Smith: Buying whole chicken has cost, cooking advantages | Food and Cooking

Buying a whole chicken, rather than its individual parts, offers many potential benefits. However, to some people, even the mere thought of reaching into a dead bird’s carcass to pull out the liver, heart and gizzards is enough to put the brakes on and reach for the more convenient, less “icky” option of purchasing separate pieces.

First, not all chickens will come with giblets (liver, heart, gizzards and neck) packaged and tucked back into the cavity, which is good if you’d rather not see it. However, boiling giblets with aromatics, such as onion, garlic and herbs, will give you a flavorful stock, which can be used to make gravy or frozen for later use. Even without the giblets, you can still get a nice broth from simply roasting the bird.

Another benefit of purchasing a whole chicken is the potential cost savings. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the current average price of a whole chicken is $1.69 per pound while a regular pack of chicken breasts averages $2.56 per pound. However, if you’re just looking to buy drumsticks ($1.02 per pound) or thighs ($1.02 per pound), a whole chicken may be more costly. Nevertheless, a whole chicken gives you a variety.

Besides roasting the bird in an oven, try cooking it in a slow cooker, which is particularly good when you’re wanting shredded chicken. A slow cooker will produce tender, fall-off-the-bone meat. Follow the instructions of your slow cooker to be sure the bird isn’t too big to cook safely.

Cutting up a whole chicken

1. Wash hands with soap and water, but do not wash chicken. Remove giblets, if present. Save for other recipes or discard.

2. Thigh and Drumstick: Using a sharp knife, cut through the skin, along the fat line, between the body and the leg. Pull apart to find the bone joint. Cut around to remove thigh and drumstick together. Cut through bone to divide drumstick and thigh. Repeat on other side.

3. Wing: Pull the wing away from the body. Cut through the skin between the wing and the body and cut through the joint. Repeat on other side.

4. Breasts: Cut the breastbone down the middle and along the backbone on the other side. Follow the curve of the ribs to remove the breast from the body. Repeat on other side. Save carcass for stock or discard.

5. Wash hands, utensils and cutting board with soap and water. Sanitize work surface.

USDA. Slow cookers and food safety.

USDA National Retail Report – Chicken. December 10, 2021.

University of Illinois Extension. You can cook! Whole chicken.

Smith is nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, McLean County. Contact her at 309-663-8306. 

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