How (and WHY) to Boil a Whole Chicken!
So recently my husband and I started budgeting. Yes, I know we’re a little late to the bandwagon. (This is afterall, our fourth year of marriage.) Blame it on the “honeymoon phase” I guess. It was too much fun to wander the aisles of Kroger together, splurging on fancy cheeses and bottles of wine. It was too much fun flying by the seat of our pants eating whatever sounded good for dinner on any given evening, making multiple trips to the grocery store per week. And then, we had a little girl. And then a few other little reality checks hit us… and four years into the game, mama’s finally learnin’ how to budget!
Actually it is quite fun. It’s almost like a game! See how much you can save on groceries. See how hot you can stand your house to be in the summer. That sort of thing!
A favorite quote of mine is “Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do. Or do without!” And I feel like those are exactly the skills I am learning as we enter this new phase of being more thoughtful about our expenses. I go to the grocery store once a week, and if we guzzle all our milk too early… we go without it for a day or two! And that’s just that.
So enough about us. What I want to talk about today is chicken.
Guys. Do you REALIZE how cheap it is to buy a whole chicken? (Yep, that price tag says $5.71… for name brand too!)
For sooooo long I’ve been buying frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts. And not only are they pricier, they’re a tad boring! You have to do some pretty hefty marinating/seasoning to give those bad boys flavor. Plus they dry out easily, so how you cook them (and how long) is important.
Now I’m not bashing boneless skinless breasts across the board. They have their place. Particularly if you’re serving a “piece” of chicken (grilled for example) as the main dish of your meal. But if you plan on shredding or chopping the chicken (perhaps for quesadillas, soup, pasta, or a myriad of other delights) then I urge you to try purchasing bone-in, skin-on chicken. Not only is it easy on the pocketbook, you’ll find you get a LOT of flavor and function out of the humble $5-dollar whole fryer. (More about that later. Read on!)
The two major drawbacks of the humble $5-dollar whole fryer are: 1) Time- This method is definitely not a time-saver compared to buying boneless/skinless. And 2) What I call the “Gag Factor”- Handling it raw and pulling off the fat and skin later is DISGUSTING. I’ve done it dozens of times and it never ceases to gag me. (Just keeping it real here!) But that is what we “Proverbs Thirty One-derful” women do. We make these little sacrifices in order to make wise use of our family’s budget and provide them with healthful, delicious meals! (My sweet hubby coined the phrase “Proverbs Thirty One-derful” and it tickles me to death!)
Ok, so let’s cook up some chicken!
Here’s what you need:
– A chicken.(Did I mention you can also buy bone-in, skin-on chicken already cut up? It’s usually just as cost effective and (bonus) makes handling the meat much simpler!)
-Some celery, rinsed. (None of these amounts are exact; just a few stalks is fine.)
-Some garlic (Don’t bother peeling off the casing)
-Some onion (Again, don’t bother to peel.)
-Herbs (Dried are just as good as fresh. I like to use rosemary and thyme.)
-Pepper and salt (peppercorns work well too if you have them.)
First, plop the chicken into a large pot or Dutch oven.
Now wash your hands and pat yourself on the back. You are hereby declared “Proverbs Thirty One-derful” because you handled a disgusting raw chicken. Your children will call you blessed.
Ok, now just add in the vegetables! No need to peel or chop… we will strain all this out later.
Next throw in the herbs and add about 1/2 Tablespoon each of salt and pepper. (Some people leave out the salt until they are actually using the broth, and that is fine! I prefer to salt now.)
Now just cover the contents of the pot with water.
Place a lid on the pot…
And bring it to a boil!
Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to Medium-Low and allow the chicken to simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes. (If you’re using cut up chicken pieces, it’ll probably only take 35 minutes or so.)
After the 45 minutes are up, turn off the heat and use tongs (and a friend if needed!) to lift the chicken onto a cutting board.
Let it cool there for at least 15 minutes.
Then just get to work pulling off the skin and fat, pulling apart the chicken legs, thighs, wings, etc, and separating all the fabulous meat from the bones. Don’t throw the bones away! Add them back to the pot, along with about 3 more cups of water, and bring the broth back to a simmer for another 40 mins-1 hour. (This is what sets homemade broth apart from all the rest. It is SO superior.)
And with all the meat you just picked from these bones, you can cook a week’s worth of meals! Just store the meat in the fridge if you plan to use it within a week or two, or the freezer if you don’t.
When you’ve boiled every last drop of goodness from the bones, place a large heat-proof bowl in the sink and place a large colander over the bowl.
Enlisting the help of a friend again if needed, pour the contents of the pot through the strainer into the bowl.
Now we arrive at Bonus #3 of buying & boiling whole chickens! Not only do I come away with tons of yummy chicken and a huge bowl of scrumptious broth to use later… I end up with a pile of amazing carrots that my baby seriously gobbles up like candy! These are (by FAR) her favorite food. So before I discard all the spent broth components, I like to fish out the carrots, chop them up, and store them in the fridge for Elsa. (Side Note: If you have a younger baby, you can just as easily mash up these carrots with a fork for spoon-feeding. And heck, throw in the onions too! Trust me, your baby will thank you.)
Next just toss the bones and leftover veggies into the trash and behold the majesty that is, homemade chicken broth!
I like to store this in the fridge if I’m going to use it within the week. Don’t know what to use homemade chicken broth for? Here are some yummy soup ideas 🙂
If you don’t plan to use it right away, then here’s what I recommend.
Refrigerate for a few hours, until the fat in the broth hardens on the surface of the liquid in a single layer. Then you can easily scoop it into the trash with a slotted spoon! After that, just transfer it to a container for the freezer and tuck it away to pull out sometime when it ISN’T a thousand degrees outside.