How to Cook a Whole Chicken Easily and What to Do With It

Have you ever considered buying a whole chicken because it’s a lower price than other cuts but have wondered what you do with it or even how you cook it? Today I’m sharing all about cooking a whole chicken and how we use it to stretch our grocery budget.

Need to make the most out of one of the most frugal "cuts" of chicken? Here's an excellent blog post on how to easily cook a whole chicken and what to do with it to make the most of it once it's cooked. #wholechicken #chicken #eatchicken

How to Cook a Whole Chicken

Chicken breast, thighs, and other cuts can get expensive. In fact, it’s often on my do-not-buy-because-we-can-not-afford list right now. Even on sale it still runs high. So instead of buying chicken breast for meals, I buy the “cheap chicken”. Cheaper cuts like wings, drumsticks, and even whole chickens are usually much less expensive.

My buying price for whole chickens is anything less than $1.49 a pound and I will usually buy other cuts of chicken for under $1.99 a pound. For the last couple of years, I’ve only bought whole chickens from the local Hutterite colony. I buy chickens from them to stay away from any chemicals, preservatives, or hormones in store-bought chickens. My buy price on these is $6 a chicken.

When I can find chicken for my buy price or less, I like to buy a bunch and just stick it right in the freezer when I get home. Now, you could cut up the whole chicken if you like to use the individual cuts for various meals. But I find that too time-consuming I like to cook the whole chicken instead. Not only do you get all the chicken off the bone when you cook it, but this way you also get the best broth ever too!

–Here are some Fast and Easy Dinner Ideas with Chicken.

How to Cook a Whole Chicken

Cooking a Whole Chicken

To cook a chicken, I take the whole chicken out of the freezer and stick the entire thing in the crockpot. I cover it all the way with water and turn the crockpot on high. The chicken will cook in the crockpot most of the day until it’s falling apart. I like to put my chicken in the slow cooker early in the morning and I do not take it out until at least suppertime or about 10 hours later.

When the chicken is done and I’m ready to do something with it, I use large spoons to carefully lift it out of the slow cooker and place it in a bowl to cool slightly. Then I use a fork to clean all the chicken meat off of the bones.

How to Cook a Whole Chicken

I put some of the chicken in a container and stick it in the fridge for a meal tomorrow, or I use it for supper that night. Otherwise, I stick it in a freezer bag and put it in the freezer for future meals.

Preserving Chicken Broth

Now it’s time to work on the broth. You can use the broth you have in the crockpot right now or you can strip the meat and put the carcass back into the crockpot, fill it with water and cook for another couple hours to get a whole other crockpot full of broth or soup!

Once your broth is ready and the crockpot has been turned off, let the broth cool for about an hour before putting it away. If you don’t wait, there is a much greater chance of burning yourself with hot broth that splashes out or having your glass jars break.

I prefer to store my broth in the freezer. To do this, I simply use my canning funnel and ladle to put the broth in jars and stick it in the freezer. If you do this, you must do 2 things before placing the jars in the freezer.

  1. Do not fill the jars full of broth. Fill them about 3/4 of the way (stay under the shoulder of the jar) because the broth will expand.
  2. Do not place them in the freezer while they are still hot. Let the broth cool, then place the jars in the fridge overnight before placing them in the freezer the next day.

If you don’t do these things, your jars can and will break in the freezer.

IF you don’t want to place your chicken broth in jars OR if you normally only use small amounts of broth at a time, you might want to look into making these Chicken Broth Cubes. They are so handy!

If you are feeling really ambitious, you can use the broth and the meat to Can Chicken. This way you get a shelf-stable product that you can easily pullout for future meals. You can also Can Chicken Broth if you’d rather use the meat separately. If you are looking for another shelf-stable option, you can also Dehydrate Chicken Broth.

Usually, one whole chicken will yield us about 3 quarts of chicken broth. Perfect for soups like Chicken and Rice or so many other meals and dishes such as Chicken Broth Gravy!

