Good Bye to Pokeberry Hill...


Saturday, February 6, 2010

How to Pick a Chicken Clean and Why

I ran across a good sale this week so I added 8 whole chickens, weighing between 4 and 5 lbs each to my freezer. Yesterday three of them went into the oven for roasting. When I want to cook more than two chickens I use the lid of my big enamel roaster as if it were another pan, I just flip it over and put the birds in it. I wash the chickens out in a clean sink, inside and out. I use cooking oil (usually olive or peanut) to coat the pans and rub some on all the chickens too. I put a little kosher salt and some thyme and pepper inside the cleaned cavity and over the top of the birds to. If I want a special flavor I just use different herb combinations or maybe even some citrus.

I like to roast my chickens hot first to develop a crusty skin and then turn it down. I start with an oven preheated to 425-450 for the first 15 to 20 minutes and then I like to put about a tablespoon of butter in each pan when I turn the temperature down to 350 for the rest of cooking. I check my chickens at about 30 minute intervals and baste them a little with the buttery pan drippings.

When it comes time to pull the birds out, you can use a meat thermometer but ts always been my habit to check for done-ness by wiggling the legs and also cutting into a thigh. If the legs will freely wiggle and don't feel tight they are probably done. If you cut into the thigh and clear liquid comes out that's a 2ND test, no juice at all--its a little too done, cloudy or red juice--you should let it cook a little longer. Works for me.

When I take my chickens out of the oven I like to put them in recycled rotisserie chicken containers that I wash out and save. Every now and then I buy a rotisserie chicken. Usually its when I'm at Sam's club and its been one of those days when I haven't got much done. Their rotisserie chickens are delicious and I think they are just a little bigger than at some stores in my area. Also the containers they use are good quality an large. They hold up to quite a few washing and re-usings. In my opinion they're great. I know-- 'they had poultry in them!!! YUCKY!' OK-- ** Lawyer free zone disclaimer** YOU probably shouldn't re-use containers that have had chicken in them--although these have only held COOKED chicken. I wash mine in hot soapy water and I do re-use them--but that's at my own risk and same goes for you. I think they make this job easier and when they get worn out I throw them out and have no qualms about it.

I'm a morning person. I get lots and lots done in the morning usually. By evening though, I'm pooped. I just don't want to deal with another thing after dinner. I like the ease of clean up after dinner when I pop my rotisserie containers of roasted chicken leftovers into the fridge for the night. Sometimes the boys (my adult at home kids) will pick a little off in the night, no matter. The next morning I do my 'picking' when I'm feeling at my best. I can clean a carcass in the time it takes my coffee maker to brew a pot. When I sit down to have my coffee I just feel 'good' like I deserved this treat.

I sorted what I picked off the birds into the lids of the containers and into stock pots. I had next to me two stock pots which each got an equal amount of bones and bits of skin or meat that wasn't deemed suitable for meals. I sorted the rest of the meat into 'people' or 'dog' or 'Premium'. I think of the scraps that Mojo (our German Shepherd) gets as payment in full for his alarm system duties. He not only alerts us to anything real or imagined that moves in the dark woods or comes near our house, he also wakes us up in the morning--and he has a snooze feature as well. ;) There's a very satisfying feeling I want to add, when I am busy in my kitchen picking bits off bones and Mojo is lying at my feet with his full attention focused on my work.

I like that I'm not wasting a bird. I also think sometimes about the tremendous amount of nutrition in these birds that those who eat only the boneless skinless liquid injected flash frozen over-piced breast meat are missing. No matter what 'they' the experts say--I just can't help having a suspicious feeling that there is something wrong with eating that way. I'm betting that some day, in my lifetime they are going to tell us we need dark meat or at least a little animal fat. Wait and see!

When I was done picking my chickens this morning I had 1/2 a pound of kinda yucky meat for Mojo, 12 ounces of premium juicy white meat for Hubby--cuz he's making teriyaki stir fry later and he's a bit picky about leftover meat--so the best of the best went in a bag marked for him. What was left was 2 and a half pounds of 'people' chicken. The boys and I will use this stuff up for the most part by Monday. Sunday I'll probably pick through whatever is left and make the decision to use it or freeze it. Today some of it will go into my big pot of soup--which I'll make when the broth is done brewing. Some will be eaten with other leftovers or on salads or as part of quesadillas by my sons. Maybe I'll make up a chicken salad? We'll see. In any case its a good deal of use able delicious meat.

When I was done picking my chickens I cut up a couple of onions very coarsely--just some rough chops--and tossed them into my stock pots with the bones. I did the same with some carrots and celery. I added a bay leaf to each pot and a handful of pepper corns and smaller handfuls of kosher salt. I also sprinkled in some thyme. (cuz its my favorite cooking herb) I filled the pots almost to the top with cold water and set them on my biggest burners turned to hi. Once they reach a boil they get turned down to simmer for a few hours. When they are done I strain out all the bones and veggies and then put the broth pots in a big bus tub I keep in my kitchen filled with cold water and ice. In a short while the fat rises to the top and I scoop it off with a spoon.

I'm nursing a sore throat and slight fever right now so one ne pot of this morning's broth is is strictly for Medicinal Chicken Soup. I took the time while cutting up the carrots, onion and celery earlier to also chop and peel some of the same a little more finely. It is in the fridge in a bag right now waiting for my stock pot to be de-fatted and then it will become soup. The other pot will partly be used tomorrow I think, to cook some beans. Whatever I don't need for that I will either use for cooking something else tomorrow or I will freeze it in ice cube trays or a recycled container so I'll have some chicken stock on hand.

I have to say I'm amazed at the economy of a chicken. You buy this whole chicken--or raise your own--which is something I'm still looking into--and you get all kinds of value from one bird. You get flavoring and nutrition for several meals and snacks and also stock or broth for soups or sauces out each bird. You can also get eggs if you own the chickens.

Chicken has vitamins, immune boosting properties, cold medicine, protein, fat that helps metabolize vitamins. Its good for you and so inexpensive if you buy the whole bird and use it. I always feel good about my chicken picking habit and I guess that's why I write about it now and then. Just can't stress enough how much more economical and nourishing a whole chicken is than those boneless, skinless things they charge so much for are.

Food for thought.


  1. You know, Mary...I do the same thing...but I have started to buy those economy packs of a whole lot of quarters (all thigh and legs, or all breasts) with skin and bones still there...and I skin them pre-cooking and bone after. I feel I can get even more meat this way for less...just depending on sales. It is very soul satisfying...I understand what you are saying here!!! Chicken rocks! I, too, love thyme with my poultry. I am more of an afternoon person, I suppose...and oh...late night too!!! :)

  2. Yeah, I love "rubber/magic chicken"
    I get 4 meals from one bird. I also did a whole post on my blog about how I do it. We can make such wonderful things from a 3 or 4 lbs chicken!
    Frugal reigns!

  3. Made very good chicken soup yesterday and i added in some cayenne. It just felt really good on my throat. Some sort of bug here. :( But there is soup.