Now I know that there are BBQ purists out there who might be a bit offended by me calling this BBQ. I know this, because I happen to live in the Carolinas, one of the meccas for everything BBQ (seriously, BBQ is everywhere here and folks here are serious about it). But sometimes, ya just wanna have some homemade BBQ. And if you’re like me, and lack a backyard smoker or an open pit, you can still make something delicious. (Or even if you have a smoker but are looking for a convenient alternative.) That’s where the slow cooker comes in.
This Slow Cooker Pulled BBQ chicken is so juicy and full of flavor with a tangy and slightly sweet homemade BBQ sauce. Pile it on a bun and top it with a big pile of coleslaw for the perfect BBQ chicken sandwich (or serve in a crunchy lettuce wrap for something a little lighter.) I love to make this for summer get-togethers and picnics, but it’s also easy enough to make for an everyday weeknight dinner, too,
And while you can just use your favorite store-bought BBQ sauce, I prefer to make my homemade version for this recipe. This sauce is deceptively simple, using only a few ingredients, but is also totally delicious. I don’t even cook the sauce ahead of time, so it really only takes minutes to throw together. If you like your chicken extra-saucy, just go ahead and double the sauce recipe.
The secret to the best pulled chicken is using a whole chicken. Or, for all white meat, bone-in, skin-on split chicken breasts. I don’t recommend using boneless, skinless chicken for this recipe. Even though the bones and skin are removed after cooking, the end result will be juicer and more flavorful by starting with bone-in, skin-on pieces of chicken.
- For cooking the chicken, you will need a slow cooker large enough to fit a whole chicken, and also a rack for the bottom of your slow cooker. I have a rack that fits my slow cooker, but if you don’t happen to have a rack, you can make your own rack by rolling up some foil, or by using some quartered onions to raise the chicken off of the bottom of the slow cooker. You just want to make sure that the chicken is elevated and not stewing in its juices.
- For extra flavor, I add a little beer to the bottom of the slow cooker. The steam of the beer will infuse the chicken with even more flavor. If you aren’t a fan of beer, just omit it – you really don’t need to add extra liquid to make the chicken.
- To serve the pulled bbq chicken, I like to put it on a hearty bun, and top with coleslaw. To accompany the sandwich, you can’t go wrong with pickles and baked beans, or any of your other favorite BBQ sides.
If you give this recipe a try, let me know how it turned out in the comments. I hope you enjoy!
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- 1 whole chicken, about 5-6 pounds (or substitute 3-4 split chicken breasts)
- 1 cup beer, optional
For the BBQ Spice Rub:
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon salt-free poultry seasoning (or substitute ground thyme)
- ¼ teaspoon dry ground mustard
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
For the BBQ Sauce:
- 1 cup tomato-based chili sauce (I like Heinz)
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
- Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel. Place on oiled rack in the slow cooker. Pour beer into bottom of slow cooker (optional).
- Mix up the BBQ seasoning and rub it over all over the chicken. Cook chicken on low for 7-8 hours, or on high for 4-5 hours. Use a thermometer to make sure internal temperature reaches at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- When chicken is cooked through, remove from slow cooker and allow to cool until it can be handled comfortably. While chicken is cooling, mix sauce ingredients together.
- Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the cooking juices from the slow cooker. Remove meat from bones, discard skin, and shred the chicken using 2 forks. Return shredded chicken to slow cooker along with sauce and reserved juices. Stir to combine and cook on high for 30 minutes, or until sauce and chicken are heated through.
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