Does a whole chicken intimidate you? When you think about how to use one do you only see rotisserie chicken? The truth is that a whole chicken offers an incredible canvas for you as a starting point for whatever meal you want! In this post, I’m going to share some ideas and links to resources to give you a confidence boost to master a whole chicken, regardless of your comfort level in the kitchen.
Personally, I love roasted chicken. The crispy skin and juicy, flavorful meat are sheer meal perfection, especially when roasted with some potatoes or other veggies. My trouble has always been finding an easy way to evenly cook them. There’s the traditional “roast it like a turkey” method, which works except that the thighs and breast cook at different rates and your breast meat ends up dry and the thighs are underdone - plus there’s very little of my favorite crispy skin available and it takes a long time. Or there’s that kitchen device where you stand the chicken up on it, which yields a more even bake and crispy skin, but it’s another piece of kitchen equipment. And let’s be honest - there’s no where to roast those potatoes! Does anyone else have one of these lurking in their kitchen gadget graveyard?
Enter spatchcocking! It’s not only a fabulously fun word to say, but it’s also an easy way to achieve that uniform bake in a reasonable time frame with crispy skin galore - and room for potatoes. You simply use kitchen shears (my preferred method) or a sharp kitchen knife to remove the backbone of the chicken. At that point, you flip it breast side up, push it down to make it lay flat (there will be cracking noises involved) and then roast it from there! This method also makes it easier to brine than a whole chicken because it lays flat and it allows more surface area for seasoning!
Once you’ve spatchcocked your chicken, let your imagination go wild! Brine, season and then grill the chicken. It will grill much faster than a whole chicken because it spreads out the meat into a more even layer. Season it with one of our seasoning blends like Greek, Mediterranean or Cajun or make it into a marinade by adding lemon juice and oil
to a seasoning blend.
Here are a couple of helpful links and recipes:
If you can spatchcock, then you can go ahead and make your chickens into roasted half chickens and add another level of swank to your dinner. Here’s a video link to help with this step. This works especially well with our smaller chickens because it gives everyone a half chicken and they cook even faster. Once they are cut and seasoned, here‘s the cooking method. Place one oven rack in the second highest position and the other on the lowest. Place a baking sheet on the lowest rack and pre-heat it to 500 degrees. It sounds crazy hot, but trust me! Take the chicken out of the fridge about 30 minutes before baking so it can be closer to room temperature when it goes in. When you’re ready, spray the skin side of the chicken with a spray oil (or regular pan spray works, too). Place the chicken halves skin-side down on the hot sheet pan and bake 15 minutes. Take out the sheet pan, flip the chicken over so it’s skin-side up and set your oven to high broil. Put the chicken back in on the higher rack and let it broil until the internal temp is 165. Keep an eye on it! It should take 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of the chickens. If it starts to get too crispy (like burnt looking), move it back to the lower rack to finish cooking.
If you’re looking for an easy way to fill up your freezer with pre-cooked chicken and stock as we’re heading into soup season, your Instant Pot is your best friend! No need to even thaw the chickens! Place two smaller or one larger frozen chicken in your inner pot and cover it with water to the full line. I add a couple tablespoons of salt, some fresh ground pepper and even a couple of bay leaves. Since you’re using the chicken meat, I keep the seasonings simple. Set the Instant Pot on Manual for 60 minutes, close the pressure valve and let it do it’s work. Allow the pot to naturally release then remove the chickens to a baking sheet or cake pan and let them cool. Don’t skip this step - your fingers will thank you.
Strain the broth using a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl. I like to use my mixer bowl because it has a lid and pour spout, but any bowl or pitcher would work. Let the stock chill overnight, skim the fat off the top with a spoon then freeze in baggies or freezer safe containers. I usually freeze in 2 or 4 cup measures since it seems like I use those amounts most often.
Back to the cooked chicken. Pull the chicken off the bones, making sure you watch for pieces of cartilage and the tiny bones in the neck area. You can shred the meat or chop it into the sizes you will use. Again, I measure it into baggies in 2 cup sizes, label and pop them in the freezer. Now you are just minutes away from homemade chicken noodle soup in a pinch by pulling a few items out of your freezer and pantry. It’s not only infinitely better than canned soup but completely without all of the preservatives that come in canned products. Or use the meat in stirfries, casseroles, enchiladas - anything that calls for cooked chicken.
Don’t let yourself be afraid of a whole chicken! Hopefully these links and ideas will inspire you to try one soon.
Here is another guide on how to use a whole chicken.
Here a few closing pro-tips for perfect chicken:
✅Use a kitchen thermometer for checking doneness. 165 degrees is the recommended temperature.
✅For crispier skin, season chicken or turkey and let it set in the fridge from 4-24 hours uncovered before baking.
✅Don’t over-marinate poultry! Over-marinating can actually make it tougher, especially if you have a higher-acid marinade. 30 minutes to 8 hours should be plenty of time for most marinades to do their thing.
✅Save bones, backs and leftover veggie scraps like onion skins, celery leaves and carrot peels in plastic bags in your freezer to use for making chicken stock in the future.