Recently I was working on some recipes for a client and was tasked with making “faux barbecue.” By faux, I mean no smoker, no grill. In fact, all the recipes were to be made in a slow cooker. I don’t use a slow cooker very often so I wasn’t sure the recipes would even work. Boy was I wrong!
If you are looking for an easy way to cook chicken, this is it. It stays tremendously moist and flavorful and the meat is particularly good for using in sandwiches, salads or even tacos or enchiladas. One of the secrets to this recipe is dry brining the bird. That just means sprinkling it with salt before cooking. Salting it 24 hours ahead is fine, but 48 hours is even better.
Don’t freak out over the use of 1/4 cup of liquid smoke. It does not actually touch the bird so you’re not ingesting it at all. In any case, liquid smoke is a natural and safe ingredient. Experts agree you'd have to ingest 3 whole bottles to cause any harm.
This recipe in particular didn't go to print because it uses a whole chicken. My client wanted a recipe using just breasts. I rarely buy anything but whole chickens because they are so much more economical and you should too. If you’re afraid of ending up with too much chicken, by all means store some of it in the freezer. But I urge you to get in the habit of buying whole chickens. Invest in good kitchen shears and you’ll find it’s easy to break it down into pieces before or after cooking. Even if you only want to eat chicken breasts, you can use the rest of the bird to make homemade chicken broth or stock and still save money.
Slow Cooker Smoked Chicken
One young chicken, about 5-6 pounds
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt per pound of chicken
1/4 cup liquid smoke
2 Tablespoons paprika, preferably smoked but sweet or hot is fine
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pat dry the chicken with paper towels and sprinkle the bird all over with salt. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator at least overnight and up to 2 days before cooking.
When ready to cook, in a small bowl make the seasoning mix by combining the paprika, onion powder, garlic powder and pepper. Pour liquid smoke into the slow cooker, place a rack inside and set to high. If you don’t have a rack that fits, fashion one out of a coil of crumpled aluminum foil.
Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and coat evenly on all sides with the seasoning mix. Add more paprika if necessary.
Place the chicken breast down in the slow cooker on top of the rack. Cover and cook on high until it reaches an internal temperature of 165° F in the thickest part of the thigh, about 2 1/2 hours. Carefully remove the chicken from the slow cooker. If you want the chicken to have crispy skin, broil it for about 10 minutes. Let the bird rest 10 minutes before carving to let the juices reabsorb. Note: Remove the rack and discard the liquid in the bottom of the pot.