The Basics of Cooking a Chicken - Mothering Forums
Nutrition and Good Eating > The Basics of Cooking a Chicken
root*children's Avatar root*children 03:27 PM 11-23-2010

That is just non-googleable for me since the search results are so varied!  So I come to you wise women for help :)  I was veg for many many years and have been eating chicken for a couple years now, but am now wanting to be able to actually cook it myself.  It seems way better use of money and general resources to be able to buy those "fryer" chicken or broilers or whatever they're called - the whole bird!  I do sort of know how to make stock.  But how do you usually cook that kind of bird?  We tried starting raw and cutting all the meat off which was a HUGE PITA.  They're must be something easier.  Just boiling the thing whole?  Cooking in the oven?  Can someone give me a primer please???

tinuviel_k's Avatar tinuviel_k 03:34 PM 11-23-2010

Here is my very favorite roast chicken recipe. It is more than a recipe: it tells you the "how and whys." I know the chef who writes this blog, and she is awesome!

la mamita's Avatar la mamita 05:08 PM 11-23-2010
If you are cooking a whole chicken, I agree with PP that roasting is the best way to do it.

If you are cooking parts of a chicken, I would suggest getting a cookbook like the Joy of Cooking and reading the section about poultry--there are soooo many different ways to cook parts of a chicken and it will give you a good overview of what options you have and what kind of chicken pieces you need to buy for each one.
Smokering's Avatar Smokering 09:37 PM 11-23-2010

Roasting a chicken is dead easy. A few tricks I know:


Put the chicken in the pan BREAST-SIDE DOWN for the first half of cooking (for our medium-sized birds, about 45 minutes at 180C). This allows the breast to soak up the nommy juices and stay all nice and moist. Then flip it halfway, so the skin of the breast can dry out a bit and it won't stew to the point of sogginess.


If you want to make gravy with the pan juices and have a moist, tender chicken, it's a good idea to put some liquid in with the chicken. I make a nice bastey-marinadey thing with white wine, a splash of soy, some mustard and brown sugar, and pour it over the chicken before I cook it. It stops the juices burning (some chickens seem to produce more juice than others) and makes a YUMMY gravy.


Do you only eat chicken? If you don't mind the thought of bacon as well, a few rashers laid on top, with all their fat still on... delicious.


Stuffing isn't essential. I've changed mine a bit over the years - I used to use bread cubes, but I found they made the juices kind of cloudy. So now I usually do a really simple stuffing - I melt butter, saute onions and garlic, add a chopped apple and some pepper and rosemary, and that's that. The apple adds moistness, and rosemary with chicken is GORGEOUS. Some people chuck in a whole lemon (pierced here and there) or a whole raw onion; other people do fancy things with giblets which frighten me.


When you've eaten all the meat off the bones, just chuck the carcass into cold water, let it slowly heat up, add a dash of white vinegar and any eggshells you have lying around, and simmer slowly for... ever. Well, 24-36 hours. You can make quicker stocks, but I personally feel longer is better. A roasted carcass gives a nicer flavour and colour than using a raw one, IMO. You can add veggie scraps in the last hour or so of cooking - the ends of carrots and onions, etc. So good! I freeze mine in biggish portions for soup (ice-cream containers) and in smaller, muffin-tin-sized portions if I just want to add a bit to a sauce or something. It's very handy.


LeahBoo's Avatar LeahBoo 10:31 PM 11-23-2010

Mine is the super lazy way


Take out neck and giblets

Stick it breast side up in a pan, bowl, whatever you have

sprinkle with garlic

stick it in the oven at 350, take it out when it's just about falling apart (or when poked in the middle the juices run clear)(or 20 minutes per pound)


Then eat the meat over the course of a couple days

Then boil the carcass, drain the broth (save it, of course) and separate any remaining meat from bones, and throw away the bones.


Llyra's Avatar Llyra 07:00 AM 11-24-2010
I just take out the guts, stick it in a shallow pan, and put it in the oven at 375. I cook it for 20 minutes per pound-- so if it's a five pound chicken, that's five pounds times twenty minutes, so 100 minutes, so an hour and forty minutes. That's all I do. Then when we're finished with it, I have DD1 pick off all the leftover meat to put in the fridge to save for other meals, and we save the bones to make stock.

If I'm feeling ambitious, I'll peel back the skin over the breasts, and put a few pats of butter under there, with some thyme, parsley, and/or tarragon. It keeps the breast meat moist, and adds some flavor. But it's not necessary.
redvlagrl's Avatar redvlagrl 07:06 PM 11-24-2010

Take your chicken and rinse it in the sink, removing any giblets insde the cavity (you can use these for stock later - freeze them). Pat dry with a paper towel. Put a few carrots and celery sticks on bottom of roasting tray to hold chicken up like a rack. Rub a little butter on the skin (or lots) and season with salt and pepper. You can also add herbs here and put buttter under the breast skin if you like. At this point you can decide to stuff it or not. If not, it's nice to shove some cloves orf garlic and a half lemon up its butt.


Place your bird on top of the carrot/celery and put some water in the pan so it's halfway up the veg. This stops the pan from burnign and gives you the very nice beginings of a gravy. Stick the a 450 deg oven for 30 mins, then turn down to 350. Use a thermometer in the thcikest part of the thigh until it reads 74 C (this is a lower temp than usual because you will rest the bird and it will continue cooking) or pull the whole thigh away from the bird until you can see if the bone is still red and bloody. When done it will come away easily., Top upiu water as needed.


