love & whole chickens (& a recipe)

Love is a many-splendored thing.  And so is a whole chicken.  Seriously, the uses for a whole chicken are nearly infinite.  (I know, “nearly infinite” is not a possibility, but you get what I mean, right?)

I like to buy free-range and/or organic whole chickens when possible.  Whole Foods had a great sale on organic chickens recently and I grabbed up six of them.  At $1.69/lb I probably should have bought more, but they were going fast and I didn’t want to be a chicken hog.  😉

I know some people prefer to buy cut-up chickens or have the butcher cut up their whole chicken at the store, but I like bringing the bird home in one piece in case I want to roast it.  This recipe for roast lemon-herb chicken is the best I’ve ever tried (and I’m not just saying that because she’s my sis-in-law!)

When we have roasted chicken for dinner, there’s usually a little bit left over to be eaten for lunch the next day, or maybe turned into chicken salad.

What I really love to do with a whole chicken, though, is throw it in a stockpot, boil it for a while to make some broth and cook it through, then debone the chicken and toss the carcass back in to make even more broth.  (I don’t actually throw or toss the chicken, but that does sound like fun!)  This way I end up with lots and lots of yummy homemade broth and enough chicken to incorporate into three (sometimes four) meals!

{Update: I still use the recipe below on occasion, but I’ve started using the crockpot method more frequently over the last year. I cook a whole chicken in the crockpot (brushed with a mixture of avocado oil, soy sauce, and whatever spices I feel like adding) for 5-6 hours on low. We sometimes eat the whole chicken for dinner, and other times I cut it up and shred it for soups or casseroles or enchiladas. When all the meat has been removed from the bones, I put the skin and carcass back in the crockpot, cover with water and a splash of vinegar, and simmer overnight. The results are delicious and oh-so-good for you!}

Here’s a play-by-play of what I do:

1) Put the chicken in a large pot and add water just to cover.  If you have some vegetables (carrots, celery, onion, leeks, etc.) on hand, chop up a few and add them to the pot for an even tastier broth.  Sprinkle in a couple of teaspoons of salt; bring to a boil.

2) Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot.  Cook for an hour or so.  (If the bird was still slightly frozen it may take closer to an hour and a half.)

3) Turn off the heat and take the chicken out of the pot.  Let it cool enough so it can be handled.  Remove all the meat, shred it, and store in freezer bags.  (I typically fill three quart-size ziploc bags.)

4) Pour the broth out of the pot into freezer-safe containers.  If you’d like, you can refrigerate the broth to cause the fat to collect at the top so it can be easily removed.  If I’m cooking free-range/organic birds, I usually leave some of the fat in the broth.  If you won’t be using the broth within three days, then store it in the freezer.

5) Put what’s left of the chicken back in the pot and cover with water.  Add another couple teaspoons of salt, a teaspoon of vinegar (to help bring the good stuff out of the bones), and more veggies if you’d like.  Boil gently for several hours to make a rich broth.  (I once did this overnight and the result was the richest broth I’ve ever made!)

6) Do the same thing with this second batch of broth: pour into containers and refrigerate or freeze.

*I usually try to boil my chicken and make broth in the afternoon, then use part of the meat and broth in a meal that evening.*

One of our family’s favorite ways to eat the shredded chicken is in chicken enchiladas.  I sometimes use Pioneer Woman’s White Chicken Enchiladas, but if I’m in a hurry I’ll make some version of my Quick Chicken Enchiladas.

In addition to my standby Chicken Tortilla Soup, we also like Creamy Chicken & Broccoli Soup:

Creamy Chicken and Broccoli Soup

2 T. oil

1/2 c. finely chopped onion

1 c. fresh or frozen broccoli, chopped into smallish pieces

1 1/2 c. (or so) of cooked, shredded chicken

4 c. homemade chicken broth

1 c. half & half OR whole milk

1 c. shredded cheese (I like to use colby-jack)

3 c. cooked rice, optional

salt and pepper to taste

chopped green onions to garnish, optional

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat; cook onion and broccoli 5 minutes.  Add shredded chicken and chicken broth; bring to boil. Mix in the cooked rice if desired.  Reduce heat to low and stir in half & half.  When hot, stir in shredded cheese.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with green onion and/or extra cheese if desired.

Yield: 3-4 servings


That’s a lot of chicken talk.  I have one more chicken recipe to share…but I’m about to go into a chicken coma over here so I’ll save it for next week!

What do you like to do with a whole chicken?  Please do share–I’m always looking for new ideas!


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8 Responses to love & whole chickens (& a recipe)

  1. I need to be on a Whole Foods mailing list–$1.69/lb! Making broth is truly the best and most economical choice…just takes planning. I need to get this process on my weekly routine!

  2. Iris says:

    That creamy chicken and broccoli soup made my mouth water. Looks(and I’m sure it tastes)delicious!!

    I like to roast my chicken making a butter, vinegar, salt, pepper and fresh orange juice marinade. Instead of throwing away the left over orange, I use it to fill the cavity along with half an onion.

    I really appreciate all your recipes. Keep’em coming!

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  7. CharlesLisy says:

    I used vegetable broth in the slow cooker, and the only real change I made to the recipe was to sprinkle the chicken with a little seasoning salt, too.

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