My new favorite weekday routine this summer is to toss a large hunk of meat in the crockpot with some interesting add ins that just happen to be in my fridge or pantry and see what happens! The other day I had a whole chicken, oranges, onions and garlic, so I tossed them in and it came out surprisingly well! So well that I wanted to share it with you. So here it is: my Slow Cooker Whole Chicken with Oranges. The onions on the bottom soak in the orange and lemon juices and become the best flavor in the whole dish.
Similar to my Slow Cooker Brisket, you need to use a large crockpot. No fewer than 6 quarts will work, and even then, if you get an extra large roaster I doubt you will be able to fit the entire bird intact into the pot, so you may need to break down the chicken into pieces… However don’t despair, the end result should be just as tasty. If you have no idea how to start breaking down a whole chicken yourself, check out this article over on Serious Eats.
My favorite part of cooking meat in the slow cooker is how moist everything comes out. Even with pieces of meat that are tougher than chicken, if you cook them long and low enough will become beautifully tender and juicy.
My least favorite part of cooking meat in the slow cooker is that you don’t get a beautiful crispy skin on the outside, and as such lose some great flavor. To remedy this I chose to wait until the end and place it under the broiler for a few minutes. However, if you have more time in the morning than the evening, I’d suggest using a large stainless steel sauté pan heated with a little oil to brown the skin before placing it in the crockpot to cook all day, which will give you the same taste just with a slightly different look.
Be careful as you remove the chicken from the crockpot, especially as the meat becomes so tender that random limbs like the wings may just start falling off of the body. Turkey lifters may be just the tool to save you some trouble, but lacking that helpful item I simply used two sets of large tongs.
- 1 three or four pound chicken, whole
- 3 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 tablespoons fresh ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 large white onion, sliced in ¼ inch slices
- 1 head of garlic, all cloves peeled and woody stems sliced off
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 large oranges, sliced into quarters or sixths
- juice of 1 orange
- leaves from several stems of thyme
- Start by cleaning the chicken (remove any innards, rinse, etc), and then pat dry with paper towels.
- Take half of the softened butter and pull the skin on the breast up so that you can use your fingers to slide butter underneath the skin and push it around underneath. Use the rest of the butter to coat the outside of the chicken all over as well.
- Finish preparing the chicken by sprinkling salt and pepper all over.
- Begin filling the crockpot with a layer of the onions, then scatter the garlic cloves, and finally the juice from the lemon.
- Next place the chicken into the crockpot and stuff as many as will fit of the orange slices into the cavity of the chicken. Any extra slices can just be tucked in around the chicken.
- Top with the juice from the orange and the thyme leaves.
- Cook in the crockpot on low for approximately 8 hours (or as I did 6 hours on low and 1 hour on high), and don't finish cooking until in the internal temperature of the thickest part is at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Note: taking the lid off the crockpot releases heat and lengthens the cooking time, so try not to check the temperature until towards the very end of the cooking time, just to double check that it is done.
- Once you are about ready to serve, remove the chicken from the crockpot and place in roasting pan to place it under a broiler for 3-5 minutes, until the skin begins to turn a golden brown.
- Remove to a carving board and cut it up for everyone to enjoy!