In this day of pre-packaged convenience foods, it’s no wonder that folks often ask us why on earth they would choose to purchase a whole bird rather than individual pieces. Obviously there are recipes that call for specific cuts of meat and do not lend themselves well to substitutions.
For my busy family, cooking a whole chicken (or two) once a week feeds us several times, which is a huge time-saver for me. From quick quesadillas to chicken salad, to soups made with homemade bone broth (more on that soon!) to chilled shredded chicken and homemade hummus on warm summer nights, the recipes I can make with pre-cooked chicken are seemingly endless.
Of course, flavorful whole roasters with seasoned, crispy skin are still served on my table from time to time. But when it comes to cooking chicken, my crock pot has all but taken the place of my oven, and the results are wonderful. And if you are eating whole foods on a budget, whole chickens cost less per pound than those conveniently cut chicken parts! Bonus!
Before I reveal my incredibly easy, super quick technique for preparing whole chicken for the crock pot, I would first like to suggest that you keep a zip top plastic bag in your freezer in which to collect vegetable scraps. Whenever I cut carrot and celery sticks for my children or cut onions and garlic for dinner, I set aside the tops, peels, papers, and other various scraps and toss them into the freezer bag to be used in bone broth at a later date.
Stockpiling these scraps will save you time in the kitchen later, and hey! Every minute counts these days! We will come back to these scraps when I share with you a favorite homemade broth recipe of mine. It’s so good that I haven’t purchased canned or boxed broth in years!
Now onto the recipe for incredibly flavorful, moist and tender chicken…
1 whole free-range French Family Farm chicken, defrosted if previously frozen
2-3 whole organic carrots, washed and cut into chunks
3-4 organic celery stalks, washed and cut into chunks
1 large organic onion, cut into chunks
1 whole head organic garlic, intact
1/2 organic lemon, washed (optional)
Various fresh or dried herbs, if desired (ie: parsley, oregano, rosemary)
Scatter the carrots, celery, and most of the onion around the bottom of the crock pot. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables and stuff the cavity with the remaining onion, head of garlic, and lemon if using. Season the outside of the chicken with salt and pepper and top with herbs. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 5 hours.
Once the cooking time is up, remove the chicken carefully (it will be so tender that it may begin to fall apart), place it in a baking dish deep enough to catch the juices, and set it aside to cool slightly. There will be a good amount of juices in the bottom of the crock pot. Keep it all, including the softened carrots, celery, and onions, for making broth at a later time. Simply allow it to cool, and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, pick the carcass clean and portion out the meat for meals later in the week. Or the whole chicken may be allowed to cool to a safe temperature and refrigerated for up to a week. Once the meat has been picked, discard the lemon if you added it and freeze all of the bones, garlic, and onions.
That’s it! Now your refrigerator is stocked with tender chicken that can be used to make a variety of recipes. Stay tuned for the bone broth recipe!
Please note: It is not recommended that you cook frozen whole chicken in the crock pot as it may take too long for the meat to reach the recommended temperature of 165 degrees.