This slow cooker chicken is by far one of my best chicken recipes, which I perfected over years. I could climb mountains for this chicken. People always ask for seconds and rarely there are any leftovers. What I personally like the most about this chicken is the clean, subtle flavors of caramelized garlic, onion and ginger, complemented by a touch of sweetness coming from the onions. These simple flavors go a long way to reveal the natural flavor of the chicken. The golden brown color of the perfectly browned chicken skin is an eye candy too. You can’t beat these captivating flavors and colors unspoiled by some overly powerful ingredients.
There is something so rustic, so homey about this chicken that it always makes you feel good and happy. And the juices… let me tell you, I could drink them right out the Crock-Pot. Better yet, I like grabbing a slice of freshly baked sourdough bread and dip it in those amber juices and eat with the chicken.
There are many ways to make slow cooker chicken but this one is my favorite as far as simplicity and taste go. The key here is to crisp up chicken skin, rendering most of the fat out, and to caramelize vegetables to deep golden brown color on a skillet. No slow cooker with a browning function can attain a similar level of caramelization that can be achieved using a skillet. And you won’t be able to render as much fat from chicken skin and make as deep golden brown as you would on a skillet.
You want to do it very quickly too, without cooking the chicken meat. It only takes minutes to do but that’s where most of the flavor will come from. And only then the slow cooker will begin to do that it does best – slowly cook and tenderize the chicken to perfection, without it losing much moisture, and until it’s melt-in-your-mouth tender and succulent.
You may be wondering which chicken parts to use in this recipe. My favorite choice is chicken thighs, though I’ve used chicken wings and drumsticks and liked them a lot too. All three are slow cooker-friendly and come out tender and juicy. Chicken breasts are not a good choice though as they are lean and dry out easily and quickly, even in a slow cooker.
Rustic Slow Cooker Chicken
This slow cooker chicken is melt-in-your-mouth tender, exceptionally flavorful, with rustic flavors.
- 6 chicken thighs (skin-on, bone or boneless)
- 2 small yellow onions (halved and sliced about 1/4-inch thick)
- 2 garlic cloves (thinly sliced or minced)
- ginger root (about 1 1/2 inches, peeled and thinly sliced or minced)
- 1 tsp sea or kosher salt (plus more to taste)
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 cups water
- 1 Tbsp Olive or vegetable oil
- 1 Tbsp butter (unsalted)
- Fresh herbs for garnish (optional but highly recommended)
Pat dry chicken thighs with paper towels to remove surface moisture. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt on each side and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil and one tablespoon of butter in a large non-stick skillet over high heat. Add the chicken, skin side down, and cook for about 3-5 minutes, until deep golden brown. Remove from the pan and transfer to the slow cooker, placing the chicken pieces skin side up.
Add the onions, garlic and ginger to the same the skillet. There should be plenty of oil and fat left in the pan, but if not, add another tablespoon of oil or butter. Saute the vegetables until deep golden brown, constantly stirring, about 3-5 minutes (see note).
Add the water, salt and the pepper. Stir well and taste for salt. Adjust if necessary. The liquid should be salted just right. Very little liquid will evaporate during slow cooking under a lid so no need to under-salt.
Set the slow cooker to low and cook for 6 hours, or until the chicken is very tender.
Serve immediately, or set the slow cooker to 'warm' until ready to serve. This slow cooker chicken is best served with juices over rice (white or brown), mashed potatoes (yum!!!), pasta, noodles, a large slice of freshly baked sourdough bread, or whatever else you desire. This chicken will taste great with just about anything. Garnish with fresh herbs if desired.
I like adding ginger and garlic immediately with the onions, not towards the end as is customary. The garlic will brown to dark brown color, which will add more color to the liquids in the slow cooker. This will also mellow out the strong garlic flavor and pungency, leaving very subtle flavor. However, be careful not to burn the garlic and ginger, you need to stir constantly and stop sauteing before that happens.
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