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Get the Most from a Whole Chicken

By Tammera J. Karr PhD, BCHN®


Chicken is, without a doubt, one of the most common protein sources sought out in the world today. It can be fresh from the yard to dipped and drizzled after a hot oil fry. We seek chicken out for sandwiches, salads, soup, and roasting.  Either everything is listed as tasting like chicken, or the simple chicken has no flavor but that added by other flavorings. In part, this is why some Americans seem to have a ranch dressing addiction whenever chicken is present.

By Edward Neale – Hume and Marshall, Game Birds of India, Burmah and Ceylon (1879–1881), Public Domain,

The history of chicken is more than the question of which came first, the egg or the chicken; like all birds, their origin dates to the time of dinosaurs. The domesticated chicken we cook up today dates back at least 2000 years and is first recorded in Southeast Asia. By the 5th century, BC chickens had made their way to Greece. Ever, intrepid travelers, they found their way to the Americas by ship, where coops were lashed to the deck. The air was rank enough below-deck without the acrid ammonia fumes from chicken manure, which has one of the highest amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium of animal droppings.  One average-sized chicken produces up to 11 pounds of poop a month. So letting the sea air and water wash over the deck taking the droppings away was easier and safer than having the birds below decks in the hold.

Today it has become popular to have a few birds in the back yard for eggs and pest control. Modern-Homesteaders are raising poultry for meat as well as eggs. Depending on the breed and age of a chicken, one can expect small blue, pink, green, white, or brown eggs. Chickens range in size from the Serama bantam at 13 ounces to the Jersey Giant, reaching 30 inches in height.

OK, now that the history lesson has concluded, let’s move to the kitchen and look at the multitude of ways the lowly chicken can feed a single person or family.


My Whole Chicken Routine

I usually roast a whole chicken 2-4 times per month. From one chicken, I may make broth, eat a portion roasted, shredded, stewed, ground, and stir-fried. One good-sized free-range bird can produce a surprising amount of meals, which accounts for its popularity in so many countries and as a staple in poor regions.

  • Cook/roast a whole chicken for supper one evening and eat it with veggies, sweet or red potatoes, pasta, or grains.
  • Pull all leftover meat from the bones, trim away fat/gristle, and dice it
  • Pop the carcass with skin, fat, giblets (gold mines of vitamins, minerals, and essential fats), neck, gristle, and bones in the Instant Pot or slow cooker to make a gallon or so of chicken broth. Plan on this taking about 1 hour, you do not want to overcook poultry broth, or it can become bitter.
  • Use the leftover meat in soup, pot pie, stir-fries, pizza topping, shredded for tacos, nachos, or a chicken skillet meal the following night, and use the broth throughout the next 1-2 weeks.
    • Cook pasta, grains, vegetables, and potatoes in broth. This adds flavor dynamics and synergistic nutrient release for digestion.
    • Savor the chicken fat – if free-range and organic chickens are used – enjoy the fat; it adds to mouth-feel, and essential saturated fats for nerve and brain health. Research studies have shown chicken fat contains nutrients that support healthy immune function.

I generally ignore directions in recipes that specifically list breast meat – any chicken meat works. Often, dark meat has a richer flavor and is tender and moist, unlike breast meat. The modern trend to use only breast meat is due to the no or low-fat movement of the 1980s. Prior to that, the whole bird was interchangeably used in cooking.

Bain sult as do chuid

(Irish for Enjoy your food)

For more information on ways to cook chicken check out Our Journey with Food Cookery Book. Our Journey With Food Cookery Book