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How to Roast a Whole Chicken – 4 Recipes to Save Time & Money

By Kristia Ludwick

whole chicken for roastingThe smell of roasted chicken conjures many memories of Sunday dinners during my childhood. It was a family favorite. When I grew up, I thought roasting a chicken was too hard and labor intensive to try on my own, so I never attempted it. Buying the individual parts of the bird seemed easier, even if the price per pound was more expensive.

But then I became aggressive about saving money on groceries and I realized how easy and economical roasting a whole chicken can be. I use the meat from one whole chicken and turn it into four dinners for my family.

Why Buy a Whole Chicken?

Purchasing a whole chicken is the cheapest way to buy chicken. My favorite national brand routinely goes on sale for $0.99 a pound approximately every six to eight weeks, and I always pick up one or two. Occasionally, the price will drop to $0.79 a pound and I’ll stock up and purchase three or more chickens to store in my freezer. When you consider that the whole chicken includes the breast meat that has a regular sale price of $1.99 a pound, you can see the price advantage of buying it whole.

Some folks may argue that you are also paying for the bones and other parts thought to be unusable. However, those bones and commonly discarded parts can be used in recipes, and they will stretch your grocery dollar even further when you use them to make chicken stock to use in soups, chili, and gravies.

Furthermore, by roasting chicken at home and making chicken stock, you are in control of the ingredients, such as the salt content and spices. Many of the ingredients needed to roast chicken and make the stock are kitchen staples, and you may have most of them on hand.

How to Roast a Whole Chicken

You will need a five- to seven-pound whole roasting chicken.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Remove the chicken from its packaging, and also remove the bag of innards that are stored inside the chicken. Set the innards in a container, and place it in the refrigerator for later.
  3. Rinse the inside and outside of the chicken, and use paper towels to dry the outside. Place the chicken on a roasting pan.
  4. Sprinkle the inside of the chicken with one teaspoon each of salt and pepper. An option is to also stuff the inside of the chicken with a quartered lemon, garlic cloves, and fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme, or rosemary. Raw chicken and its juices contain harmful bacteria, so be sure to wash your hands, the sink, and countertop area where you handle the chicken.
  5. Tuck the wings under the chicken to prevent burning. If the chicken is stuffed, tie the legs together with kitchen twine.
  6. Rub one tablespoon of butter all over the outside of the chicken. Sprinkle with approximately one teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
  7. Optional: Spread diced vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, or parsnips, around the chicken to roast. The roasted vegetables will make a wonderful side dish to go with your chicken dinner.
  8. Cook for approximately 20 minutes per pound at 375 degrees Fahrenheit to roast the chicken to proper internal temperatures. The USDA recommends a safe minimum internal temperature for poultry of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, as measured by inserting a food thermometer into the thickest part of the meat without touching the bone.
  9. When the chicken is done roasting, remove it from the oven and allow it to sit for 20 minutes. Resist the urge to cut into the chicken before the 20 minutes are up, as that will drain the juices from the bird and dry out the chicken.
  10. After 20 minutes, carve the meat and serve.

Cut up or shred the leftover meat and store in 1 1/2-cup portions for future meals. The leftovers will store in the refrigerator for up to five days, or in the freezer for up to six months. Do not discard any of the unused chicken bones, parts, or skin – instead, save it to make your own homemade chicken stock.

chicken to be roasted

How to Make Chicken Stock

There are two options to preparing homemade chicken stock: on the stove top, or by using a crock pot. I prefer the crock pot method because I rarely have a four-hour stretch of time when I am home. However, by using either method you’ll get the same end result: delicious homemade chicken stock.

Crock Pot Method

Ingredients:

  • 2 celery stalks, cleaned and cut into large chunks
  • 2 large carrots, cleaned and cut into large chunks
  • 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 whole head of garlic, outside paper layer removed, cut in half crosswise
  • 10 parsley sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 8 to 10 whole black peppercorns

Directions:

  1. Place all the unused chicken bones, parts, and skin in a six-quart crock pot. You may also include the innards that were inside the bird at the beginning. However, discard the liver, as it will overpower your stock and give it a bitter taste. Using the innards is totally optional.
  2. Add the ingredients listed above.
  3. Fill the crock pot with water, covering the chicken and vegetables. Place a lid on the crock pot and set it on low.
  4. Simmer for 8 to 10 hours, or overnight while you sleep.
  5. Allow the finished stock to cool slightly. Remove any large parts, and pour the stock through a fine mesh sieve into a large 4 1/2-quart bowl.
  6. Discard all the chicken parts and vegetables. Your chicken stock is now ready to use.
  7. If you are not immediately using the stock, allow it to cool completely and store it in the refrigerator overnight. Skim off any fat that has floated to the top. Stir the stock well and pour it into freezer containers.

