Buying Whole Fresh Chicken

So, you found a great local farmer to buy whole fresh chicken from, now what do you do with it? Many of us are so accustomed to buying parts of a chicken packaged into nice plastic-wrapped packs. Most of the time those packs are enough for one meal for a family of four. A whole chicken can be stretched a lot further than most of us think. Today we are going to explore just a few of those infinite possibilities.

Rest Your Meat

Determining if your chickens are freezer ready will depend on when they were processed. Our processing permit requires that we sell the bird within 48 hours of processing, and most of our customers pick up within 24 hours. I always recommend that they continue to rest their birds in the fridge for at least another 24 hours. Resting any animal after processing is directly related to its taste and tenderness. All animals go through 6-8 hours of rigor mortis, which causes the full contraction of all muscles in the body. After that, the muscle fibers continue to detach and loosen, making the meat more tender, this is the same concept as hanging beef which most people are familiar with.

Cut Up or Freeze Whole

Once your chicken has been properly rested you can decide if you are going to cut up the bird or cook it whole. If you plan to cook it whole, you can pop it directly into the freezer. All our chickens are shrink-wrapped in a plastic bag and sealed, so they are freezer ready upon pick up.

If you choose to “part out” or cut up your bird, I highly recommend this video: Pro Butcher How To Cut Up A Chicken; Glen and his butcher friend perfectly demonstrate how to easily part out a whole bird and have every part useable. Every year I part out 10-15 birds for our freezer, and it takes me 2-3 hours including vacuum sealing. All the bones and carcasses then go into a giant stockpot with a bunch of fresh herbs and vegetables to make the most amazing stock! I then pressure can all the stock, so it is shelf-stable, and store it for the season; this feeds our family throughout the summer and winter.

Cooking a Whole Chicken

I can now cook a whole chicken in my sleep, but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, the first time I made a recipe asking for cooked chicken I had to call a friend and ask how to cook the chicken first! So, if you are feeling overwhelmed with a whole chicken I completely understand. My favorite simple recipe for cooking a whole chicken is roasting it in a cast iron pan and following these directions from Ina Garten. I honestly don’t think I have ever made it with fennel, I always use whatever vegetables I have on hand, and it comes out perfect every single time. You can serve it with just the vegetables you cooked with it, rice, potatoes, or even make a gravy out of the pan juices. Change it up and make it fun!

Note: I started using this recipe before we raised our own chickens, and the skin never came out brown and crispy. Farm fresh chickens make all the difference.

The Leftovers

You just had the best roast chicken you’ve ever cooked but there’s still more left! The easiest way to debone a chicken is after dinner while it’s still warm. Now use that shredded chicken to make burritos, enchiladas, casserole, salad, etc.

Wait!!!!! Don’t throw out those bones and carcasses just yet. Throw those into your instant pot, stockpot, or slow cooker with some vegetables, herbs, a splash of apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper. The meat left on the bones is used to make up a batch of soup with the amazing broth you just created.

Here is a list of just a few of my favorite recipes that use up shredded chicken and broth:

The Final Tally

Obviously how many meals you can spread out a whole chicken depends on how many people you are feeding. Our current price for a whole chicken is $5 per pound, and that will provide a large part of three meals, with an average weight of 5 lbs. That equals $25 per bird divided into three meals equals $8.33, broken down even further we can calculate it as $2.08 per person.

Let’s not forget the nutritional value of that bird. Pasture-raised chickens get to eat bugs, grubs, grass, and whatever they desire. This gives them more balanced nutrition and therefore offers you balanced nutrition in your food. Do you know that old saying “you are what you eat?” If you eat food with more vitamins and minerals your body will also absorb those. Home-grown meat and vegetables are more filling, in our experience. Therefore, we all eat less because it’s offering us the nutrition we need.

Most chickens are packaged in a saltwater solution to help preserve them on the grocery store shelf. Remember I said I couldn’t get a browned bird from the grocery store, that salt solution is exactly why. It is also the reason roasted chicken is often dry and flavorless.

If you would like more information on the chickens we sell please check out our farm stand page.



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