Maple BBQ Pulled Chicken

Maple BBQ Pulled Chicken

My slowcooker’s name is Harold, and I consider him to be part of our two parent, two cat, 1 slowcooker family. I had a flash of awareness a few weeks ago where I thought about how much Harold does for us, how much we rely on him for sustenance during those long and busy work weeks, and calling him “The Crockpot” or “That Slowcooker” just seemed like a little bit of a slur. He’s not just a crockpot, he’s also my personal chef (who always knows when the meat is done, thanks to the handy thermometer he carries around), kitchen sanity, and general good time man. Better yet, he makes barely any mess in my kitchen, and he’s always waiting and ready with a hearty dinner when we get home from work. Harold, we love you. We appreciate the things you do.

Although traditionally pulled barbecue is done on, well, a BBQ, that’s just not going to happen around here on a regular basis. I mean, there’s always that inherent possibility that I will break down and slow cook a pork shoulder outside on a sunny Sunday afternoon, but when it comes to foods that take 4-8 hours to cook in a device that can’t just be left alone while you toddle off to work, I don’t have time for that. But that’s okay – I don’t need to slow cook meat for hours on end. Harold will do it for me. I’m telling you, he’s a gem.

Pulled pork sandwiches are like kryptonite for me. Just the smell of slow roasting meat in a sweet and slightly spicy BBQ sauce, and I get all weak-kneed and slack jawed. Resistance is futile, and one can only hope that I have time to tie on a plastic bib before throwing myself at the picnic table. That said, I’ve been trying to look for lighter options in our day to day casual eating fare, and a big, fatty, delicious pork butt just doesn’t always fit into a healthy eating regimen. Once in a while the pig has to go waddle back to his sty to make room for our fine feathered friends. Pulled chicken and turkey are just as delicious as pulled pork (frankly, it’s all about the BBQ sauce in my book) but a significantly healthier option when you’re making it in a slow cooker where the fat can’t just drip away.

As for the gently spicy maple laced BBQ sauce? Well, we’re Canadian, eh….

Maple BBQ Pulled Chicken

Serves 6-8

  • 2 kg (4.5 lb) bone-in chicken pieces *
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 serrano chili peppers **
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1.5″ chunk of ginger
  • 1 tbsp chipotle chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1.5 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp oregano
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

* It’s nice to use a blend of white and dark meat, so I used about 3 large breasts and 3 chicken legs/thighs. Pulled turkey is absolutely fabulous, and if you like you can substitute 2 medium bone-in turkey breasts (about 1 kg each) for the chicken pieces.

** Jalapenos are a good substitute if you don’t have serrano peppers.

Maple BBQ Pulled Chicken

Cut the top off the onion and peel it. Grate the onion and put the pulp into the ceramic dish of your crockpot.

Maple BBQ Pulled Chicken

Finely mince the serrano peppers and add let them join their friend, the onion.

Maple BBQ Pulled Chicken

Grate or finely mince the garlic and peeled ginger. Add these, along with all of the remaining ingredients (except for the chicken) to the dish.

Maple BBQ Pulled Chicken

If your chicken pieces have skin on them you want to take it off. Ditto for any large chunks of fat. A little bit of fat won’t hurt, but do your best to clean the meat.

Maple BBQ Pulled Chicken

Snuggle your chicken pieces under their delicious blanket of sauce, making sure that they are nicely submerged.

Maple BBQ Pulled Chicken

Set the crockpot on a low heat setting and let the chicken cook slowly for 6 hours. Sure, things aren’t really looking appetizing at this point, but the smell wafting out of your kitchen when you get home, well, that’s nothing short of work night magic.

Maple BBQ Pulled Chicken

Use a large shallow spoon to scoop as much fat off the surface of the sauce as you can.

Carefully pull out the chicken pieces and set them aside. At this point the chicken will literally be falling off the bone, so try to be gentle when lifting it out or you’ll leave the bones behind. Oh yes, and speaking of bones, chicken has a lot of them. After all of the chicken pieces are out of the pot, carefully spoon through the sauce to make sure that no wee bits of mangy bone were left behind.

Shred the chicken into chunks and strips. The civilized way to do this is to use two forks, which I try very hard to do for at least 3 minutes…..but then as soon as the chicken is cool enough to handle I give up and just tear it with my hands. You may feel like a bit of a Mongol Lord, but it’s faster, more efficient, and you get to feel through the meat to make sure no bones get carried away with the flesh.

