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Slow cooking without a slow cooker

I don’t know how I’ve lived 25 years in Wisconsin without a slow cooker, but alas, I have none. This is often unfortunate, like when my workplace was having a chili cook-off and I have no heating vessel in which to store my chili, but it is occasionally a tragedy, such as when a quintessential summer food — pulled chicken — is calling my name and I have no way to make it as tender and pullable as it truly deserves.

Pulled chicken in pot

The only hard part of this recipe is waiting so long to eat this deliciousness

Or do I? What is a slow cooker but an appliance that cooks things at a very low temperature for a very long time? I can think of another appliance that can do that — a stove. Now, obviously the slow cooker would not have been invented if it only did what a stove can do — a slow cooker is a self-contained system that retains moisture better than a pot on the stove, and it’s probably less likely to burn your house down if you leave it alone for six hours.

Fortunately for me, I have a lot of free time on my hands this summer. So I added some extra liquid to this slow cooker recipe, set the stove temperature on low and let the chicken tenderize in a warm bath of barbecuey goodness while I waited nearby.

The recipe I used is one from Eating Well magazine, which I should really just get a subscription to at this point, but I didn’t even realize until I really looked down the ingredient list how healthy this chicken really is — all I focused on when I was eating it was the perfect combination of spicy, sweet and sour in the sauce.

I ate the chicken by itself as an open-faced sandwich, but I would totally agree with the recommendation that one thing that could have made this recipe even better would be a little creaminess and a little crunch. Top it with onions and sour cream, as per the recipe, or go the more traditional barbecue route and top it with some fresh coleslaw.

Pulled chicken sandwich

Why open-face? Well, I'm moving soon and I have been rationing food items (like bread) that I don't want to have to buy again before I move.

Barbecue Pulled Chicken

From Eating Well.

  • 1 8-ounce can reduced-sodium tomato sauce
  • 1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles, drained
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey (I added about a tablespoon extra of honey — three tablespoons total — and I would recommend that for better balance)
  • 1 tablespoon sweet or smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat (I used chicken breast and it worked out just as well, so go with whatever part of the chicken you prefer)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Stove-top option: 8-12 ounces more of liquid, be it beer or chicken stock or something else

Stir tomato sauce, chiles, vinegar, honey, paprika, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, ground chipotle and salt in a 6-quart slow cooker until smooth. Add chicken, onion and garlic; stir to combine.

Put the lid on and cook on low until the chicken can be pulled apart, about 5 hours.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and shred with a fork. Return the chicken to the sauce, stir well and serve.

Stove-top option: Saute onions and garlic in a bit of olive oil, then add chicken and brown quickly on medium heat. Add remaining ingredients (including extra liquid) and bring the mixture up to a simmer before turning the stove heat down to the lowest setting. Stir every 20 minutes or so and add more liquid if too much has evaporated — feel free to cook up to five hours, but the chicken be sufficiently pullable in about three and a half to four hours.

2 Responses to Slow cooking without a slow cooker

  1. [...] floats, mint pesto, barbecue pulled chicken, pizza with charred cherry tomato & balsamic mushrooms, Cranachan, homemade ice cream, pasta [...]

  2. Amazing recipe, i’ll consider it with my girlfriend today. Hope i get it right! Cheers

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