It can be very over whelming walking into a grocery store with bare level shelves and limits on products, forcing you to buy items you may not have bought before, or not able to get enough of something you are very comfortable using to make meals for you and your family.
Well I am here to tell you there are options, for myself I have been making the most out of a whole chicken. The whole chicken you buy to toss in the oven and just to use for one great meal can become endless meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In saying that there is a skill you will need to learn to accomplish this, but with that extra time you have it’s just the thing to stay occupied, and is a skill you can use for the rest of your life to help keep costs down and reduce wasted food.
What you will have to master to get the most of a whole chicken, is the basics of breaking a whole chicken down into parts: breasts, wings, thighs, and the drums. It’s actually very easy and straight forward and for myself it is a very satisfying task. It’s one of the basics and foundation for cooks all over the world and it’s going to change your meal game at home. First thing you need to do is grab your phone, tablet, or a laptop, set yourself up in the kitchen with a cutting board, chef knife or boning knife if you have one and your chicken. Search how to break down a chicken on your favorite search engine, there are so many videos and tutorials out there on how to break down a chicken; here is a link to a tutorial I would recommend, we will just be doing an 8 piece cut chicken. Watch the video a few times or do your cuts with the video, as you are cutting your 8 pieces make sure you keep all the bones and any meat trim you might have, we will be using this for chicken stock.
After mastering the breakdown of a chicken, you will be left with 8 pieces and your carcass. You might have gotten lucky and the neck was in there as well, keep it! The first thing we want to do now is make a chicken stock; for that we are going to use the meatless carcass, any meat trim and the neck. The chicken stock can become a soup, stew, or use it in stir fry’s or even to make a nice chicken gravy. I have attached an easy and quick chicken stock recipe (see below) that I have been using at home and at work.
We still have to talk about the 8 pieces you have from the chicken and what we can do with them. So you will have two wings, two breasts, two thigs, and two drums. These are the basic parts of a chicken that you would normally buy already broken down and ready-to-go in the meat section. But now you have them all in twos and ready for you to get creative. Like I said earlier, the list is endless when it comes to what to do with chicken, here are a few ideas that I have been doing at home lately and my family has been enjoying.
With the wings and drums I have been recreating Wednesday wing night at home, from breaded and fried to baked or grilled, tossing them in hot sauce, BBQ, basically any sauce you miss from your favorite wing joint. With the wing you can split them one more time at the joint to get the drumettes and the wingettes, making the wings into four pieces. Including the drums (drumsticks) you will have 6 pieces of chicken for wing night. Cut up some carrots and celery with some ranch or blue cheese dressing on the side, and before you know it Wednesday wing night is covered.
Moving onto the chicken breast, everyone has their go-to when it comes what meals they can whip up with this particular protein. Fallbacks like stir fry, baked, or grilled chicken can get a bit boring over time, keeping with the Wednesday wing night them why not some shredded chicken nachos instead? Very straight forward and stretches that chicken even further by shredding it. Shredding the chicken gives you even more options with the cooked chicken: you can use it over nachos, use the leftover chicken for a chicken salad or salad wrap, toss it into an omelet, or bake it in a sweet pepper with some cooked rice and black beans. Like I said the list is endless. For shredding the chicken all you need to do is heat some of that stock you made, bring the stock to a boil, remove the skin from the chicken breast, place the breast in the stock, and bring the stock to a simmer. Simmer for 25 minutes, then take the cooked chicken and place it a bowl to let it cool for 10 minutes. Use two forks and start pulling at the chicken breast so it starts to come apart and “shred”. Keep the stock as you can use it again or use for soup, plus boiling the chicken breast in the stock will add even more flavour as well to the stock for next time.
Now on to the thighs. There are quite a few options for the thighs, my two favorite choices are oven roasted chicken thighs with roasted vegetables and yams or southern style fried chicken thighs. Yes, even fried chicken is another great pub classic comfort food you can pull off at home! And it’s not hard. Let the thighs soak in butter milk overnight in the fridge, toss them in some self-rising flour seasoned with my secret ingredient Lawry’s seasoning salt, and add a little garlic powder and cayenne pepper for good measure, I’ll add my southern fried chicken flour recipe at the bottom of this blog for you to use at home. Now you just need to fry them up, I would recommend watching a few videos on how to deep fry at home as you want to be safe when working with hot oil at home on stove top.
These are just a few ideas of how to make the most out of a chicken. Being able to buy a whole chicken, break it down to its basic parts, and get 3-5 meals out of just one chicken is a great way to save money and to help shop for proteins at the grocery store when stock can be bare in the unfortunate times we are all dealing with. Some chickens may not be big enough for a family of 3 or more to break it down and stretch it out for a few meals, but you can also do the same process with turkeys which will have even more portions and larger meal sizes. With all of these suggestions in mind, using the internet as a tool to help you get meal ideas and learn new skills for the kitchen is such a great way to develop your home cooking skills. I highly recommend looking at some of the ideas I have spoken about and doing a little research on them to see if it will work for you and your family and ultimately giving it a try; you might just surprise yourself with new culinary skills and help make trips to the grocery store fewer and farther between – Not to mention how much money can be saved in breaking down your chicken VS buying prepackaged options that are always priced with a markup for being already broken down.
Good luck with your chicken cooking adventures!
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