You just can't beat the ease of this Instant Pot Whole Chicken!
If you would have told me that I would be cooking a whole chicken in the Instant Pot a few months ago, I would have said, "NO WAY!"
Don't get me wrong, I love my Instant Pot and I cook many things in it... but I like an oven-roasted or smoked chicken. To say I was shocked at the outcome of an Instant Pot Whole Chicken is an understatement.
Honestly, I was blown away by the finished dish!
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Instant Pot Whole Chicken
I've been working on many Instant Pot recipes lately, like this one for Instant Pot Jambalaya Soup. My Instant Pot has been in constant use and I just LOVE it. I've also been really busy and, one night, I forgot to put the chicken in the oven and it was 7 pm! Hubby would be home in 30 minutes and I did something I never thought I would do... I used the Instant Pot for a Whole Chicken!
To be completely honest, I figured I would shred the chicken for tacos or chop it for a salad. I just needed it cooked and FAST. There was no way, in my mind, that I would be okay with serving a pressure cooked whole chicken.
Why? The skin! I like my skin crispy and the bird beautifully browned. Call me a poultry snob... I can take it.
I knew the pressure cooker would cook the chicken and leave it moist and tender, but I had this vision in my head of pale rubbery skin and who wants that on their table? Not me, that's for sure! Boy, was I in for a surprise!
Size Matters When Cooking in the Instant Pot
I am learning new things every day about my Instant Pot and one thing I want to mention is the size of your Instant Pot. I am cooking this recipe in an 8 Quart Ultra 10 in 1 Instant Pot, so I want to make sure to talk about some modifications if you are using a 6 Quart or a 3 Quart.
From what I've read; the larger the size of the Instant Pot, the longer it takes to come to pressure. That makes sense, right? There is more area to heat and bring to pressure. Unfortunately, I have no way to test this out because, right now, I only have the 8 Quart. If anyone has any tips or suggestions, I know we would all love to hear them! Comment at the end of this post or reach out to me on Facebook (@thesaltedpepper) or via email firstname.lastname@example.org
Watch the size of your chicken. I was able to comfortably fit a 5 pound whole chicken in my 8 Quart and I've read that a 5 pound bird will fit in the 6 Quart as well. I would recommend putting the chicken (while still in the packaging) on the trivet and into the Instant Pot just to make sure it fits. I think a 3-4 pound chicken will fit in the 3 Quart, but please check to be sure.
Altitude Matters, Too!
This can get a little confusing, so I will do my best keep this very simple and straightforward. If you live at elevations greater than 2000 feet above sea level, you want to increase your cooking times by 5% for each 1000 feet. Why? Because at higher elevations, the pressure in the Instant Pot will be lower for the duration of cooking and therefore the temperature inside the pot doesn't get as high and food cooks slower. Kind of like the difference between setting your oven on 325º F versus 350º F. The food will cook, but it might take a few minutes longer.
I read quite a bit about this subject so I could keep it mind when writing recipes and one of the most helpful articles was by Hip Pressure Cooking:
There are several informative charts in this article and it goes way more in depth... head spinning in depth, but very interesting to read.
Where I live in Tennessee, we are only 479 feet above sea level, so all my recipes are tested at this elevation and I have not made any adjustments to timing. Chances are if you aren't already making adjustments with other modes of cooking, you don't even need to worry about this because your elevation is not high enough to make a difference.
How Long Do You Cook a Whole Chicken in the Instant Pot?
Good question... I had no idea! I looked over a couple of recipes and the timing seemed way too long on many of them. The rule of thumb I follow when cooking with my Instant Pot is set the time for ⅓ of the time that recipe would take in the oven or I just guess and cross my fingers! Sound familiar? I had nothing to loose anyway, I wasn't planning on doing a recipe post. I knew I could always cook it longer if it wasn't quite done, so I followed my gut and went with 4 minutes per pound plus added 2 extra minutes.
