I have two slow cookers. One is a small 70s-esque number with two settings and a low enough “low” setting to cook fruit butter with the lid off. The other is technically my roomate’s, sleek and new, almost twice the size, and has a fancy “warm” function to keep food warm when an eight hour cook time meets a ten hour workday. But for all the space they take up in my kitchen (one in the cabinet, one on the counter) they’re definitely underutilized.
I can’t be the only one that finds slow cooker dishes largely underwhelming. The meals are too soupy (unless the recipe is soup) and any bright flavors end up fairly dull after more than six hours on low. I have no use for those strange recipes that call for less than six hours of cooking – the slow cooker goes on mostly for workdays when I won’t be home in anything less than nine hours. But I keep coming back to it because the whole idea – food cooked while you do something else – is so much more promising than takeout.
This pulled chicken recipe is the first in what is hopefully a long list of do-again slow cooker recipes that are not soup, stew, or chili. It’s the not that the chicken is so special. After eight hours in the slow cooker it falls neatly off the bone into a pile of shreds and pieces, simply seasoned, a blank canvas. That is, in fact, it’s real draw. Several pounds of chicken and a few hands off hours of cooking can be mixed into chicken salad, used on a sandwich, piled on rice, a topping for salad. The leftovers aren’t really leftovers since each meal is so different.That’s something I can get behind in a slow cooker meal.
Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken
Adapted from Nom Nom Paleo’s Roast Chicken with Gravy
Makes enough for six
2-3 lbs chicken legs and thighs*
1 medium onion, cut into eighths
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
½ cup stock, water, beer, or other liquid (the more flavorful, the better)
2 tbs butter
2 tsp kosher salt
Pepper, herbs, and other seasonings (optional)
Place the chicken on the bottom of the slow cooker and throw the onions in on top. Pour over that the liquid, butter, and sprinkle on any salt and seasonings you want to use. Remember that versatility is the real beauty of this recipe so don’t go overboard; you can always season it after cooking depending on what you put the chicken into.
Turn the slow cooker to low and let it cook for eight hours (if you have a newer model) or ten hours (if your slow cooker is older and has a much lower temperature on the “low” setting). When the time is up, take out the chicken and remove the bones and cartilage carefully. You can shred it more if you like but it will fall apart into relatively bite-sized pieces on its own after so many hours of cooking. Add it to anything and eat it cold, warm, or hot.
* I prefer dark meat and when you do a mix of dark and white I find the white meat gets a little dry. But if you prefer white meat you can use it and if you dial down the time to six hours it will probably be just as good.