Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Chicken. No really, the whole chicken

As you know, I look am always look for ways to be thrifty and purposeful with my purchases. So far, I've found that purchasing a whole chicken is — by far — the most thrifty and useful. Obviously, I am not turning over any new, culinary rocks or documenting some new amazing use for the chicken. Instead, I just want to share the bounty that I see available to us in the cheaply-priced meat of the "whole chicken." Don't get me wrong, I often like the convenience of the boneless, skinless chicken breast. However, we are clearly paying a high price for this convenience.

While I am not yet able to consistently cook with free-range chickens, I am taking baby steps to cook more wholesome meals from stratch without the added preservatives from canned or boxed items.

Here's what I typically get out of a whole chicken (for 2 adults and two small children):
  • 2 dinners with chicken as the star (includes two vegetable sides)
  • 1 dinner with chicken in the casserole
  • Chicken stock for 1 pot of soup
  • About 3 cups of chicken stock to use for other purposes
I've also recently started saving the rendered chicken fat. Some call this a traditional, healthy fat. I have used it to saute veggies. I'm still doing more research on this, but it's exciting to find an inexpensive way to saute (olive oil can get pretty expensive).

That's at least 4 meals! If I find a super deal on whole chickens, like $$0.88/lb, a 6-pound chicken only costs $5.28. Now, picture that against buying separate packages of chicken for each meal or several cartons of chicken stock.

Obviously, as my boys get bigger (and we add more babies to our family), we'll have to purchase more chickens; but you get the idea.

How it's done
First, you'll need to decide how you want to use your chicken first. If you just want the breasts for grilling, you can carve them off the raw chicken. Please be patient and kind to yourself, as it does take quite a bit of practice to get all the meat off the bone. Yes, I speak from experience! Haha!!

Typically, I'll roast the chicken for the first meal, saving the drippings to make gravy. Remember to save the inards to add to your stock.

While carving the cooked chicken, I'll also put the next batches of chicken into the fridge (if I'll use it in a day or two) or the freezer (for a meal later in the month). It's nice to have cooked chicken ready to go.

My next tip, save the bones and carcass!! This is how you make chicken stock. Rather than go into a lot of detail about making stock (from bones) or broth (from fresh meat), I'll point you to some of my favorite places:
Storage options for stock
I like to store my broth in canning jars and screw-top lids and store in the freezer. I also put 3 cups of stock into ice cube trays. Once they are frozen, I pop them out of the freezer trays and into a labeled ziptop freezer bag. This way, they are exactly 1 ounce each, making it easy to put just a little broth into a sauce.

Do you have a favorite trick or way to prepare a whole chicken?


  1. Thanks so much for the tips. What a great way to freeze broth

  2. oh, and i remember when i could get that many meals out of 1 bird with two small boys. now 3 birds only gets us 1 meal. oh the joys of a large family lol!