Chicken – What do I do with a whole chicken? Part 1

Fall is here. You want to cook again. You want chickens that were happy chickens, living a good chicken life. You want ones that were raised outdoors in lots of fresh air and sunshine, eating the grass, non-gmo grains and whatever bugs and insects came their way.  You know that is how we raise our chicken. But buying that sort of chicken from Treasures of Joy Farm means you get a whole, frozen chicken, not just boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  And that just seems like more work!

I will agree that initially it is a touch more work.  But in the long run with the help of your refrigerator and freezer, you are preparing multiple meals.  And the flavor and texture of the meat and the potential broth make it worth it. So let’s say, you decide to buy a chicken. But now, what do you do with it?

  • The first step is to thaw the chicken.
    • You can thaw it in the refrigerator for a day or two.
    • You can let it sit in water for several hours.
    • You thaw it while you cook it in your instant pot.*
    • You can bake it tightly covered in the oven for 2 hours at 400F from a frozen start.**

I am not sure which way the USDA recommends.  I tend to soak it in water or cook it in the oven from a frozen start.

  • The next step is to choose a cooking method. All of these methods end up with cooked chicken. With some methods the meat falls off the bone, and with some the meat retains more of its structure. With any of the methods, if the carcass is falling apart or the meat is falling off the bones, the chicken is done. OR if you poke a thigh or breast with a cooking fork and the juices come out clear, then it is done. If the juice comes out brown or red, then it needs to cook some more.
    • In the crockpot
      • Cook thawed chicken breast-side down on low for 7 hours.  (Lisa Leake’s 100 Days of Real Food Cookbook also says you can do it on high for 4 hours, but I haven’t tried that yet. Her recipe is here.) Meat falls off the bone; good method if you are going to be away all day, or in and out of the house.
    • *In the instant pot
      • I haven’t used this, but have a friend who does.  You pressure cook the frozen chicken and have it done in 25-ish minutes.  See instant pot directions for specifics.  OR my searching brought up this recipe and this one. Meat probably falls off the bone, meat cooks quickly. This method allows you to be more spontaneous than some other methods.
    • **In the oven
      • I like to cook chicken over rice or potatoes, so that the fat and skin juices help to flavor the rice and potatoes. You can also put broccoli on top of the rice or potatoes. Then your veggie cooks along with the starch and meat.
        • Over rice: grease/butter/oil pan, use 2 parts water, 1 part rice (rice doubles in size, so 1 cup becomes 2 cups), put down veggie if doing that, put thawed or frozen chicken breast side down on top of rice.  Cover tightly. Cook at 400F for 2 hours or until the juices run clear.
        • Over potatoes: put enough water to cover bottom, put washed and cut up potatoes in pan (quarters to 16ths, depending on the size of your potatoes), put down veggie if doing that, put chicken breast side down on top of potatoes.  Cover tightly. Cook at 400F for 2 hours or until the juices run clear.
    • In the soup pot
      • Put the thawed or frozen chicken in the pot, cover with water, cover pot, bring to boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 45-ish minutes.  Remove chicken from water, allowing it to cool.  Once it has cooled so you can handle it, cut off the meat and put back into pot for soup. (Soup recipes, like Chicken Corn Soup and Hearty Chicken Vegetable Soup, will come in a future post.)

Cooked any of these ways, the chicken should fall apart and be easy to cut up.

  • Finally, eat up! Add a veggie and a salad, and dinner is served. (OR refrigerate or freeze the cooked chicken for another meal. More meal ideas to come in future posts.)

How can I get one or more chickens?

I hope you are looking forward to cooking that whole chicken.  I am!


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