Turns out, 4 minutes per pound was perfect for cooking the whole chicken in my Instant Pot. The extra 2 minutes were not necessary for me, but also did not cause my chicken to be dry. My chicken was a 5 pound chicken, so I set the 8 quart Instant Pot for 20 minutes. Can you believe that? 20 minutes! Keep in mind that you have the time it takes for the Instant Pot to come up to pressure. This happened fairly quickly for me, about 5 minutes. I also turned off the keep warm function (just in case I didn't remove the chicken right away, I didn't want it to keep cooking) and let the Instant Pot release the pressure on its own which took a lot less time than I thought.
If your Instant Pot hasn't completely released the pressure after 15-20 minutes, go ahead and release the pressure manually.
After putting the chicken in the Instant Pot and setting the time, I went back to working on a different post I was writing and kind of forgot about it (that is the beauty of Instant Pot cooking). So, I don't know exactly how long it took for the pressure cooker to release the pressure, but I'm going to guess about 15 minutes. When my husband got home, 40 minutes after I started cooking the chicken, I checked it and the lid was ready to be opened. So, I did and my jaw almost hit the floor! The chicken was beautiful!
Of course I also checked the temp with meat thermometer and recommend you do the same just to make sure it has reached 165º F. It had and we were good to go.
How Do You Check the Temperature of a Whole Chicken?
Good question. I have seen many people stick the thermometer into the breast meat to check the temp, after all isn't that where the big companies stick the little pop up thingy? Now that I think of that, I haven't seen those pop up things on a chicken in a long time. I wonder if they have done away with them? The problem with taking the temp in the breast is that the breast meat usually cooks faster than the dark meat, so it could read 165° F in the breast and still be underdone in the legs and thighs.
The correct way to take the temperature of a chicken or turkey is to insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. Be careful that you aren't touching the bone or the temp will read higher than it actually is. You get to the thigh by inserting the thermometer between the lower breast area and the leg, like shown in this picture. You will feel it if it hits bone - just pull back slightly. Allow the thermometer to stay inserted for at least 15 seconds to make sure you are getting an accurate temp.
I have seen other food bloggers raving about the Thermapen MK 4 thermometer and I hope to get one soon. They are pricey at just under $100, but the reviews are incredible. Right now I have cheap (not even digital) thermometer and although it takes me about a minute to get an accurate temp, it works. You can find one like mine right here.
What Happens to the Skin When You Cook a Chicken in the Instant Pot?
It was PERFECT! Now, don't get me wrong, it wasn't crispy (I will share a few tips to crisp the skin up though). I knew it wouldn't be, but it was a beautiful brown color and the skin was not rubbery! When the chicken is cooking in the pressure cooker, the fat is rendered from the skin and although it doesn't crisp it becomes very thin. Kind of like what happens when you cover the chicken with foil, after taking it out of the oven, to keep it warm. The skin is super flavorful and not tough at all!
I was so excited, I cut into it right away! I should have waited another 5-10 minutes to let it rest because a lot of the juices ran out. Despite that, it was tender and moist. I dare say, better than an oven-roasted chicken!
This Instant Pot Whole Chicken has made me a convert for sure. I just can't imagine wasting the time on using the oven when the Instant Pot steps up to the challenge and then some!
Tips for Crisping the Skin
Before cutting the chicken, you can place it on a sheet pan under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp the skin. Just keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn.
Or, you can have a little fun and play with a little fire like I did. I absolutely love my little kitchen torch! The one I have is similar to this one. I originally bought it to make créme Brûlée about 5 years ago. I still haven't made créme Brûlée, but I have found tons of uses for the nifty torch. To crisp up the skin of your chicken, just engage the torch and hold at least 6 inches away from the skin and allow the fire to just touch the skin as you continually move the torch around. If you are too close or stay in one place too long, you might burn the skin.
How to make your Instant Pot Whole Chicken
What you'll need:
3-5 pound whole chicken
Spice blend - my recipe is in the post or you can use your favorite
Carrot, celery, rosemary, onion, & lemon to stuff inside the chicken
Thaw and rinse your chicken. Yes, you can cook a chicken from frozen in the Instant Pot; the skin won't be dry enough to get the golden color. Since I have not cooked one from frozen, I can't advise you on time. Sorry.