Maple BBQ Pulled Chicken

Add the shredded chicken back to the sauce and give it a stir to make sure that it’s well coated and warmed through. You may want to keep the slow cooker on low to simmer the meat in the sauce for another 20 minutes, but that’s entirely up to you.

Maple BBQ Pulled Chicken

Mound a generous spoonful of your saucy pulled chicken onto a crusty kaiser role and garnish with mustard pickles if you feel the yen.

Maple BBQ Pulled Chicken

What are mustard pickles, you ask? Well, my friend, mustard pickles are another strange sounding but delightful product from our neighbors in Quebec – yes, the same people who brought us french fries smothered in gooey cheese curds and rich gravy. If nothing else, the existence of poutine is a sure sign that those Francophones know what food is all about. Mustard pickles are just dills which are packed in a slightly sweet yellow sea of prepared mustard instead of a sour, garlicky brine. Pickles and mustard together in one jar. Now that’s just streamlined sandwich making, right there.

Maple BBQ Pulled Chicken

Pulled barbecue sandwiches are just calling out for coleslaw, and it would be a shame to ignore that culinary plea. We went for a sweet and savory coleslaw, studded with dried cranberries in a tangy blue cheese dressing. I don’t usually make a creamy coleslaw, but this one I could gobble up with a pitchfork.

Maple BBQ Pulled Chicken

And there you have it: Dinner on the table even before Wheel of Fortune comes on. Isn’t that always a win?
Maple BBQ Pulled Chicken

Maple BBQ Pulled Chicken
  • http://www.amomentofweakness.blogspot.com Tara

    My whole mouth just filled up with saliva reading this.

    I believe I will be making this next week.

  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com kristie

    I remember MY Harold, who was reliable, dependable, and worked every time. When I got married, I switched over to Fabian de Santiago, a dangerous Latin lover from the All-Clad family who makes love like a wild stallion and also can sear meat directly in his pan before transferring to his outer sheath. Nobody knows yet if he’s going to be dependable. If he’s long term relationship material. But he’s shiny and sexy and CAN SEAR IN THE PAN, and that makes a delicious man-gravy. Er…pan gravy.

  • MtC

    NSFW… ne?

  • http://foodhappens.blogspot.com lo

    Wisconsin gals like me love a maple-laced bbq… and this looks like some fine chicken.

    I own a couple of slow-cookers, and mostly use them for soup. Looks like I need to warm up to the idea of using them to cook meat every now and again. This looks like a sammich I could put my whole face around.

  • http://www.imafoodblog.com sara

    This is a great post. I love bbq sandwiches but feel the same way about eating a pork shoulder on a weeknight. I usually make my weeknight sandwiches with a rotisserie chicken, but this sounds even better. Can’t wait to try it!

  • http://anhsfoodblog.blogspot.com Anh

    I LOVEEEEE this recipe!! Thanks for sharing!

  • http://othersideof50.blogspot.com/ Mags

    “Once in a while the pig has to go waddle back to his sty to make room for our fine feathered friends”

    LOL! I’m so going to use that when hubby complains about me making chicken.. AGAIN

    nice blog you have here… I’ll be back

  • Carrollton Foodie

    Wow, that sounds so so so good and so easy … great combination! And you mentioned one of my all-time favorite foods, poutine fries, which I had several times in Alberta, Canada, and can’t seem to find in the great state of Texas :)

  • http://closetcooking.blogspot.com Kevin

    A maple BBQ Sauce for pulled pork sounds really good! Nice photos!

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  • tcmaryf

    I’ve come a few months late to this post but I think this will be a great winter dish accompanied by some sweet potatoes. I can’t wait to try it. Thnx

  • samantha

    This was a great recipe…the chicken turned out to be sooo tender & juicy. I think next time I make it though, I’m going to dial back the red wine & onion. I also took some of the remaining sauce from the slow cooker & reduced it on the stove top for a nice thick & gooey bbq sauce as a condiment…yum!

  • Lynn Riley

    I would like to print this out and do not see any “print”? I don’t need all the pictures, etc. – just ingredients and instructions. Please let me know how to print out the receipes.

    • ME

      Copy and paste to your favorite word processor like Microsoft Word or Notepad, lazy ass!

  • Lynn Wolter

    I agree with Lynn Riley. We need to be able to print your recipes without all the pictures and instructions. Please!

  • Mary in Seattle

    Oh my god! This is sooooo good!

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Mary – thank you for your comment! We’re so glad that you enjoyed the recipe :)

  • TEAM TINA!

    Please keep the pictures, i like you recipes because it has a lot of them lol
    and when i cook i make sure that my food looks like yours

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