What is a Cantonese apricot chicken in the Instant Pot you ask? A whole chicken marinated in apricot preserves, garlic, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar and stuffed with onions and lemon wedges. Then, the stuffed chicken is pressure cooked in the Instant Pot with the marinade, covered in an apricot glaze and crisped in the air fryer or broiler until golden brown.
We picked up two fresh free range healthy chickens from the farmer’s market in Cortez, Colorado. I haven’t made to many whole chickens in the instant pot but I have a good experience each time I do. The meat turns out super juicy, flavorful, and tender, but the skin needs to be browned or crisped afterward. This is an opportunity to add a glaze or more flavor one way or another.
The rule that I have followed for pressure cooking chickens, turkeys, and other birds has been 6 minutes of pressure cooking for each pound of bird plus a 15 minute natural pressure release. The chicken comes out done but needs to be crisped or browned for about ten more minutes so the chicken ends up a little over done with the extra cooking time. So, I do 5 minutes of natural pressure release instead of 15 minutes leaving time for the air fryer or broiler at the end. This will leave you with moist dark and white meat.
We are not talking about the traditional bread stuffing here. We’re looking for a stuffing that is going to dramatically affect the flavor and amount of juice found in the meat of the chicken. Chopped onions and lemon slices are the perfect stuffing ingredients for our pressure cooked apricot Cantonese chicken.
Using a sharp knife and a nice cutting board, chop the onion into medium size pieces to increase the surface area exposed to the inside of the chicken. You can play with different onions for different flavors. Red onions will affect the flavor the least because they are mellow and sweet. White or Spanish onions work well because of their high flavor intensity. Yellow onions work very well because of their mellow warm onion flavor when cooked.
I like to slice the lemon into quarters leaving the lemon rind to leach some of the electric lemon flavors from the sour juice and the lemony zing of the lemon rind.
Stuff the chicken really good with onions and lemon slices so the the stuffing does not fall out.
Marinating the chicken will produce a more flavor rich chicken. This recipe uses apricot preserves mixed with plenty of fresh garlic, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar.
I use a seasoned rice wine vinegar because it has a sweeter flavor than non seasoned rice wine vinegar but you can use either one. Mix all the ingredients in the bag, throw the chicken giblets in and slide the chicken into the zip lock bag.
Zip up the bag and massage the marinade all over the chicken.
Let the chicken marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour and I would imagine up to 24 hours is a good limit to a potent marination. Flip the chicken half way through the marination time. Set a timer on your phone so you do not forget to do this.
For small chickens, I use a zip lock bag to marinate. For big birds I use a large mixing bowl covered in plastic wrap. I think the zip lock bag is easier and less messy to flip the bird over throughout the marination process.
I use an instant pot for my pressure cooking because of how easy it is to use. I also like to rub the inside of the pot with olive oil to make cleanup easier before I begin.
After the water has been added to the instant pot, place the instant pot trivet into the instant pot. The trivet makes removing the chicken much easier after cooking.
Remove the chicken from the marinade bag and place it onto the trivet inside the instant pot. dump all of the marinade ingredients over the top of the chicken. Put the instant pot lid on and seal the pressure release valve.
Using the rule 6 minutes a pound of bird plus a 5 minute natural pressure release at the end will work perfectly. My chicken was just over 3 1/2 pounds so I did 23 minutes plus the 5 minutes of natural pressure release.
I use a kitchen timer because I will be distracted when it’s time to release the pressure.
Release the pressure after the five minutes are done.
This Cantonese Apricot Chicken has a lot of flavor from the marinade but is a complete different bird after a good glazing and some high heat.
Mix 1/2 cup apricot preserves with 2 Tbsp soy sauce and 1 Tbsp of rice wine vinegar. Pull the chicken out of the instant pot using the handles of the trivet.
Set the Trivet with the chicken onto a plate. Use a basting brush to heavily cover the entire chicken in the apricot Cantonese glaze.
Preheat the air fryer to 400°F for 5 minutes. Spray the inside of the air fryer basket with olive oil using an EVO oil sprayer. Use long tongs and a cookie spatula to lift the chicken off of the trivet and set it into the air fryer basket. Smash the bird down if necessary to fit into the air fryer using your fist pushing down onto a spatula pushing down onto the chicken’s breasts.
This may remove some of the glaze and open up more spaces that could use a good amount of glaze. I put a lot of glaze between the thighs and the breasts under the skin which opened when I smashed the chicken.
Air fry at 400°F for about 6 minutes. Keep a close eye on the skin every minute to make sure the skin and glaze does not burn. You are welcome to flip the chicken over to crisp the back. I do not do this because I do not want the bird to fall apart and make a mess in the air fryer.
After 6 minutes of air frying at 400°F, use long tongs and a cookie spatula to carefully move the chicken to a plate and cover the chicken with aluminum foil. Let the chicken sit under its aluminum foil tent for 8 minutes.
Preheat the broiler to high or low depending on your comfort level keeping the chicken from burning. Place the glazed chicken onto an oiled cookie sheet or broiler pan. Place the pan into the broiler on the second to bottom row or where you feel comfortable broiling the chicken without burning. Let the chicken broil for approximately 5 minutes checking often to make sure it does not burn.
Remove the chicken and the pan when the apricot Cantonese chicken skin and glaze are golden brown. There will be spots that will be very dark but that is normal. Tent the chicken with aluminum foil for 8 minutes.
Run a sharp blade down the middle between the chicken breasts following along the side of the sternum. Use a fork or tongs to help pull the breast away from the chicken rib cage as you carve the white meat away from the ribs making sure not to leave any meat behind. Be careful around the wish bone.
Use tongs to grab the leg and bend the knee. Use a sharp knife to slice through the back side of the knee aiming for the bend in the knee joint.
Wiggle the blade a little as you push the blade toward the joint until the blade finds its way through the joint. Complete the cut separating the leg from the thigh.
Use tongs to grab the thigh pushing the thigh away from the chicken’s body. Run the blade of a sharp knife along the natural crease between the thigh and the body pushing toward where the head of the femur articulates with the hip joint.
Wiggle the blade a little back and forth while pushing the blade into the hip joint until the blade finds its way through. Pull the thigh away from the chicken body. Do the same for the chicken wings as well.
Serve apricot Cantonese chicken with white or brown rice seasoned with 1 tsp sesame oil and salt and pepper. A premade Asian salad works well in a pinch for a healthy side dish.
We were staying at a Hip Camp in Woodland Park Colorado and the owner gave us some zucchini’s the size of my leg. We soaked sliced and peeled zucchini in sesame oil and soy sauce pressed into Panko and then air fried to a golden brown.