If you learned to cook with recipes primarily using chicken breast meat, knowing what to do with an entire chicken (probably frozen) can be intimidating. Thankfully, it’s not all that bad.
Days with Zero Time for Food Prep
To say that I have a lot on my plate would be an understatement. (Sound familiar?) So most of the time when I know I want to cook chicken for supper I grab one out of the freezer and throw it into the Instant Pot. I add a few cups of water, a couple of tablespoons of salt, a teaspoon of paper, a fresh onion (or 1T dried), and a tablespoon of herbs de’ provence or dried oregano. (I don’t actually measure these things, but I did it once to tell you what I do.)
On of my favorite things about this method is that I don’t have to carefully time when I start cooking the chicken. I will put it in the Instant Pot whenever it is convenient during the day (at least a couple of hours before we plan to eat) and the pot will automatically switch to “keep warm” after it’s done pressure cooking. Most frozen chickens will be done after 60-90 minutes on high pressure, however I often cook mine for two hours to make sure my home grown pastured meat is falling-off-the-bone tender.
Thawing and Roasting
If you want to pull a gorgeous golden roast chicken out of the oven or grill/smoker, you’ll have to plan ahead to thaw the chicken. Easiest, and probably best, method is to put it in your refrigerator the day before you want to cook it. (Plan on at least 24 hours for a six-pound chicken.)
You can also thaw a chicken in a waterproof bag by submerging it in cold water and changing the water every 30 minutes. (The USDA also says you can microwave it, but that doesn’t exactly sound appealing.)
To roast it, but the chicken in an oven-safe pan. I usually sprinkle it with a combination of herbs mentioned above and toss an onion into the cavity. (I don’t eat it later, it’s there to add flavor and fragrance. Sometimes a chicken doesn’t smell particularly good while it’s cooking without seasoning.)
Most chickens will take a couple of hours to cook at 350 degrees (F). Use a meat thermometer to determine when it’s done.
Using the Whole Chicken
Once you remove most of the meat for your meal (including leftovers for future meals) put the bones and remaining meat that’s difficult to remove back into the Instant Pot or a slow cooker. Cover it with water and, if you have it, add about 1/4 of apple cider vinegar. Cook for 6-12 hours to make a delicious broth for chicken soup.
Once the broth is done, place a colander into a large bowl and pour the contents of your pot into it. I usually have a large dinner plate nearby so I can put the colander of chicken on it after holding it up several seconds to allow the broth to drain off. Now it’s easy to separate the remaining chicken from the bones. I also like to remove any skin and other soft tissues to feed our dog.
Now you can make chicken soup or save the chicken and broth separately for use in other dishes.
If you want to make an even more highly nutritious bone broth, let the broth cook for 24-48 hours. Then simply safe the broth and discard the chickens and bones. After cooking that long the chicken will have lost almost all flavor and nutritional value. However, the broth will be a highly digestible form of calcium and other nutrients.