A crock pot is a simple, effective, money & time saving kitchen tool. If you have one, you might not use it very much. Maybe you think a slow cooker just makes soups & casseroles. It does more! I’m starting a series here on cookplantmeditate to show you how to utilize your crock pot to cook simple things that will save you time & money.
The #1 thing I use my crock pot for is make a lot of meat. I do whole chickens, large beef roasts and large pork roasts. While a crock pot (or slow cooker) is typically safe to use while you’re away, you can achieve these same results without a crock pot by using the same method on a stove-top, or in an oven.
Why I love this method: To be honest, I hate playing with raw meat. I really don’t want to touch it (you’ll see in a pic below that I actually use disposable latex gloves when handling a whole raw chicken), but it saves me a lot of money to do a chicken this way. Boneless skinless chicken breasts at the store are $3-$4 per pound. On average a whole chicken is less than $1 per pound, yielding 4-5 lbs of uncooked meat.
The greatest thing about this method: I get not only many nights worth of shredded chicken, but I also get about 64 ounces of homemade chicken stock (about $5 worth if I had purchased the stock), and chicken flavored carrots for the dog. My estimated savings on one chicken, including vegetable cost: $18.
So let’s make a chicken and save $18!
1. The Chicken
Get a whole chicken, defrosted. If it is frozen, set it in the refrigerator to thaw for 2-3 days on a large tray covered in plastic wrap. When thawed, empty each end cavity of the chicken and discard any loose or bagged parts (in my family we call them “pieces-parts”). Place the entire chicken in the crock pot.
2. The Stock Essentials
The great thing about stock – it can be anything you want it to be. Add parsley, garlic, cilantro, lots of onions or seasoned salt – whatever you want! Just don’t add starchy things that fall apart like potatoes. Add in:
3-4 large carrots, peeled and cut into halves or thirds
2-3 ribs of celery, cut into thirds or quarters (don’t remove the leaves – they are FULL of flavor!)
1 large onion, peeled and cut in half
1.5 tsp salt
1/2 bundle of parsley
Fill the crock pot to the top with water (it will never boil over) and cook on Low 8-10 hours, High 4-6 hours.
3. A Cooked Chicken
I used the 4 hour/High setting and it was perfect. The chicken is done when the meat starts to slip off the bone. After my 4 hour crock pot timer goes off, I grab a fork and pull up a chicken leg. It will not give you resistance if it’s done.
4. The Transfer
When the timer is up, transfer the entire chicken to a large pan or dish. Spoon out veggies and feed the carrots to the dog (after they’ve cooled!!) or throw away. Strain your freshly homemade stock from crock pot, saving only the liquid, and set aside to cool. Once the liquid is cool, put it into jars and refrigerate up to 7 days or freeze up to 3 months.
5. The Meat
Once your chicken is cool enough to handle, start taking it apart with your hands. You can make the chunks as big or small as you want. The meat will fall right off the bones and be super easy to shred. You can use two forks if you don’t want to do this by hand, but by hand is twice as fast. It’ll take about 10 minutes to pull all the meat off by hand. When you’re done, you’ll pretty much only have skin and bones left of your chicken to throw away.
– After refridgerating your stock, you can open the jar and easily remove any fat that has floated to top. If you want to use the stock right away, you don’t have to remove the fat.
– When the chicken is about half done, open a window. The last hour or two of cooking, the chicken will start to fill your house with a very specific aroma that I DO NOT enjoy.
– You don’t have to shred the meat. You can slice it and make any chicken dish you want. Dice it for pasta or appetizers, slice it and eat plain chicken. I shred my chicken simpy because I don’t particularly care for plain chicken, plus I can make lots of tacos and BBQ chicken sandwiches.
After the chicken was done, I made some amazing tacos! Next in this series – yummy things to make with shredded meat. When I run out of chicken, I’ll be showing you a very similar method to make a chuck roast, which will yield meat, stock, and give me ingredients for au jus or gravy. Chances are, I’ll make French onion soup with my stock!
Enjoy saving money and having lots of chicken to feed your family with!