When it's done, take it out of the pan and remove the veg. Tent it with foil to rest it whiel you make the gravy. Palce pan on the stovetop and turn it on. If there is loads of fat on top of the water try and take some out. it will probably be ok. sprikle a little flour on the water and whisk in to thicken the gravy (keep adding until it is almost thick enough). Taste it and decide if you need to boost the flavour. If it needs help, add some worcestershire sauce, wine, or soy. Let it boil and bit to cook the flour.


When you've eaten the meat, take the bones off everyone's plate and put in a ziplock int he freezer. when it is full, dump them into a pot with some veg and water and simmer for stock for about 8 +hrs.

staceychev's Avatar staceychev 06:35 AM 11-28-2010

I do a really basic roast. 400 degrees, breast side down for about half an hour, then flip for another 45 minutes or an hour. I salt and pepper both sides, and either put olive oil or butter on top. For gravy, I use pan juices, salt, pepper, butter, lemon and a little stock (usually frozen in ice cubes from last chicken) and then thicken with a bit of flour. DH is the chicken carver around here, so as he cuts the meat off, he puts the carcass in the crock pot so it's easy to start the stock as we clean up after dinner.


One time, I roasted on a pan with onions, kalamata olives and black figs. At the end, I used about half the olives, most of the figs, pan juices, some of the onions and salt/pepper and pureed it. It was amazing. 


ETA: Alice Waters' book The Art of Simple Food has a good chapter on roasting. It's probably a good book in general if you're getting back into cooking meats because, while it has recipes, it also has "lessons" on different techniques, so you can really learn the concepts and improvise!

root*children's Avatar root*children 10:48 AM 11-28-2010

yay! you mamas rock luxlove.gif  I though noone was responding (still figuring out the new webhost thing), so glad I came and checked!!  So, I'm not *adding* any liquid, it'll just sorta make it's own juices as it cooks??

shantimama's Avatar shantimama 11:00 AM 11-28-2010

I am roasting a chicken today as it is my family's favourite meal. I will rub a little olive oil all over the skin and then sprinkle it with some Kosher salt, rosemary, thyme and cracked pepper. I will tuck a head of garlic and half a lemon into the cavity and roast it at 375 for 1.5 - 2 hours. I will baste it every half hour. I will bring it to the table and it will be gone in a matter of minutes! ROTFLMAO.gif



limette's Avatar limette 11:29 AM 11-28-2010

Cut chicken in half.  Place in cast iron frying pan.  Rub with butter and spices.  Baste once or twice in the half hour or so it takes to cook at 400F.  Whole chickens never worked out for me so I do it this way now and it works perfectly.  The thing gets cut up anyway so why not do one simple cut before hand?

mamalisa's Avatar mamalisa 11:46 AM 11-28-2010

Originally Posted by Shantimama View Post

I am roasting a chicken today as it is my family's favourite meal. I will rub a little olive oil all over the skin and then sprinkle it with some Kosher salt, rosemary, thyme and cracked pepper. I will tuck a head of garlic and half a lemon into the cavity and roast it at 375 for 1.5 - 2 hours. I will baste it every half hour. I will bring it to the table and it will be gone in a matter of minutes! ROTFLMAO.gif



Mine, except for basting.  I don't bother.  Roastinga chicken is hands down one of the easiest, yet most impressive things I make.  My family loves it and it's one of those things that can stretch forever.  First night, roasted chicken and potatoes carrots and whatever else that I toss in the pan to roast along side.  Toss it in the crock pot after dinner, cover with cold water and add bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, peppercorns and garlic, cook, 24 hours or so.  Refrig. overnight, skim off the fat.  Warm it up a bit then strain out all the bones ect.  I add any meat back into the pot, no one has ever complained.  Add chopped up veggies for soup.  The next night I add dumplings.  Everyone loves it and they chow down.

root*children's Avatar root*children 12:14 PM 11-29-2010

Okay, I'm going to try it tonight - wish me luck - you guys are making it sound easy though :)  I'll post results later!

LeahBoo's Avatar LeahBoo 02:45 PM 12-07-2010

How was it?

root*children's Avatar root*children 11:49 AM 12-08-2010

Well of course you mamas rock and were totally right - that was so easy!!  The family LOVED it!!  Big hugs to all of you :)  I roasted it with a bunch of random stuff up it's butt... er... hole thing or whatever that's called - apples and spices and onions and garlic I think.  Then put carrots and onions slices and potatoes and sweet potatoes around it, and YUM!


Then I did just as y'all said, and pulled the remaining meat off the bones, stuffed the bones in with the innards in a freezer bag for making stock later.  A couple nights later we had chicken/kale enchiladas.  Then I couldn't believe I still had more left!  So we made chicken/coconut milk curry to finish it up.  I kind of grimace at the price of organic chicken, but that totally rocked to use it for 3 meals and still have bones for making stock!! Thank you!

jimblejamble's Avatar jimblejamble 02:49 PM 12-08-2010
I season it with salt, pepper, garlic powder, a little paprika and stick it in the crock pot crock with a chopped onion and about a cup of water then bake it. Cover it with foil. The first time I did it I used the crock pot lid and the handle melted. Oops! smile.gif Anyway, then I let it cool for a little while and pull all the meat off and store that in the fridge.

For broth, don't clean out the crock just yet. Put all the bones back in, leave the onion in, add a couple carrots and stalks of celery, some salt, and fill it to the top with water and cook for 12 hours. Strain the bones and veggies out, put the liquid into a pot and let cool until the fat is solid then scrape it off.
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