Cooking a whole chicken is one of the most rewarding things you can do in the kitchen. I find that cooking the whole animal, rather purchasing its parts individually, makes you more connected to the food as well. If you feel uncomfortable, or intimidated by cooking a whole chicken, that is normal. I felt the same way, until I just decided to try it! The photos in this post are taken with Jordan Wagman (read about this awesome chef here).
1 – Different Nutritional Profiles
Among athletes, chicken breasts are the most popular parts of the chicken by FAR. This is because the breasts are low in calories, they are the leanest part of the chicken, and are high in protein. Other parts of the chicken offer different health benefits, but are not as attractive to athletes because of the lower protein quantity. For example, the legs are packed with collagen, chondroitin and glucosamine. The thighs also have collagen, and are loaded with various healthy fats. You can even use the chicken carcass in stocks, which helps with acid reflux and boosts your immune system. Each part of the animal offers different health benefits, as protein and calories aren’t the only things that matter!
2 – You Can Make Stock
Not only are homemade chicken stocks one of the most delicious recipes you can have in your arsenal, they are also incredibly good for you. Stocks help cure colds and contain a diverse mineral profile, containing magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, silicon, sulphur and more. Making a chicken stock (or any stock, for that matter) is also a great way to reduce your food waste because you can put anything in it. Vegetable scraps and chicken bones make for an amazingly rich-tasting stock. I like to keep a container of all of my vegetable waste, and once it’s full, I make a stock. You can simply drink the stock, cook grains it it, make ice cubes out of it, and more. Check out the resources section for help with making chicken stock.
3 – It’s a Lot of Fun
The process of butchering a chicken is obviously more complicated than chopping up a carrot. And chopping up a carrot isn’t that fun! To butcher a whole chicken requires practice, patience and focus. One you have successfully completed the process, you will feel accomplished and proud of yourself. You can think of it as a really delicious arts and crafts project that saves you money, helps the environment, and makes you healthier.
4 – It’s Cheaper
Buying the whole chicken is cheaper! At first look it may appear more expensive, however the whole chicken is cheaper per pound. You get more portions out of a whole chicken, at least 4 meals. Also, store bought chicken is almost always pumped with liquid to increase its weight. So an 8oz chicken breast you buy at the supermarket is likely to be 1.6 oz water! By butchering the whole chicken yourself, you have better control of how the chicken is handled, and you’ll save a few dollars.
Doesn’t that look good? Once I separated the chicken parts, I placed them on top of some roasted vegetables for a delicious dinner for 4 people. Enjoy learning about chicken and how to prepare it, you will learn lots!