Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cooking Whole Chickens

Have you ever looked at the price of organic, free range chicken packages in the store? YIKES! Buying healthier meats can put quite a strain on a budget. But, at the same time, commercially farmed chicken can put quite a strain on our body. I mean, we don't really do well with the extra antibiotics and vaccine ingredients. (For a complete list of what's scary about commercially farmed chicken read this.)

Here is what works for us:
I purchase whole chickens from a local farm operation. (Check out LocalHarvest.org for farms near you.) These chickens are much healthier than grocery store chickens, even though they are not as cheap as the whole birds at the market. They are much cheaper than the boneless, skinless packages though!
In order to make the meat go as far as it can, I cook one each week so that I have meat for three meals and stock for rice and soups. Making stock is important. There is more nourishment on a chicken than just the protein in the meat! Preparing a stock to use in other recipes will take advantage of the abundant minerals and other nutritive properties found in the whole chicken.
This may seem like a daunting process, but it actually is quite simple... as long as I remember to thaw out a chicken in time! I just put a chicken in the crock pot with plenty of pure water and let it slowly cook all day long. Vegetables may be added to give flavor and extra nutrition to the stock, but they won't be very palatable after the extended cooking.
At the end of the day, I debone my chicken and divide the meat. We usually eat 1/2 of the chicken with supper that night. And I use the other half in a casserole or other recipe that will give us enough leftovers for two complete meals. Keep in mind that this diced chicken can be used in any recipe that calls for chicken breasts. Last, but not least, I strain the stock and refrigerate it for other recipes as well.
Our chickens cost about $10 each. For three meals and plenty of nourishing stock, we figure it beats the packaged store chickens both for our budget and for our health.

5 comments:

noelle said...

We don't get as much mileage from one chicken with 8 in our family. But I love o roast a chicken and make stock too from all the extra bones.

Our CSA decided to stop doing eggs last fall and slaughtered most of the chickens. Hubby brought home 3 and dressed hem out. They are really good sewing chickens. And I try to get as much stock as I can from their bones too.

Noel said...

I've gone to buying split breasts organic chicken and stocking up on them, making my own broth and cooking and freezing chicken. I wish we could raise our own meat chicken, but I don't know if I'm up to the slaughtering :0

Teresa R said...

For Noel (above), processing your own chickens isn't so bad...just don't let anyone name them before hand! ;)

We have a "production line" at our home: dh slits their necks (a 'killing cone' is a great thing to invest in; it helps to keep the chicken from flapping around) and drains the blood. He dunks them in warm, soapy water which loosens the feathers. Our two boys (now 11 and 13, but were about 8 and 10 when they first started helping) pluck the feathers. Then, I eviscerate them, clean them off and package them for freezing afterwards.

It's not so daunting a task when it's spread out.

When we go to use them, I usually cut off the meat which are used in one meal (often with leftovers for next day's lunch too), and we put the carcass in the crock pot for stock. There's usually enough meat on the carcass that we can do chicken and dumpling, or chicken noodle soup, or a Chinese dish called congee for another meal or two. :)

Kitchen Stewardship said...

You can also roast the chicken (for a change of pace for the first meal) and then make stock from the bones. I think the leftover roast chicken is so much better for cold wraps and sandwiches! You can see how I used 3 chickens at Kitchen Stewardship (http://kitchenstewardship.wordpress.com/2009/03/14/food-for-thought-menu-planning/)! thanks for the great post!

two h's said...

ae- for your stock do you just pour off the liquid from the cooked chicken, or do you remove the meat and simmer the carcass in more liquid for the stock? (can you tell i'm catching up on your posts today? :)