Surprise Chicken


Here’s the surprise… I roasted a whole chicken in a slow cooker! With no liquid. Surprise!

The editor of Cook’s Illustrated magazine is named Christopher Kimball, and he was recently on the Today Show showing what kinds of unexpected things can be prepared using a slow cooker. He was promoting a new book entitled, Slow Cooker Revolution, authored by the test kitchen staff at Cook’s Illustrated. But I was really intrigued. Especially with the idea of “roasting” a whole chicken in a slow cooker.


For one thing, it’s less messy than roasting, and as much as a roasted chicken is my number one comfort food, I don’t typically eat the skin, which is the best part of a roasted chicken.

The other “typical” preparation for a whole chicken is to poach it, which is fabulous, of course, because you end up not only with poached chicken but also stock.

But I just had to try out the slow cooker recipe. I finally found the link to the episode on the Today Show, if you’d care to watch it.

I’ve been a fan of Christopher Kimball as well as Cook’s Illustrated, which he founded in 1980, for a very long time. I somehow lucked into discovering the magazine right when the publication began, and still have the first issue. This was also when I first learned who Christopher Kimball was.

Before I read each new issue from cover to cover, I always began by reading his letter from the editor. The letters always had a lovely nostalgic feel to them, that took you back to the 1950’s, to a general store, or to a farm. These letters always moved me so much that I actually wrote a letter to Christopher Kimball, something I’ve never done before or since. He just always made me want to move to Vermont and bake pies, and wish for simpler times.

One day I was called by someone working for Multnomah Books, asking if they could use a quote from my letter on the book cover of Christopher Kimball’s upcoming book, entitled Dear Charlie. Of course I said yes because I was so honored. I was sent a copy of the book, and there I am in print. It’s a lovely book, by the way. Written in that same tone as the letters in the magazine, the book is a compilation of letters he had written over the years to his children. And that’s when I discovered that he actually lives in Vermont!


There was some kind of hiccup over the years regarding the magazine, but Cook’s Illustrated is back in full swing. I love the illustrations, and how products are objectively tested and rated. No advertisements whatsoever. Grab a copy if you’ve never read it before.

So here is the slow cooker recipe from Christopher Kimball.

Roasted Chicken

Olive oil
Garlic, minced
Chili powder*
Garam masala

1 whole chicken, at room temperature

Mix these ingredients together to make a paste. I used approximately 1/4 cup olive oil, 6 cloves of garlic, 2 teaspoons of chili powder, 2 teaspoons of garam masala, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
(Alternatively, put all the ingredients for the spice paste in a mini blender until smooth. I opted otherwise. It doesn’t change the flavor.)

Force the spice paste under the chicken on the breast side, then cover the skin on the same side with the paste.
Place the chicken breast-side down in the slow cooker. Turn it on to LOW.
Roast/cook the chicken, covered, for 4-5 hours. I cooked mine for 4 1/2 hours.

Let the chicken cool a bit, then remove it to a cutting board. I poured all of the remaining liquid into a fat strainer.

I then allowed most all of the broth part of the liquid to pour into a small pot.

I reduced the liquid for about 15 minutes, then I added a little bit of the chicken fat.

I then added a little bit of Wondra, which is just white flour but very fine-grained, while whisking, until a gravy formed. (not pictured – sorry!)

I plated a chicken breast with the skin removed, revealing the wonderful garlicky paste underneath. Then I added some steamed broccoflower (I prefer the term cauliccoli) and some leftover roasted carrots. And then I topped off the chicken with some gravy.

As you can see, the chicken was very tender, which was to be expected, being that it roasted in steam.

What was surprising to me was the fabulous flavor profile of the garam masala combined with chili powder – not two spice mixtures I ever would have combined on my own.


* Remember chili powder is not the same as chile powder, which is essentially ground chile peppers. Chili powder is typically a mixture of paprika, oregano, cayenne, salt, and pepper. If you don’t own chili powder, which is sold for the purpose of making chili, you can use the individual herbs and spices.
Here is my quote on the back cover of the book.

verdict: Overall, this was really an exciting venture. I have more respect for my slow cooker now, especially since I’ve only used it for chile verde and pulled pork, for the most part. This chicken really doesn’t compare to a roast chicken, mostly because of the lack of the crispy skin, but it did a nice job of cooking a whole chicken, and even provided a wonderful spicy gravy.

31 thoughts on “Surprise Chicken

  1. This is really very interesting… it reminded me of a recipe that was very famous in the internet years ago, called Mimi’s Sticky Chicken. I found the original here

    brought me memories… I used to make this when I started dating Phil and cooked eventual dinners for him and the boys. They loved it! I haven’t made it in more than 12 years! I don’t have a crockpot anymore but now you are making me homesick for one

    • Sally! They’re not called crock pots anymore! And they’re not orange! They’re called slow cookers! And they’re stainless!
      When I married my husband 31 years ago he had an orange crock pot and I threw it away. Such a snob!
      Very interesting, and very similar! Thanks!

  2. Okay, this might make me want to tackle roast chicken more often. Never thought about roasting whole chicken in a slow cooker before. Never really liked handling whole chickens. Smaller birds (Cornish hens) I don’t mind. Big ones (turkey or roaster) I do just once a year, but your method convinces me that maybe it’s not that difficult. Thank you, Chef, your recipes are always inspirational! xo, Angie.

  3. OH WOW, congratulations on being quoted on the cover of Mr, Kimball’s book what an incredible honor and I love the quote, I can see why they wanted to use it. The chicken looks amazing, I steam roast chickens and turkeys, have been doing so for years. I don’t have a slow cooker but use the same principle. I pay no attention to internal temperature because when you use this method it’s always moist and delicious, next time I do this I am going to try your spice rub it sounds fantastic.

  4. I recently bought a cast iron pot big enough to contain a whole chicken, and that’s the first thing I cooked in it, a slow roasted whole chicken in the oven with minimal liquid added, just enough to create steam. It was delicious, but couldn’t be compared to oven roast chicken. I’ll try your spices next time!

  5. Hi Mimi,
    – First, congratulations on being quoted on the cover of Mr, Kimball’s book. The print is too small to read… what is your quote?
    – I make a whole chicken three times a week. To avoid monotony, over the years I have tried every seasoning, flavoring, marinating, roasting, poaching slow-cooking… you name it. I like what you have exhibited in this post. When I roast or slow-cook (over the stove), I do not add any liquid. Chicken cooks in the steam of its own liquid. Actually, I am able to retrieve some chicken liquid/juice when it’s cooked, which usually I save for flavoring of the side dish after discarding the fat.
    – For a while, being fat-content conscious, I used to cut off and discard all solid fats attached to the chicken. For the last couple of years, I do not do that. I spoon out the fat after the chicken is cooked. I remove the internal fats from the cavity entrance and put them under the breast skin after I rub the seasoning (the way you have shown in the photo). Fats keep the breast meat moist while melting away completely. Also, the skin roasts crispy and tasty.

    • Thank you! I love whole chickens as well. And where I live, they’re quite inexpensive.
      Actually my quote is on the back cover. I can’t post the photo in the comments area, or I don’t know how…
      I wrote… “Your writing is wonderful. It evokes emotions, memories, family values, a time when things were more peaceful.”

  6. I had not heard of Kimball’s book. My mom would love this. She may end up with part non- homemade gift , beautiful chicken.

  7. Mimi, as usual, I love this post. You have such a way of drawing someone in with your first sentence… <3 The chicken looks fabulous…and as it turns out, I happen to have a whole chicken in my freezer. I'm thinking it needs to be thawed and roasted in my slow cooker. Yum..

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