First and foremost, let me climb up on my soapbox and rave about how much I love my Crockpots. Yes, the word Crockpot was plural because we own three. Our largest is a 5 quart I believe, the smaller is a 3 qt. and we also have an individual sized one. If you don’t own a slow cooker (doesn’t have to be Crockpot brand), I highly recommend investing in one or asking for it as a gift in the future. There are all kinds of models out there, ranging from a dial you simply turn to high, medium, or low, ones with preset hours you can choose from (I.e. high for 4 hours or low for 10) and now a days they even have ones that you can control via Wi-Fi from your phone. Now, I do think the Wi-Fi is a bit much (do people actually use this?) but I do really appreciate the feature of set times on our larger one. The beauty of this is that I can set it for say “8 hours on low” before I leave for work, it cooks for the full 8 hours, and then automatically switches to the “warm” setting. The warm setting keeps the food at a hot enough temperature that it is safe to eat, but doesn’t allow the food to become over cooked. I call that a win-win. But really, slow cookers can save you so much time (they virtually do all the work for you), had endless possible uses, are relatively affordable (and often very easy to find at thrift stores in perfect condition for dirt cheap), use very little energy, and in recipes like this, save you lots of money while yielding lots of food! Can you say win-win-win-win-win?! **And Update: I have since added the Instant Pot to my life and oh.em.gee. All the same benefits to love as the Crockpot, but also the ability to cook this ridiculously fast (from frozen chicken to table in 30 minutes?!) Get you one.**
When I first ventured into the world of cooking whole chickens, I started using this recipe from Lisa Leake’s 100 Days of Real Food Cookbook. Without her influence, I’m not sure I would’ve fallen in love with how fantastic whole chickens are, so thank you Lisa! Since then I have made a few adjustments to her recommended spice blend, and this is how I make mine now. I have included the cook times for making a whole chicken in the Crockpot or Instant Pot, and I also use this spice blend (minus the onion) when seasoning chicken for the smoker or to be roasted in the oven as well. One thing I want to not right of the bat – DO NOT THROW OUT THE BONES! Below I explain exactly why you should use them to stretch your food dollars and increase your flavors by making my Better Bone Broth. Both the chicken and the broth are Whole30 complaint as well!
Easy Peasy Whole Chicken
- 1 whole chicken (approx. 3-4 pounds)
- 1 yellow or white onion
- 3 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. dried parsley
- 1/4 tsp. chipotle powder
Combine all the spices/herbs in a small bowl, mix and set aside.
Cut the onion into quarters, and place the pieces in the bottom of the slow cooker. If using the Instant Pot, I recommend using the trivet and placing the onion pieces on top it.
Remove any giblets from the chicken, and rub the spice mixture over the entire bird.
Place the chicken on top of the pieces of onion and place the lid on. There is no need for any liquid to be added.
For Crockpot/Slow Cooking, cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 7, until the chicken is tender enough to nearly fall off the bone.
For Instant Pot Cooking, set for 25 minutes on Manual, and allow pressure to release naturally. ***When cooking in the Instant Pot, add 1 c. of water to the bottom of the pot. This is to help it come to pressure, and is not necessary for the Crockpot preparation.***
**Don't forget to save your bones for making my Better Bone Broth recipe!
So when I talk about getting some serious bang for your buck, this is a recipe that does just that. We buy whole organic chickens at Costco for $2.99 per pound. So this bird costs me about $12 (given that it’s approximately 4 pounds). The organic onion costs about $0.50 and I’ll tack in another $0.50 for spices. So I have $13 invested in this recipe, give or take the weight of the actual chicken. What we do is cook the bird while we are at work, out running errands, etc. and then enjoy the legs when it finishes cooking with a couple of side dishes. Then I pull each breast off the bone, pair it with another side dish or two, and there are our lunches for the next day. At this point, there is still a lot of meat left. So I shred all the remaining meat and put it into a Pyrex for meals the rest of the week or to freeze. After eating both the legs and reserving the breasts for the next day’s lunches, we still get about 4 cups of shredded chicken, which will help us build at least 3 additional meals for each of us. Now, that right there is a decent amount of yield for such minimal effort. We use this shredded meat in things like Super Simple Solo Soup, to top a salad, as an entrée with veggies, in Chicken Noodle or Chicken Tortilla Soup, Chicken Enchiladas, Quesadillas, Pastas… lots of possibilities.
But, where we really see significant savings is by using the bones and cooking liquid to make Better Bone Broth. I’ll use this later for drinking, in soups, rice, or quinoa, and more. Considering that a 4 cup carton of organic chicken stock costs $3.99 at the store, I basically used my $13 investment to pay for 3 cartons of chicken stock, and got one carton, plus ALL the meat for our meals for free. And this is when I realized I will never buy chicken stock again. *Steps off of soapbox*