Bottom line: Good barbecue doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, what gets lost in what we can call the commercialization of home barbecue is that the key ingredient is patience, not corn syrup.

Is it still barbecue if it’s cooked in a slow cooker?

That depends on your definition and on what lexical part of speech you’re using — barbecue works as a noun, verb, or adjective.

In this case, we’re using the adjective form to describe the flavoring of the food. Instead of grabbing an off-the-shelf barbecue sauce loaded with sugar, today’s recipe is all homemade. Barbecue sauce is really easy to make at home, and doing so lets you measure the flavors you like. Want it sweeter? Up the brown sugar. Tarter? Try some lemon juice. Spicy? A few more red pepper flakes, or even some Tabasco.

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While barbecue purists will probably scoff at our usage of the word, not to mention our choice of appliance, traditional open-flame cooking methods have two things in common with slow cookers: low and slow.

Bring the flavor up by turning the heat down

Food that’s cooked slowly over a low heat tends to remain more tender and more flavorful.

Today’s Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken recipe is similar to a tender pulled pork as a result of the slow cooking. And cooking the chicken slowly ensures that the flavors and juices of the sauce penetrate the meat to give it a salty-sweet barbecue flavoring.

Nothing added, nothing taken away

Slow cooking food is a great way to preserve all its natural flavors. Other, high-temperature methods can burn away natural flavorings that enhance the meal.

Gas grill enthusiasts also speak of tasting “the meat, not the heat,” as a way of describing the somewhat unnatural charred taste that can come with charcoal grilling.

Slow cooking is a great way to keep the flavor of your food pure and potent.

Shredded Slow Cooker Chicken with BBQ Sauce


  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1½ cups organic tomato ketchup, or any ketchup that does not contain high-fructose corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ground red hot pepper flakes, or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

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  1. Combine all ingredients for the sauce in the slow cooker. Add the chicken, try to coat it well with the sauce.
  2. Cook on high 3-4 hours, or until chicken is fully cooked all the way through.
  3. Shred or cut up the chicken, and replace it in the barbecue sauce in the pot; mix it all up so all the pieces are coated.
  4. You can keep the slow cooker on low to keep the chicken warm for serving on hard rolls.