How to Cook a Whole Chicken

Using a Whole Chicken

This method of cooking and using a whole chicken so easy because I can just stick it in the crockpot and not think about it all day, then I get so many meals from that one round of cooking. When you use chicken in this form it’s juicy and fresh more so than if you would cook it in boiling water or in the oven. So you can buy the cheap chicken without feeling like you are missing out. Plus it’s easy for a busy life!

Here are some recipes that you can make using these various parts of the whole chicken including the shredded meat or the broth:

Amish Chicken Casserole

Cheesy Chicken Crescents

Chicken Nuggets

Creamy Chicken and Noodles Soup

Easy Chicken Enchiladas Recipe

Chicken Pot Pie

Does Cooking a Whole Chicken Save you Money?

One of the biggest questions I get about cooking a whole chicken is “Does it really save you money?”

I think buying a whole chicken does save you money. I’ll add it up here with what I pay:

Whole Chicken = $6 (From this I generally get 3 meals worth of chicken and at least a gallon of broth.)

Store-Bought Chicken = $1.49 per pound for the cheap stuff when it’s on sale, figure $1.49 per person per meal = just under $9 for 3 meals. But generally, that doesn’t include any broth (depending on how it’s cooked) and is not as healthy.

Now even though this isn’t a huge savings, I don’t really feel like it is very comparable. For my $6 I get a fresh, all-natural chicken straight from the farm. Or I could spend around the same or a little more (depending on sales) and get a chicken that is not as healthy and been shipped and sitting at the grocery store for who knows how long. I’ll take my fresh chicken with a little more work thank you very much. 🙂

 

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Looking for some more money-saving meal ideas? Check these out:

Leftover Pot Roast Recipes- How to Stretch a Roast

Things I Never Buy To Save Me Money

12 Simple Ways to Save Money on Groceries

How To Make Produce Last When You Only Shop Once a Month

Cooking Dried Beans; How to Soak and the Best Ways to Cook Them

Everything You Need to Know About Buying in Bulk

 

Do you buy “cheap whole chicken” or do you splurge for chicken breasts?
Is this the same method you use to cook a whole chicken?

merissabio

This blog post about How to Cook a Whole Chicken was originally published on Little House Living in December 2010. It has been updated as of March 2020.

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14 Comments

  1. I like to throw the 'cheap chicken' in the crockpot with some bbq sauce. Or sometimes a type of arroz con pollo with rice and goya seasoning (and water). I separate the chicken into single dinner servings before I freeze so I don't thaw too much.

    But I do also splurge for the breasts, we all love to have cutlets – breaded, parmesan, or francaise a few times a month =)

  2. I agree chicken breast is very expensive. I like cooking chicken this way, it is not that much work. But i notice when i freeze cooked chicken it's not as good in salads, i can use it more for casseroles. do you think this is because I left it in the freezer too long?

  3. Valerie: I forgot that we do splurge when chicken breasts go for 3.99 a bag at Family Thrift. But that's once in a blue moon….

    Anon: It might be. Mine's never lasted long enough for me to test that theory:)

  4. By itself, cooked chicken should be kept less than a month. However, if you keep it in a sauce or broth it will last longer. Maybe you can freeze it in the broth and just drain it when you want to use it.

  5. We buy farm-fresh whole chickens, so they're not all that cheap. We do make them stretch really far by making broth from the frame and freezing a lot of the meat to use in casseroles/pastas/soups the following few weeks. We also don't eat a lot of meat, so it works out okay. All in all we are still probably spending less than when I bought the chicken breasts from the store because it stretches to so many more meals. One chicken is enough for dinner the night we cook it, then thaw for BBQ chicken pizza, 2 casseroles, chicken fried rice, and chicken noodle soup.

  6. Hi,

    I am new to your blog and have been looking around. When I came upon this post about chicken and the noodles you use it made me wonder if you have ever tried making homemade noodles. They are very easy and so inexpensive. Here is my recipe:

    1 cup flour
    1 egg
    A sprinkle of salt
    Milk

    Begin by adding salt to your flour. Make a well and add egg and a little bit of milk. Mix well with a fork; adding milk as needed to form a soft dough ball. Roll thin on a floured surface and cut into strips. Add to boiling broth and cook about 5 to 10 minutes.

