After last week's slow cooker roundup, we thought it was high time to revisit this lemon garlic chicken, one of our all-time most popular recipes. This is a classic "dump it and forget it" dish: just rub the chicken with seasoning, add some lemon juice and chicken broth, and set the timer. The result is the most tender chicken you've ever tasted with just the right amount of lemon-garlic flavor in every bite.
You might wonder about the point of slow-cooking a chicken when roasting it is far quicker. For one thing, the texture and tenderness of this chicken is unbeatable. After basting for hours at low heat, the meat is literally falling off the bone. It is juicy, aromatic, and deeply flavored with lemon, garlic, thyme, and a bit of rosemary.
This chicken is also pretty darn fool-proof. The flavor may vary based on your chicken, the lemons you use, the number of garlic cloves you throw in, and so on, but the chicken itself is just as dependably good every time. You lose the crispy skin, but gain a certain peace of mind.
This is also the way that we like to cook chickens during the summer when it's too hot to turn on the oven. And let's face it, sometimes you just want to throw everything in a pot and go about your day with the knowledge that dinner is already done.
We've made a few tweaks to the recipe with this update, eliminating the fussier steps and streamlining our approach. Originally, we seared the chicken before adding it to the slow cooker, something we often advocate for adding more depth of flavor to dishes from the slow cooker. But over the years of making this particular recipe, we decided that searing the chicken didn't make much of a difference.
We also debated taking out the bouillon, but ultimately decided that we liked the richness and deep savory note they add to the overall dish. Our favorite brands for bouillon with fewer artificial ingredients are Better than Bouillon and Penzeys Soup Base. If you'd rather skip the bouillon, however, that's perfectly fine.
And one recipe addition! We didn't want all that good cooking broth to go to waste, so we've started whipping up a quick gravy while the chicken is resting. All the lemons can sometimes make the gravy taste overly bitter, so thin it with some extra chicken stock and add a little salt if you find this to be the case.
Slow-Cooker Lemon Garlic Chicken
Serves 2 to 4 with leftovers
4 to 5 pound chicken
For the seasoning rub: 3 garlic cloves, minced 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 teaspoon salt 2 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped and minced
For the cooking liquid: 2 lemons, quartered 1 head garlic, cloves separated, but left in their skins 2 chicken bouillon cubes or 1 teaspoon bouillon paste, divided (optional for richer flavor) 2 sprigs thyme 2 tablespoons soy sauce 1/4 cup chicken broth 2 sprigs rosemary
For the gravy: 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Remove the bag of gizzards and discard (or reserve for stock). Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.
Mix all the seasoning ingredients together in a bowl. Gently work your fingers under the skin covering the breast meat and slide them back and forth to separate the skin from the meat without tearing it. Scoop up a dollop of the seasoning and work it under the skin covering both breasts. Rub any remaining seasoning over the drumsticks and thighs. Transfer the chicken to the slow cooker, breast-side up.
Squeeze and reserve the juice from one of the lemons. Stuff the rinds into the cavity of the chicken along with one whole bouillon cube and a few garlic cloves. Crumble the other bouillon cube over the chicken and rub it into the skin. Arrange the remaining lemon quarters, the rest of garlic cloves, and the thyme around the chicken. Combine the reserved lemon juice, the soy sauce, and the broth, and pour it over the chicken.
Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high heat for 4 or for 6 hours (according to your slow-cooker's instructions and particular settings). Thirty minutes or so before the time is done, add the rosemary sprigs.
Remove chicken from the slow-cooker and allow it to rest on a baking sheet, tented with foil, for about 20 minutes. The wings and drumsticks may fall away as you lift the chicken; this is normal.
While the chicken is resting, strain the cooking liquid into a sauce pan and bring to a rapid simmer. Scoop out a half cup of the liquid and whisk it with the flour in a separate bowl. Slowly pour the flour slurry back into the cooking liquid while whisking. Continue simmering and whisking until the gravy thickens. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.
When ready to serve, remove the skin from the chicken and discard. Use your fingers to pull the meat away off the bones; it should come away easily with gentle pressure or use a knife as needed. Serve the breasts, thighs, and drumsticks right away and tear the remaining meat into shreds for using in leftovers. Serve with the gravy alongside.
• To make this recipe in the oven, take a look at this recipe.
• Cooking times longer than 6 hours are not recommended. With longer cooking, the chicken bones start to become too soft, making it difficult to separate the meat and get a good gravy.
• Rosemary tends to get bitter if cooked for too long. Adding it in the last half hour of cooking helps give the dish rosemary flavor without the bitterness.
• The garlic cloves cooked with the chicken make an excellent spread. Pop them out of their skins, mash with a bit of salt, and serve with slices of crusty bread.