The stock will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days, or the freezer for six months. I like to store it in two-cup containers for future casseroles or gravies, and in 32-ounce containers for use in soups or chilies. Do not be alarmed if your stock appears gelatinous; this is a sign of really delicious stock. It will thin out when it is heated.

chicken stock

Stove Top Method

  1. Place all the chicken parts, bones, and skin in a large soup pot. Add all the other non-chicken ingredients as well.
  2. Cover with about six quarts of water and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for at least four hours. Skim any foam that rises to the surface during that time.
  4. Remove from heat and allow it to cool slightly. Remove any large parts, and pour the stock through a fine mesh sieve into a large 4 1/2-quart bowl.
  5. Discard all the chicken parts and vegetables. Your chicken stock is now ready to use.
  6. If you are not using the stock immediately, allow to cool completely and store in the refrigerator overnight. Skim off any fat that has floated to the top. Stir the stock well and pour into freezer containers.

chicken stock

Additional Recipes for Your Chicken Leftovers

1. Chicken & Broccoli Cornbread Pot Pie

This hearty casserole calls for leftover chicken and your homemade stock. If you don’t like broccoli, you can substitute a different vegetable, such as green beans or a mixed assortment. This recipe makes four to six servings.

Filling Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups of chopped cooked chicken
  • 2-ounce bag frozen broccoli florets
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning

Topping Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup of cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 3/4 cup of buttermilk or regular milk
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1 large egg

Filling Preparation Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Steam the broccoli for four minutes until tender.
  3. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for about four to five minutes until softened.
  4. Add the flour and stir well to combine. Slowly add the stock and bring to a boil, stirring the entire time. The filling will start to thicken.
  5. Add the chicken, broccoli, salt, pepper, and seasonings and stir to combine.
  6. Lightly coat a 11×7 baking pan with cooking spray or olive oil and pour filling into the pan. Set aside to make the topping.

Topping Preparation Directions:

  1. In a bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
  2. Whisk together the milk, egg, and oil and pour into the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined.
  3. Spread the cornbread mixture evenly over the filling. Bake for about 20 minutes until the topping is golden brown.

chicken pot pie

2. Zesty Chicken Chili

The tomatoes with zesty chilies provides just enough heat to make this tasty chili. It is zesty, but not hot; however, if you prefer a less spicy chili, use diced tomatoes without the zesty chilies. This recipe will make four to six servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 1 green pepper, chopped fine
  • 3 cups cooked Great Northern beans or two 15-ounce cans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups of shredded or chopped cooked chicken
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes with zesty chilies
  • 32 ounces of chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

Directions:

  1. In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions, peppers, and garlic and cook for about four to five minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  3. Stir in the beans, chicken, tomatoes, stock, cumin, oregano, and salt.
  4. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for one hour, stirring occasionally.

zesty chicken chili

3. Chicken and Black Bean Burritos

This a quick dish for those hectic week nights, and if you are really short on time, skip heating the burritos in a pan and simply make soft tacos. This recipe makes six servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup of chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups of shredded cooked chicken
  • 1 1/2 cups of cooked black beans or 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup of frozen corn
  • 6 medium flour tortillas
  • 6 tablespoons of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 6 tablespoons of your favorite salsa

Directions:

  1. In a large saucepan or skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped red onion and cook until soft.
  2. Add chicken stock, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, chicken, beans, and corn, and stir until heated through.
  3. Spoon 1/2 cup of the chicken and bean mixture onto the tortilla and layer on 1 tablespoon each of the cheese and salsa. Fold the tortilla into a burrito.
  4. Prepare a large skillet or grill pan with non-stick cooking spray. Heat pan over medium heat and add two burritos. Place a second heavy pan on top of the burritos and cook for three to four minutes or until golden brown.
  5. Flip the burritos and cook the other side until golden brown. Repeat instructions to cook the remaining four burritos.

chicken and black bean burritos

Final Word

The next time you see whole chickens on sale at your supermarket, pick one up and roast it yourself at home. They are easy to prepare, and the leftovers will save you time and money on future meals. Having cooked chicken in my freezer makes menu planning and meal time prep a breeze.

Have you roasted a chicken? What is your favorite recipe for leftover rotisserie chicken?

(photo credit: FamilyBalanceSheet)

Kristia Ludwick
Kristia writes about family finances, frugal living, and food at Family Balance Sheet. She spends her offline time raising her two daughters, helping her husband run a small business, and training for her first half-marathon.

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  • http://www.moneytrail.net Pam at MoneyTrail

    I roast whole chickens quite often. I usually bake two at a time so that I have plenty of leftovers (we have a family of 6!). I usually soak the chickens in salted water overnight and then bake. It makes the chicken moist and flavorful. I also use the drippings to make gravy. I will generally use the leftover chicken and gravy to make a chicken pot pie.

    • http://www.familybalancesheet.org/ Kristia {Family Balance Sheet}

      Pam – Roasting 2 at a time is a great idea and I have a roasting pan that is big enough. The next time whole chickens are on sale, I’m buying 2 so that I can do this. I have never brined chicken. How much salt do you put in the water? And do you keep the chicken in the fridge overnight?

