Value Menu: Whole Chicken

Several of your comments requested help with partial meat weaning. I can really dig this since once you make the switch to free-range, and discover the true cost of meat, you suddenly realize that you simply can’t afford to eat it in Good Ole Boy quantities. A natural limitation if you will.

As you know, my kitchen is usually stocked with wild game and fish. But since we’ve run out, it’s time for me to start looking for more local New Orleans alternatives. This whole chicken seemed a good deal at $3/lb, but after all the cooking and picking, the meat barely filled a pint jar. Meaning an $8 bird yielded less than a pound of meat. Crikey mate! Better streeeeetch that sucker out.

Of course you’ve read all the glowing reports on stock. It’s true, every word. Stock is a poor man’s best friend. Not just an incredible flavor boost, but a nutritional powerhouse. If you haven’t made it before, now’s the time.

Roasting your whole chicken is a great option if you don’t mind running the oven. I’m sure I could steam/roast a whole chicken in Trixie. But I wanted to grill this one. So, first I had to cut it up. I thought you all might appreciate a little photo shoot, since it can seem intimidating at first.

First of all, if you have a good bird from a small local farm, there might be some pinfeathers left. Pull those out, and generally clean it up a bit, but don’t wash it! Wet chicken skin is impossibly slippery.

Now get your sharpest small knife. I like my 6 inch boning knife. Oh no, I can see a series on Home Cooking needs a separate post on knives.

Insert your blade between the leg and body, and cut that flap of skin straight through.

Continue the cut down around the leg and knee. Try to keep your blade closer to the leg, so that the breast keeps it’s skin covering.Now, see how my blade is heading down into a crack between the thigh and the body? You want to gently pull the leg away with one hand (to widen the crack) and then follow it with your blade, all the way back to the hip joint. This is easier if you turn the chicken on it’s side.At the hip joint, you have to take care. You want to minimize contact between your good knife and the bone, which dulls blades faster than you can say ‘whetstone.’See that white smooth looking thing in the middle? That’s the round end of the thigh bone, held to joint by silvery white ligaments. The idea is to cut through the ligament very carefully to open the joint. See it right there at the end of my finger? Once open, you should be able to cut right through to the other side, cut the rest of the meat (try to keep it all on the thigh side) and there you have the leg/thigh off!

Don’t worry, that was the hardest part. Plus you get to practice again on the other side… Then on to the wings. This photo isn’t the greatest. But the idea is the same as the thighs. Cut back to the joint, then cut carefully through it. Or, with a small chicken like this, if you get all the surrounding meat cut back to the joint you can probably just grab the wing, twist and pull it off.Now you have a very creepy looking headless, limbless chicken body. Tip it up on it’s empty neck and look down into it’s empty chest. I’m holding the breast side. See the reddish line my thumb is pointing at? That’s the edge of the breast bone/cartilage. Feel with your fingers for the edge of the breast meat, should be right around there. Between that and the spine is a thin flap of skin, and the ribs. Now it’s time to take out your big, heavy, crappy old knife, and chop down through those ribs to separate the breast from the back.When you get almost all the way through you’ll hit the collar bone, I think that’s what it is anyway. You should be able to do another twist and pull manouver to finish the job. 

Once you do this a few times it is actually quite quick. When I’m not juggling a camera with one hand it only takes me maybe two minutes.

Then you can grill, fry or bake your chicken parts. Eat some for dinner, pick the meat off the rest, and put all those bones in a pot for stock!

Simple stock recipe: cover bones with water, and simmer at least two hours, more is better. Strain stock, discard bones. Use.

For more on stock check out this post from my old blog.

3 thoughts on “Value Menu: Whole Chicken

  1. Ooh, you do Aussie slang as well as Southern! And so well, too!! More, please ;o)

    I was mortified the first time I bought a free range chicken to dissect at home (because all the packaged chicken was non free range, at the supermarket I was going to anyway – have since found reliable butchered free-range bird supplier). The bird was tiny, compared to the hugely proportioned non free-range variety!

    These are great pics for portioning…it was always a bit of a mystery to me and if and when I had to do it, would always resort to the sturdy kitchen scissors and would end up with a total hack job.

    Even with my hacked bones, I have found a fantastic way of making stock! (by pure laziness, as it turns out). If roasting a whole chicken, the next day all the bones get thrown into the slow cooker along with a bunch of onions, carrots, celery, etc… and filled to the brim with water and left for 8 hours or so. This is my favourite stock making way, now, and because it doesn’t evaporate in the slow cooker, you end up with exactly the same amount of liquid that went in, and the flavour is soooo concentrated from all that long, slow simmering!

    Fantastic pics, btw. Have you got a third hand hidden somewhere in there, holding the camera?

    1. yup, third hand. really useful with kids too.
      i made this batch of stock in, can you guess? my girl/boy, Trix. on slow cook. yeah, worked fab. i’m a convert.

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