This post is part of my Instant Pot Basics Series. It goes hand-in-hand with my 31 day challenge. Learn more about it HERE.
Having shredded chicken in the freezer is a lifeline to a busy mom. Being able to pull a package out at the last minute and pick any one of these 38 meal ideas that use rotisserie chicken makes dinner quick and easy.
If I want shredded chicken, I usually make all purpose slow cooker chicken. The only problem with that though, is that the texture is sometimes too soft. And my husband isn’t a fan of mushy chicken.
There’s an easy fix for that though – Instant Pot whole chicken!
Using the Instant Pot to cook a whole chicken is the best of both worlds.
- I can cook up a chicken in under an hour, shred it up, portion into 2 cups and put it into the freezer.
- My husband can enjoy chicken that isn’t mushy and in fact, tastes a lot like a traditional oven-roasted chicken!
Instant Pot Whole Chicken
There are lots of different ways you can make an Instant Pot whole chicken, so let’s talk about a few basic variations.
Vegetables on the Bottom
Anything you put in the Instant Pot with your chicken will add to the flavor of the chicken itself. That’s why you see vegetables in my pictures, but other ideas include adding citrus and fresh herbs.
Sliding thinly sliced citrus in between the skin and meat of the chicken is my secret to an amazing spatchcock chicken, and you can use the same technique with Instant Pot whole chicken too. (I would have except we were out of oranges.)
Fresh herbs truly make Instant Pot whole chicken AMAZING, but they’re not cheap. I usually use dried herbs without a problem, and only use fresh if I find them marked down at Kroger. (Like the time I found marked down rosemary to make rosemary sea salt flat bread – YUM!)
You can also freeze fresh herbs if you have extra!
How to Get Crispy Skin
One main difference in cooking a whole chicken in the Instant Pot is that you won’t get a crispy skin. There are two ways around this – sear the chicken beforehand, or brown the chicken after the fact.
I personally haven’t tested searing the chicken beforehand, so I can’t vouch for that method. (If you have, would you leave a comment and let us know how that worked out for you? Thanks!)
I have, however, browned chicken under the broiler after cooking in a slow cooker and Instant Pot and that will crisp the skin right up. The only downside to this is another dirty dish… so I’ll let you decide how bad you really want crispy skin. 😉
The Bare Bones
Ultimately, the only thing you REALLY need to pull off a delicious Instant Pot whole chicken is 1 cup of water and 1 whole chicken.
How is this so? Because of the way the Instant Pot seals in the juices and cooks the meat under high pressure, it’s naturally tender and so juicy!!
If you don’t have vegetables, add some salt, pepper and whatever other dry seasonings you have and call it done. I sprinkled dried Italian seasoning and ground coriander on top with coarse salt and pepper. I only used vegetables because they make the pictures a bit prettier (just being real!) and because I wanted to make chicken stock with the bones of this chicken.
When the Chicken is Done
Speaking of chicken stock, did you know you can make it in the Instant Pot too? Here’s the tutorial!
Meanwhile though, whatever you add to your pot to flavor the chicken – whether it be vegetables or herbs or citrus – save it in a container and stick it in the freezer. You can use it to boost the flavor of your homemade chicken stock!
(And if you already know how to make Instant Pot chicken stock, don’t even bother taking your flavors out of the pot. Leave it all in, toss the bones back in once you’ve picked off the chicken and hit go!)
Can you make Instant Pot FROZEN whole chicken?
Surely I’m not the only one who has ever forgotten to pull meat out of the freezer to thaw, right?
Thankfully, you CAN cook a FROZEN whole chicken in the Instant Pot too!! (Psst – see these pictures? This chicken was FROZEN!!)
I’ve cooked both a whole chicken THAWED and a whole chicken FROZEN in the Instant Pot using this method and both come out smelling absolutely delicious!
Note that though it can be done, frozen chicken requires more time to be cooked correctly. I’m still working on testing the best way to cook it frozen in the Instant Pot.
I personally prefer cooking thawed chicken over frozen simply because the meat is a teeny tiny bit more tender, but I only notice this when I’m actually taste testing portions of the meat side by side. If you’re making chicken enchiladas or buffalo chicken pizza or cashew chicken or kung pao chicken – you won’t even notice.
One other note if you’re using a frozen chicken – the giblets. You know how some chickens come with a sack of the giblets inside? Well, if your bird is frozen, you can’t get that out… and if you put the whole thing in the Instant Pot, you’ll cook that too.
It’s not the end of the world (trust me), but just be aware that it’s there when you go to carve the bird. And oh yeah – set it aside for stock!
Stretching a Whole Chicken
I have lots of tips on saving money on real food – after all, this whole blog is dedicated to that exact topic!
But in terms of a whole chicken, here are my three best tips:
- If you need leftover chicken, portion that out FIRST and set it aside. Expect whatever you put on the table to get eaten, so portion leftovers or lunches before serving dinner, accordingly.
- Aim to get 3 meals out of one bird. One 5-6 lb chicken yields about 6 cups of shredded chicken. For most meals, 2 cups of chicken is enough.
- Always save the bones! Money spent on chicken stock is money wasted. Homemade chicken stock is DELICOUS and so easy to make. All you need are chicken bones!
- 1 whole chicken (thawed or frozen), about 5-6 lbs
- 1 cup water
- 1 onion, quartered (optional)
- 2 carrots, cut into 2" pieces (optional)
- 2 celery ribs, cut into 2" pieces (optional)
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1 tsp dried seasonings as desired (Italian seasoning, oregano, basil and coriander are all good options)
- Place the vegetables in the bottom of the Instant Pot. Place the wire rack that came with the IP on top.
- Place the chicken on the wire rack.
- Add water to the bottom of the Instant Pot.
- Sprinkle the chicken liberally with seasonings.
- Turn the pressure valve to "sealed." Press "manual" or "pressure cook," make sure the setting is on "high" and cook for 6 minutes per pound of bird. My bird was just over 5 pounds, so I set the timer for 30 minutes.
- Make sure the "keep warm" function is NOT set and use the natural pressure release method. When the pressure valve is down, the chicken is done.
- Shred the chicken with two forks and serve as desired!
Do you add flavor to your chicken when you cook it whole? Or do you keep it simple? And have you ever tried cooking a FROZEN chicken in the Instant Pot? Leave your thoughts and comments below!