What to do with a whole chicken

“I don’t have time to roast a chicken.”

“I’ve never cut up a whole chicken.”

“What do you do with a whole chicken anyway?”

These are the comments I hear most when it comes to buying a whole chicken.  I’ve been making meals with whole chickens from our land for a few years now and this is what I’ve come to realize.  I don’t have time to roast a chicken either.  And knives, chickens, and myself should never be within proximity of each other at the same time.  HOWEVER, regarding the last question, I do know what I do with a whole chicken and thought I would share my no-time, no-fuss method of getting the max out of a chicken.  Grab a crock-pot, a few staple kitchen ingredients, and you are ready to go.

After thawing out the chicken in the fridge for a couple of days I place it in a crock-pot.  Sprinkle it generously with salt, pepper, and garlic.  You can add other seasoning if you want.  This is just my basic, take 5 minutes, and get the bird slow-cooking.  Cook on low for 6 – 8 hours or high 4 – 5 hours.  As with all food prep, times may vary depending on the size of your bird, crock-pot, etc.  Basic rule is an internal temp of 165 degrees and juices run clear.

Once the chicken is cooked I take it out of the crock-pot and let it cool down for 30 or so minutes.  When it is cooled down enough to handle without burning your finger tips, it’s time to pick apart the meat.  I’m sure there are plenty of YouTube videos that showcase the how-to’s and ways to pick apart a chicken efficiently.  Watch a couple, get the feel for it, wash your hands, and start pulling!  This process only takes a few minutes once you get the hang of it.

After the chicken meat is pulled off I cut it up and divide it into 2 cup quantities.   You now have the base for a multitude of recipes;  chicken salad, enchiladas, soups, casseroles, and the list goes on….

Now comes the next step.  What to do with the frame and chicken leftovers after pulling the meat  off?  Chicken stock, of course!

Using the same crock-pot (keep the juices from the chicken) return the chicken remnants.  At this time I add whatever vegetables I have on hand that don’t have much shelf life left.  Onions, garlic, carrots, celery, and bell peppers are my usual.  Sometimes all and sometimes none.  It’s not an exact science and you can wing it.  A splash of cider vinegar, a couple of bay leaves, add water to cover plus about an inch or two higher, and you are good to go.  Cook on low for 8 – 10 hours.  If life gets busy and you forget and it cooks longer, no biggie, the longer you cook it the more nutrients you will get from the bones.  Good stuff.   Once your stock is done, strain it through a cheese cloth and marvel at the nutritional liquid gold you have at your disposal.  Note:  Coloring will vary from a yellow to a darker brown and is dependent on time cooked and vegetables used.

The final step is to use and/or freeze your bounty.  I usually place everything in the fridge and use it, as needed, for a couple of days.  Then I divide out what I have left and freeze for future use.  For the chicken stock I pour into ice-cube trays, freeze, and pop them out.  Store them in a gallon zip lock bag and you now have grab and go chicken stock.  I use these for just about anything that requires water.  Rice, sautés, soups, etc.

And that, folks, is what I do with my whole chicken.

~ Tricia ~

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