Cooking a whole chicken saves time and money and offers several days of versatile meals. Plus, no matter how much or little time you like to spend in the kitchen, there’s a way to get a whole chicken ready to eat.
Why Cook a Whole Chicken?
Cooking a whole chicken is all about maximizing options and minimizing effort. Here are some reasons to cook an entire bird.
Whole chickens can cost less than a dollar per pound. Whether buying breasts, thighs, quarters, or wings, your price per pound for chicken parts will always be more expensive than a whole chicken. You can use every part of that whole chicken, too: meat for meals, and bones and giblets for broth.
It will feed you for days.
One cooked chicken can yield three to six cups of meat depending on the size of the bird. That’s the making of many days’ worth of meals.
You can enjoy both white and dark meat.
Some folks prefer dark meat, and some prefer white meat. Some dishes work better with chicken breasts, and for some, only chicken thighs will do. Working with a whole cooked chicken gives you the versatility to match any palate or recipe.
It’s more environmentally friendly than individually wrapped smaller portions.
When you buy chicken parts, they’re on plastic trays with absorbent liner pads. And let’s not even think about all the plastic wrap. Whole chickens require less overall packaging, which decreases the resource footprint needed to get a tasty chicken to your fridge.
How to Cook a Whole Chicken
When you think about cooking a chicken, your thoughts may jump to roasting. Roasting has plenty going for it, but the world of cooking whole chickens is bigger than your oven. Here are some cooking options to try.
Known in China as “white-cooked chicken,” gently poached chicken simmers covered in water flavored with aromatic herbs and vegetables. It’s firm yet tender and at the same time it makes a flavorful stock.
Your Instant Pot or other multicooker is a whole chicken secret weapon. A good rule of thumb? Cook on high pressure for 5 minutes per pound and use a natural pressure release.
It may not be the only way to cook chicken, but it’s a good one. From crispy skin to tender meat, roasting a chicken is worth the effort. Plus, if you cook the chicken on a bed of vegetables, you can roast a complete chicken dinner in one pan. For evenly cooked chicken that roasts faster, butterfly your bird. Cut out the backbone with poultry shears and flatten out the bird (also known as spatchcocking).
Skipping the cooking
There’s zero shame in buying a whole rotisserie chicken. All you have to do is pull it apart or shred it up.
How to Eat a Whole Chicken
Once you’ve cooked your whole chicken, what can you do with it? The glory of an entire chicken is its versatility. You don’t have to cut whole chickens up raw. It’s much easier to break down a cooked chicken. No knife required! Once cooked and cooled, you can easily carve a chicken, but you can also shred it with two forks or pull it apart with your hands.
You can use white and dark meat chicken across a vast range of dishes for several days.
Here are 8 ideas for how to savor it.
- Make chicken broth/chicken stock from the bones. Simmer the bones with water, veggies, and herbs to make stock, or tuck the bones in the freezer for later.
- Combine chicken and vegetables in a stir fry or curry. Eat it over white or brown rice.
- Add shredded chicken to tacos, burritos, or Southwest-style chicken salad.
- Simmer up a savory soup or stew, such as a soul-soothing chicken noodle soup or spicy green chili chicken stew.
- Use as a pizza topping. Toss chicken with barbecue sauce for BBQ chicken pizza.
- Stir chicken into a finished risotto with cheese and vegetables.
- Bake a chicken casserole. It’s the ultimate comfort dish to bring to an event or donate to a family who needs a meal.
- Add to your favorite bowl. Chicken adds tender-firm texture and savory flavor to any grain or veggie bowl.
Cooked whole chickens are one of the ultimate secret weapons for your kitchen. From broth to bowls, soups to salads, cook up a whole chicken to liven any meal.