      Thanks for the comments!

      • http://www.moneytrail.net Pam at MoneyTrail

        Definitely keep them in the refrigerator. I am not sure how much salt I use. I sprinkle salt liberally over and inside of the chicken and then cover with water. I usually add a few more shakes of salt to the water. Sorry I don’t have the exact measurements. I learned this by watching my mother-in-law in the kitchen!

        • http://www.familybalancesheet.org/ Kristia {Family Balance Sheet}

          Thanks, Pam. I will definitely try this the next time I roast.

  • Desiree

    Using the carcass of a roasted chicken (or any poultry) is an excellent way to stretch one’s food dollar. More flavors can be added and more dollars saved by doing the following when preparing stock:

    1. Save discarded fresh produce scraps; the leafy end and the root end of a celery stalk, potato and carrot peels, onion skins and cut off ends, etc. Pretty much any vegetable that tastes good served with chicken can be added to stock, including leftover steamed peas and sweet potato peels. Place them in a freezer-safe, zip-seal bag in the freezer. As you get more scraps through the week (or however long) add those to the bag too. These can be used in lieu of the ingredients listed. Your stock will taste the same by using the scraps of the vegetables you’ve accumulated and will be cheaper since these were “free” and were going to be throw away (or composted- even better!) anyway.
    2. In a separate freezer bag, save all your chicken scraps; bones from cooked poultry, raw necks and other parts you don’t want to cook, giblets and necks, etc until you’ve accumulated enough to fit in whatever pot you’re using wit your vegetables. (Don’t worry about freezer burn. It doesn’t affect food safety. It just causes the food to look unsightly because of dehydration, but since you won’t be eating it, it’s perfectly ok for stock).
    3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put all your accumulated chicken and vegetable scraps in a heavy roasting pan. I like to use the bottom portion of my broiler pan. Place scraps in oven and roast until everything is very brown. Stir occasionally for even browning. Some of the vegetable scraps will burn around the edges, but that’s ok. It adds a very nice, rich flavor and darker color to your finished stock.
    4. When all of your scraps have browned, place them in the pot for the stock and just cover with water. Add seasonings to taste. Regardless of method, crock-pot or stove-top, cook until the meat falls off the bones. At this point, you can pick the bones clean of meat which can be used in other dishes. Strain the stock and return to cooking it. Reduce the stock at least by half or until it becomes thick.
    5. Place reduced stock in a glass measuring cup or other type of heat proof container with a pour spout (it will be very hot at this point). Cool until all the fat comes to the top and can be scraped off (or overnight). At this point, you should have a thick, almost gelatinous stock.
    6. Reheat stock in microwave to bring it back to liquid state. Pour into ice cube trays (these can be picked up cheap at a thrift store) and refreeze. Store “stock cubes” in a freezer safe bag.

    Stock cubes take up less space in the freezer and are easy to reconstitute if needed for broth or can be used in their concentrated form to add a delicious boost to rice or stir-fried veggies.

    • http://www.familybalancesheet.org/ Kristia {Family Balance Sheet}

      Desiree – I stock up on the veggies, like carrots, celery, and onions when they go on sale and clean and store in freezer bags, so I’m always ready to make stock. I never thought about including other veggie scraps; I’ll have to add those. The ice cube tip is a great idea. Thanks for the helpful comments and tips.

    • http://www.familybalancesheet.org/ Kristia {Family Balance Sheet}

      Desiree – I stock up on the veggies, like carrots, celery, and onions when they go on sale and clean and store in freezer bags, so I’m always ready to make stock. I never thought about including other veggie scraps; I’ll have to add those. The ice cube tip is a great idea. Thanks for the helpful comments and tips.

  • http://www.familybalancesheet.org/ Kristia {Family Balance Sheet}

    ImpulseSave ~ That Weber chicken roaster looks like a handy gadget (I just looked it up on Google). I might have to invest in one for the summer when we use our grill quite often and I don’t want to turn on the oven to roast a chicken. Thanks for your comments.

  • http://twitter.com/EducationCents Education Cents

    Like you, once I figured out how relatively simple roasted chicken and crockpot chicken stock are, I never wanted to buy pre-cut chicken or chicken stock again, and chicken stock is a great way to use up those vegetables (like carrots, onions, celery) that you forgot about in the back of the crisper drawer.

    Along the same lines, my aunt (she lives in a log cabin in Montana) was visiting one time when I was thinking about preparing chicken, and she taught me how to cut up the raw bird into all of it’s parts. For a fraction of the cost of a pack of thighs or breasts at the store you can cut up two or three birds and freeze the parts you want yourself. The carcasses and left over meat make great stock per the instructions above.

    • http://www.familybalancesheet.org/ Kristia {Family Balance Sheet}

      Education Cents ~ I have never cut up a whole chicken, but we might be joining a poultry/meat CSA where we will only receive whole chickens, so I’m going to have to learn for some cooking variety. Thanks for commenting.

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