How Many Meals Can You Get From One Chicken?

Several customers have requested help figuring out how to use a whole chicken without feeding part of it to the dog.  This is more of an issue for singles and empty-nesters than for parents of hungry teens.  I would like this to be a regular feature but I’ll get started simply.  Forgive me if I go too fast.  Feel free to ask for more detail in the comments.

We try to get three meals out of a chicken for the six people in our house.  Most commonly we thaw the chicken well, mix melted butter, garlic, salt and pepper, give the chicken a good coating of the mixture inside and out, place most of a quartered onion in the vent hole and the remainder in the flap at the neck.  We place the bird in a cake pan with the breast up and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes per pound.  As the bird bakes, the breast will brown.  My youngest son likes flaky skin but you can get carried away.  When it’s brown enough for your taste, cover the breast with a tent of aluminum foil until it is finished.  We usually fight over the leg quarters with the evening meal.  The girls eat a bit of the breast too.

After supper we cut off the remaining breast meat for use in another meal and place the carcass in a stewpot with half an onion, a few carrots, a bit of celery and a splash of vinegar.  We usually let this stew for at least 24 hours helping drain the bones of all minerals (see Susan Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions.)  Then we separate the broth from the meat and bones.  We sometimes stop here and just can the broth which you can use for anything.  More often we add the meat back in, add a freshly chopped half of onion, a few carrots and a few stalks of celery along with a few spices.  We allow this to boil for around 30 minutes while we make noodles.

You’re not done with those chicken bones!  When they are finished boiling they will be soft and crumbly rather than brittle.  Soft bones are no longer a choking hazard for the dog or pigs, the cat will love them or they will compost quickly.  You can still find uses for them even when you’re finished eating…there is no waste.

By doing this we can feed six people at least three times, usually with a bit of leftover chicken soup for the pigs.  This kind of use makes a $15.00 chicken easy to swallow.  If you picked the bones clean at the first meal (as sometimes happens) you should still be able to make a good broth out of the carcass.  If nothing else, you can use the broth to make the best mashed potatoes you have ever eaten.

Now, I think we’re doing a good job being frugal with the bird but my sister can do even better.  She’ll be publishing a series here on how to really stretch a chicken.  I’m looking forward to it…even if I’m not a big fan of mayonnaise.