole chickens entered the rotation because you can often find a grass-fed / pastured chicken for $1.99 - $3.99 a pound.
- It's versatile: there are SO MANY ways to use rotisserie chicken, and simple slow cooker chicken is the perfect homemade stand-in.
- Free broth! Once you pull all the mean from the bones, toss the bones back in the slow cooker, cover them with water, and cook for 8-12 hours. Easy, homemade, basically free chicken broth. Who said bone broth had to be expensive?
Can you put raw chicken in the slow cooker?
Yes! The safety rule of thumb is that you want the meat to come up to 140ºF within four hours.
I do NOT recommend putting a frozen whole chicken in the slow cooker because the center will not reach the appropriate temperature in the required time, but a thawed or fresh whole chicken is safe to cook in the slow cooker.
How much meat do you get from a whole chicken?
I measured my most recent slow cooker whole chicken before cooking and after. It was 4.25 pounds from the store, and the chicken, once removed from the bone, weighted in at 2.4 pounds.
- For each pound of whole chicken, you will get approximately 9 ounces of meat (56.5%).
I cooked this particular chicken on low for 9.5 hours, so it did lose quite a lot of water, but I think this formula still applies.
But, don't forget - you can also get a 1-2 quarts of bone broth from each 4-pound chicken carcass!
How to Season a Whole Chicken:
As mentioned, you can make this as simple - sea salt and black pepper - or as exotic as you'd like! I love to spice things up occasionally with a mix of smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and oregano, as shown below.
Be aware that you can absolutely season the whole chicken - inside the carcass, under the skin, the entire outside of the skin - but you don't have to. There have been many busy mornings when I've just dumped the chicken into the slow cooker and sprinkled the whole cooker with sea salt and black pepper.
If you season the meat directly, you'll get more even flavors and juicier meat, but it's certainly not a dealbreaker.
Shredded Chicken Recipes
Coming up: a round up of some of my favorite leftover shredded chicken recipes! In the meantime, you can pin this page for later!
Simple Slow Cooker Whole Chicken
- 1 whole chicken about 4-6 pounds
- 2 teaspoons sea salt Celtic, Himalayan, etc.
- black pepper
- smoked paprika
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- softened butter or ghee to rub on the meat underneath the skin
- lemon juice
- First, with clean hands, prepare your seasonings. I like to use about 2 teaspoons of sea salt, but all other seasonings change depending on my mood. You can use traditional flavors like thyme or rosemary with garlic, and black pepper, or change it up a bit with cumin, cayenne, and smoked paprika. Measure out your seasonings and combine them in a small bowl.
- Next, remove any packaging or organs / giblets. If your chicken comes with a neck or heart, you can just cook them in the slow cooker with the whole chicken, but set them aside for now. Place the chicken in the slow cooker.
- Sprinkle the seasoning blend all over the chicken, flipping the chicken over with one hand to get both sides. Feel free to pull the skin away from the bird to rub the seasoning underneath. Place it breast-side up in the slow cooker and nestle any organs or giblets around the sides.
- Cook the chicken for about 1-2 hours on high or 4-8 hours on low. At a minimum, the chicken should be cooked to 165ºF. If you cook it too long, it might get a bit dry or tough, but I've cooked mine as long as 10 hours! If it gets dry, simply remove the chicken from the bones and store it with the juices that remain in the slow cooker - it will "rehydrate" so to speak.
- Optional: broil the skin. Once the chicken is done, using a large spatula and tongs, transfer it to an oven-proof pan or skillet and broil it in the oven for a couple of minutes to make the skin nice and crispy.
- You can also sear it on a skillet. Heat up the skillet. Carefully flip the chicken so that the top skin is now on the skillet (this usually works best if it cooks for less than 6 hours, otherwise it might be falling apart too much). Sear until crispy. Consider flipping it and searing both sides if your chicken can handle it!
- Eat! See additional links above for other great recipes using your leftover shredded chicken!