You’ve probably eyed those sale prices on whole chickens, but let’s face it: cooking a whole chicken can be intimidating. It doesn’t have to be! Go out and catch one of those awesome sales and I’ll teach you all about chicken.
The chickens you buy for those great sale prices (like 69 cents a pound) are fryer chickens. These are smaller birds because they only let them live to be 6-8 weeks old. The quick turn around means less feeding time which means the price is lower. These are the same chickens they use to make the store bought pre-cooked rotisserie chickens, except they seem to always use the smallest ones (2-3 lbs). The lowest price I see is about 69c/lb. A 3lb bird would be $2.07. That same bird cooked by the store would run you somewhere around $5.99. That’s a 289% mark up!
Rinse the chicken under cold water and pat it try with paper towels. Peak inside the chicken. It might have some stuff in it called giblets. Depending on the brand of chicken you buy they might be in a bag, just hanging loose, or they might not even be there at all. Some brands include the neck. You can easily snap that out too if you want. I usually save this stuff to make chicken stock later. Some people cook it and eat it. Others just throw it out.
Loosen up the skin on the chicken. You’ll be able to slide your fingers under the skin at the openings (yup, the neck and the butt). Wiggle your fingers in and slide them all around to loosen that skin right up. This will allow you to put seasonings and butter right against the meat which means a flavorful meat, and a nice crispy skin (my favorite part!). The store bought chickens don’t do this. They just dump flavoring on the outside and call it good. That’s probably why I can never tell any difference in flavor between the various options they sell.
Flavor your chicken. You can follow a recipe, or just keep it simple. Personally, I prefer putting 1/4 cup butter up under the skin, and rubbing the whole bird down with Cajun seasoning. It is simple, quick, and flavorful. If I have a couple lemons on hand I squeeze the juice over the chicken and then shove the squeezed lemons into the cavity of the chicken.
A professional chef would tie up the chicken, but you probably don’t have any cooking twine on hand. Don’t fret. Move on to Step 5! If you do happen to have twine, well then, truss up that chicken and tie those legs together!
If you have a roasting pan, put the chicken on the rack. If you don’t have a roasting pan, then don’t sweat it. Just put it, breast side up, in a dark metal 9×13 pan. Roast for 20 minutes at 450 degrees, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and continue roasting for about another 40 minutes. Baste every 10 minutes or so with the juices for a moist, flavorful bird. Remove from the oven when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Use a meat thermometer to check right where the leg connects to the body. Let it rest for about 20 minutes before carving.
Put the bird in the slow cooker on low for about 8 hours. The disadvantage on the slower cooker is that you won’t get a crispy skin because the appliance can’t get hot enough to do it. You could always pull it out and roast it at 500 degrees for 15 minutes, or put it under a broiler to get that crispy skin. The difficulty you might run across is that your chicken will be fall-off-the-bone tender.
Once your chicken is cooked it’s time to carve it. You can either carve it at serving, or you can remove all the meat from the bones for later use.
If you look at the breast there is a line running down the center. Place a sharp knife just to one side of that line and press down firmly. You’ll hear ribs crack. Do the same on the other side as well and you’ll be able to remove the center bone.
At this point you’ll be able to fold open the chicken and see exactly where your knife needs to go to remove the breast meat in one swoop. Cool, huh? You’ll be able to remove all the chicken fairly quickly.
Now don’t throw away the bones quite yet. Either put them in the fridge or freezer and use them to make homemade chicken stock. All you need to know to make your own stock is found HERE.
Also, check out THIS POST for 30 recipes that use pre-cooked chicken.