To stretch a whole chicken you need two things. First, you need a whole chicken. Second, it helps to have a plan. Since I squawked about buying an organic chicken at the beginning of this series, let’s get crackin’ with the first part of the plan — and that’s baking or roasting a whole chicken.
I used to be scared of baking a whole chicken. Since a raw chicken isn’t stunning to look at, has a daunting cavity space where my grandmother used to stuff things, and looks like a meal that requires a lot of work, I tended to steer clear of the full cluck in favor of prettily packaged boneless skinless chicken breasts. Wow, what a costly mistake! Here’s why:
Non-Organic Chicken Breasts vs. an Organic Whole Chicken
- Non-organic chicken breasts are expensive to buy, and cost around $4/lb in Canada. You get very few meals from this costly meat.
- A whole organic chicken costs around $3.49/lb, and can be used for multiple meals.
The price I used to pay for so-called ‘convenience’ chicken is no more, thankfully.
Anyscaredofchicken, I got over my fear of cooking whole chickens when my good friend Beth had me over for a frugal roast chicken meal. She called her pleasant feast ‘The Perfect Roast Chicken’ — and she was right. Using a simple recipe from Jamie Oliver’s cookbook, Jamie’s Food Revolution, she quickly and easily chopped a few veggies, stuck the chicken on top of them, and in under two hours served a delicious, and very affordable, dinner. I was gobsmacked. Beth’s tasty meal served four adults, one child, and there was A LOT leftover for lunch and dinner the next day.
How to cook a whole chicken
My ingredients differ slightly from Jamie Oliver’s recipe. He uses olive oil to coat the chicken and vegetables, but I skipped the added grease — chickens are pretty fatty as-is.
- 1 chicken, 6-7 pounds (free-range, organic, or what your budget allows)
- 2 medium onions
- 2 carrots
- 2 celery stalks
- 1 garlic bulb
- 1 lemon
- salt and pepper
- small bunch of fresh thyme, rosemary, bay, sage or mix
Preparing your chicken:
Here are 10 simple steps to cooking a whole chicken. Yes, you can do it.
Step One: Remove your chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes before it goes into the oven.
Step Two: Preheat your oven to 240°C or 475°F.
Step Three: Wash and chop vegetables coarsely, and don’t peel them. Break the garlic bulb into cloves, leaving them also unpeeled. Rinse your chicken.
Step Four: Place all vegetables in the middle of a large roasting pan.
Step Five: Prick lemon with a fork, and place it inside the chicken’s cavity with herbs. Add a little salt, pepper, and herbs to the chicken. Place your chicken on top of the vegetables, then into the preheated oven.
Baking your whole chicken:
Step Six: Once your chicken is in the oven, immediately turn down the heat to 200°C or 400°F. Cook the chicken for around 2 hours and 20 minutes for a 6-7 pound chicken. I used to wonder How long do you cook a whole chicken?. If your chicken is bigger or smaller, take a peek at this roasting chart for cooking times. Or just use an inexpensive (and classic) oven-safe Meat and Poultry Thermometer — I’ve had mine for years and it takes the guesswork out of cooking.
Step Seven: Roasting potatoes and other veggies? Get them into the oven for the last 45 minutes of cooking. Baste your bird halfway through cooking, and add a little water to the roasting pan if the vegetables under the chicken look dry. No one wants burned vegetables.
Step Eight: When fully cooked, transfer your chicken to a cutting board and let it rest for around 15 minutes. Cover it with a damp tea towel and put it aside.
Step Nine: Carve your chicken.
Step Ten: Enjoy! Oh, don’t forget to make gravy if you’re into that sort of thing.
Chicken Results: (so far)
The amount of chicken meat carved from this one organic 6lb bird is amazing. Can you guess the size of these chicken breasts?
Yes, I measured each breast. Smirk. And I swear I cleaned Carl’s measuring tape after I was done calculating the digits. The lengths I go to for you guys. Sheesh!
Each chicken breast measured around 8 inches long, 3 inches wide, and 1.5 inches thick. That’s bigger than any boneless chicken breast I’ve bought from the grocery store. Plus, the amount of meat from the carcass, legs, thighs, and wings was astounding. I must admit to being shocked with the value of this single whole chicken so far. And yes, the roast chicken dinner was amazingly tasty.
Read the rest of this chicken series:
|Frugal Chicken Series:|
Squawkback: When you stretch a chicken, how much meat do you portion per meal?