    I have been making homemade noodles for more than 20 years. Once you begin making your own noodles you will no longer want store noodles.

  7. Patty, thanks for the noodle recipe. I will try it.

    Anon: i agree with Valerie. i keep all cooked chicken in a broth or sauce to protect the texture.

    Merissa: I tried this idea of cooking the whole chicken & found I didn’t like searching for all those little chicken bones, so here’s what i do. I only buy chicken breast with ribs attached when they go on sale at $0.99 / lb. I buy 1-2 family packs. i then spend a little time to cut off the breasts from the ribs before freezing in freezer paper followed by ziplock freezer bags. the freezer paper allows me to ward off freezer burn and have a surface to write on — to mark the contents. i freeze in qtys to equal one meal, so nothing will spoil. If I need shredded chicken, I cook on the stovetop in a small amount of water – about 1/4 cup. First boil water, then drop in chicken, cook covered for 18 minutes, then shred or chop for use in casseroles. Yes your version is cheaper, but i like to butcher the bones so they all come off in a quick slab, vs. picking them out one by one. since i work, this tip really saves me time. I did save my bones today so i can make chicken stock tomorrow in the crockpot, so i may just make soup after straining the bones. thanks for the tips!

  8. I love your site and am fairly new to it. I keep finding so many interesting things. We recently had to butcher our hens as they were not laying much. We did try to keep the ones that seemed to still be laying. After we butchered, we canned the meat. It was time consuming, as all canning can be, but it was not difficult. The canne chicken is great for casseroles and other baked dishes. We have also warmed it in a skillet and then put BBQ sauce on it. It is tender and does not taste old. I also had a lot of broth left over that we also canned.

  9. We’ve been getting 3 meals plus broth from each chicken lately. They were our first home-grown chickens and they were either smoked or baked. I like your crockpot method – it’s been a while since I’ve made chicken that way.

    If you have an Albertson near you they usually have a sale of 2 for 1 Sanders chicken products (each month as far as I can tell).

  10. I just tried frozen chicken thighs in a crock pot. I put in 8 thighs (.99cents per lb.). After about 6 hours, took them out, cooled, stripped off meat, put bones back in pot, cooked another hour. Had enough chicken meat to make 14 burritos (mixed with fresh tomatoes and cheese) which I put in the freezer. I poured the stuff in the cookpot through a collander into a bowl. I then put the broth in the freezer for future soup. I plan on doing it again next week! Thanks for the great (easy) idea.

  11. I’m so happy to have stumbled upon your page. It’s nice to know there are others out there that use “cheap chicken” and are also too lazy to thaw their meat! I like to buy the random chicken packs. There are basically 2 big breasts, thighs, legs, Who knows what else but for 5$ I get at least 4 meals out of it for a family of 5. I splurge sometimes when cutlets are on sale but it’s only when I’m in the mood for a special meal. I also use the chicken to make a simple chicken pot pie which is made with 2 cans of cream of chicken, bag of frozen veggies and can of biscuits. SO easy!
    After reading the comments, I will make your soup and perhaps try to make my own noodles. Thanks for all the info and as I said I’m thrilled to know I’m not alone!

  12. I cover the thawed whole chicken with a seasoning blend I mix up then cook it in the crockpot on high for about 5 hours. Tasteslike a rotisserie chicken. After dinner I quickly pick the chicken then cover the bones in water with saved carrot peels and celery leaves. It cooks overnight on low. Delicious broth and leftover chicken for at least two more meals. I feed 4 adult and 2 kids so getting three meals from one chicken is a good deal.

    Chicken Seasoning
    2 tsp salt
    1 tsp Italian seasoning
    1 tsp paprika
    1 tsp onion powder
    1/2 tsp black pepper
    1/2 tsp garlic powder
    1/2 tsp thyme

    I also can roast this in the oven at 350 for 2.5 hours in the winter. I add a cup of water and scrubbed potatoes.