Before your meal goes in the pan, try some of these preparation tips to keep your meat juicy and tender! We’ve got extra tips and links about the benefits of cooking with whole or bone-in poultry and meat, and also how to cut them up for dishes that call for pieces.
» Brine: Soaking your chicken for a few hours or overnight (in the fridge) in a mixture of salt water & vinegar will help tenderize and infuse juices into the meat. (Brine recipe coming soon, but you can look up a great number of chicken brine recipes on google!
» Slow-Thaw: It is important to let the frozen bird thaw completely before cooking to ensure even temperature distribution throughout the meat to prevent over-cooking on the outside and under-cooking on the inside. We recommend letting a smaller chicken (2-3 lbs) thaw in your refrigerator for at least 24 hrs, and larger birds (3+ lbs) for 48 hrs. Allowing them to thaw slowly (rather than in the microwave) helps the muscles of the bird relax and ensures more tender meat during and after cooking. One of my favorite ways to thaw is to make a brine and pour it into the plastic packaging while the chicken is still frozen, and let it sit in the refrigerator in a pot or bowl. By the time the bird is done thawing, it is also already brined!
» Whole Chicken: Many of our customers have cooked parted out chickens before (breasts, thighs, wings), but have never cooked a whole bird. Fear not! Though it may seem intimidating, cooking whole chicken is in fact quite easy. While it takes slightly longer initially to cook the whole bird than just parts, once cooked, a whole bird is easy to separate into pieces that can be saved in the refrigerator or freezer and used to cut down on cooking time in subsequent meals. Cooking chicken whole, with the bones in, results in more nutritious and flavorful meat! Making full use of a whole bird in our house often goes like this:
- Cook whole chicken (see cooking tips below). Fresh from the oven or pot, serve thighs and drumsticks with meal such as stuffing, rice, roasted root vegetables, etc.
- Peel breasts off of carcass, save in a container in the refrigerator to use as a quick, easy topping for salads or sandwiches in lunches throughout the week, or to make chicken salad.
- Peel off the wings, and save in the refrigerator for a 5min reheat in the pan or microwave for a satisfying snack.
- Peel off the scallops and meat from the back of the carcass, and save in the refrigerator (or freezer, to save up a larger amount) for use in pasta sauce, casserole, or soup and stew.
- Save the carcass itself! The bones left after peeling off all of the meat (and even bones from previous meals) can be saved in the freezer, or thrown straight into a crock pot or dutch-oven with enough water to generously cover it and a small splash of apple cider vinegar — add veggie scraps for extra goodness. Cooked on very low heat for 24-48 hrs (the crock pot or oven makes this a set-it-and-forget-it affair), the flavors and nutrients in the bones will leach out into the water and create an extremely healthful, aromatic bone broth that can be strained and either frozen for future use, or put to use straight away in a soup or stew.
- Feeling particularly adventurous? Try cooking livers, hearts, gizzards, or feet (recipes coming soon) for an even greater appreciation of the flavors and nutrition provided by consuming the whole bird. (These giblets are not included with a whole packaged chicken, but can be purchased separately)