I know there is a buzz around about not rinsing your chicken in the sink for fear of contamination. I rinse my chicken. I will always rinse my chicken and if you rinse it in a clean sink and then wash the sink with soap and water everything should be just fine. My Mom has been doing this for years and not once have we ever had a problem. I also like to soak my chicken in some salt water if I have the time. I didn't have the time when I made this chicken, so I skipped it.
Check the cavity for the giblets. They can be loose in the bird or in a pouch. Remove them and put in a small bowl for later.
Put the chicken on a cutting board and pat dry with paper towels. The drier you get the chicken the better. Stuff the chicken cavity with celery, onion, rosemary and/or thyme, carrot, and a lemon. You don't have to stuff the chicken, but it really does impart a nice flavor in the meat and especially in the juices that you can turn into gravy. Rub the seasoning blend (my blend is in the recipe down below) all over the chicken, get that rub in all the folds of the legs too. I season the back (underside) as well as the breast side. If you have time; you could pat dry the chicken, apply the seasoning blend, and place the chicken in the fridge overnight. If not, no worries, I didn't have time either!
Put 2 cups of water in the bottom of your Instant Pot or pressure cooker (with the pot insert in). Add in those giblets if you want to make a delicious gravy or have a few cups of chicken stock after you cook the chicken. If not, you can skip this step. Carefully place your seasoned chicken on the raised trivet that came with your Instant Pot and place in the Instant Pot or pressure cooker. This will raise the chicken above the water, so it isn't sitting in the juices. You can also achieve similar results by balling up some aluminum foil and placing under the chicken to raise it.
Secure the lid to your Instant Pot. Set the pressure to high and the time to equal 4 minutes per pound. For example, my chicken was 5 pounds, so I set the time to 20 minutes.
Don't forget to turn the valve to seal if your pressure cooker doesn't have the nifty feature of doing it for you. I turned the keep warm feature on my Instant Pot to off so it stopped heating the chicken once the time was up. The Instant Pot will take a few minutes to come up to pressure, then it will cook for the time you set. After it is done, allow the pressure cooker to naturally release the pressure. When the pressure is released, the button on the top of your pressure cooker will depress and you can open the lid. Remove the trivet and the chicken using oven mitts or gloves. I have a pair of heat resistant gloves that are similar to these and I love them. I find they mold to your hands better and allows me to handle hot items better. I also have a pair of oven mitts (similar to these) that I love - they only fit over your fingers and thumb.
Strain the chicken giblets and juice that remains in the bottom of the pot and use to make gravy or put in fridge/freezer to use as stock later. Carve the chicken and serve.
*Any left overs can be used to make this delicious Mexican Butternut Squash Soup
Instant Pot Whole Chicken
- 3-5 Pounds whole chicken
- 1 carrot
- 1 Stalk celery
- 1-2 Springs rosemary Fresh
- 1 lemon Cut in half
- 1 onion cut in half
- 2 Cloves garlic
- 2 Cups water
- 1 giblet package optional
For the Chicken Seasoning Rub
- combine all seasonings in a small mixing bowl and stir until well blended.
For the Whole Chicken
- Thaw the chicken if frozen. Check the cavity for the giblets, remove them and put in a small bowl for later. Rinse your chicken in a clean sink and place on a cutting board. Pat dry with paper towels. The drier you get the chicken the better.
- Cut the onion & lemon in half. Stuff the chicken cavity with celery, onion, rosemary and/or thyme, carrot, garlic and lemon. Rub the seasoning blend all over the chicken.
- Put 2 cups of water in the bottom of your Instant Pot or pressure cooker (with the pot insert in). Add in giblets (optional). Carefully place your seasoned chicken on the raised trivet that came with your Instant Pot and place in the Instant Pot or pressure cooker.
- Put the lid on the Instant Pot and set for high pressure. Set the time to equal 4 minutes per pound. Hit start. Once the pressure cooker has cooked for the desired time allow it to natural release. Check the temperature to make sure the thickest part of the thigh has reached 165° F.
- Remove the chicken and set on clean cutting board. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes. Carve and Serve.
I hope you enjoyed this recipe! If you make it at home, I'd love to hear your thoughts. You can comment below or shoot me an email at Louise@thesaltedpepper.com
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