09 February 2016

The easiest way to cook a whole chicken, plus broth!

I am a soup lover. My husband always claims not to like soup, but that's not really true. (What he doesn't like is plain broth. Can't really blame him there!) My toddler loves soup as much as I do, and in fact that's our primary vegetable-delivery system for her.

So once or twice a week I make a big pot of soup. Currently we're alternating between chicken noodle and sausage with orzo (recipe in a later post!), because they're jam-packed with veggies and they're light for our lifestyle change. I love, love a good cream of potato, but that isn't as diet-friendly so I haven't been making it. And soup is also great for Lent!

I also feel like I'm single-handedly keeping Swanson in business buying boxes of chicken broth. I never had boxed or canned broth in my life before the last couple of years, because my mom always, always made her own. I have done it a few times, but until recently we've been severely restricted in our storage capacity, living with a series of apartment-sized freezers, so it was easier to buy boxed broth when I needed it. But now we're in a bigger house with a bigger freezer, plus we have a chest freezer in the garage for overflow storage. It's amazing.

I made broth recently but wasn't happy with the way it came out -- I think my water-to-chicken-carcass ratio was off. But then I saw a couple of tutorials for cooking a whole chicken in the crock pot and then turning the bones into broth... And THEN I saw that Perdue Oven Stuffer roasters were on sale at my grocery store.

It. Was. Time. At this very moment, my rich bone stock is cooling in God's refrigerator (a.k.a. my back deck). When it's cool, I'll skim the fat and then portion and freeze it for next week's soup!

And here's how you can do it yourself!

1. Roughly chop vegetables and put them in the base of the slow cooker. I used a large onion, three carrots and the core of a bunch of celery. You could also use balls of aluminum foil if you don't want to use or don't have the veggies -- the point is to elevate the chicken so it's not sitting in its juices the whole time it's cooking.

2. Remove any innards from the cavity of the chicken (save these!), then rinse the chicken and pat it dry with paper towels. Season the skin however you wish -- I used salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and paprika, massaging it in.

3. Nestle the chicken in the slow cooker. I happened to have fresh rosemary so I threw some on top for extra deliciousness. My large chicken (nearly 10 lbs!) overwhelmed my large Crock-Pot, by which I mean the lid didn't close all the way. It worked out anyway so don't panic if it happens to you.

Then I turned the slow cooker on low and set the timer for 9 hours.

This is what mine looked like after about seven hours, when the chicken had cooked down some and the lid finally closed. At this point I turned the slow cooker up to high because my chicken was so big and had been cooking with the lid vented the whole time. About an hour later, I checked it with my instant read thermometer, removed it from the slow cooker, covered it with aluminum foil, and let it rest while I made the sides for dinner. Then I carved the chicken -- one breast of this monster was enough for the four of us!

After dinner, I picked the chicken clean of edible chicken -- best to do this while it's still warm -- and dumped the carcass back into the slow cooker along with the veggies, still in the bottom with the chicken's juices, a bunch of parsley I had lying around (optional!), and filled the Crock-Pot to the top with water. Then I just turned it on low and left it overnight.

This morning the whole house smelled like chicken deliciousness. I strained the stock into a big pot, put it outside to cool, and discarded the carcass and vegetables in the garbage, because after cooking for 24 hours they are good for nothing.

I have a couple of rotisserie chicken carcasses and leftover herbs and vegetables stored in my freezer -- which is where I put the innards from this chicken, to use next time -- and I think I'll be using the slow cooker to make that too instead of putting it on the stove. So easy!

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