When it comes to per-pound price, there really isn't a cheaper meat than chicken. It's also very healthy for you, especially in comparison to red meats, and it's extremely versatile as a protein -- just about every cuisine uses chicken in some form. While it may be much more convenient to buy skinless, boneless chicken pieces, it's much cheaper to purchase a whole chicken (usually less than $1 per pound) and use it instead of taking the easy way out. But what can you do with a whole chicken?
The better question: what can't you do with a whole chicken? You can carve it into all the pieces you'd normally use -- legs, thighs, wings, and breasts -- before cooking and then use those in various cooking endeavors. The meat on a good-sized chicken will more than feed a family of five, so you can stretch it over several meals if you're cooking it along with a grain or vegetable medley (such as stir fry or a casserole).
Roast it whole and serve it like a turkey. It doesn't take much to make a moist, perfectly done whole chicken. Rinse the chicken off, cut off the extra fat, then dab it dry with paper towels. Rub the skin with olive oil and put seasonings of your choice on -- you can use rosemary, Italian seasoning, jerk seasoning, or even just salt and pepper. Bake it at 350 degrees F for between an hour and an hour and a half, checking after the 60 minute mark to see if the thighs bleed clear (poke with a knife and press against the bird to make the juice flow). Pull it out and it's done!
Use the leftovers for sandwiches. Chicken sandwiches -- two slices of bread, some mild cheese, some breast meat, and condiments of your choice -- are healthy and filling. Send your kids off to school with some carrot and celery sticks and a chicken sandwich for a delicious meal that will keep them from getting hungry later in the day.
Of course, you can do everything else with a whole chicken that you can do with chicken pieces bought at the store. Make up a batch of chicken pot pies, using chicken pulled from the whole-roasted carcass. Make broth from the organs and any bones lying around. Debone the pieces and chop them up for stir fry or fried chicken. You can even make one giant homemade chicken nugget by dipping the chicken in an egg mixture and then coating it with bread crumbs. Delicious!
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