Saturday, April 10, 2010

How to get the most out of a chicken.

I often hear people complain about the price of good chickens and the fact that they can't justify buying them. My solution to that is to get the best out of a chicken.
I find chicken can sometimes be too dry when taken off the bone and cooked, so what I do, is poach the chicken and then take it off the bone, I pick the carcass absolutely clean.
There are a few advantages to this, I get succulent poached chicken even though it's off the bone, and I get a nice stock and I use the whole chicken.

To poach the chicken I throw it into a pot with the trinity of stock veg, celery, carrot and onion, to this I add two black peppercorns and some bay. Don't add salt at this early stage as you will be reducing this liquor later and it might get overly salty.
I fill the pot almost to covering the chicken and then put it on to boil.
Don't let it boil for long, once it's boiled for about 5-10 minutes then take it off the heat and put the lid on and let it sit to continue to poach gently. I leave it for two hours at least. Once it's been standing for a couple of hours remove the chicken and put it on a plate to cool. You can start on it now if you have asbestos hands, but it's best to let it cool a while.

Proceed to first skin the chicken and then take the whole lot off the bone. Don't miss anything, even pick in around the neck and take all the meat you can get.
I tend to put this in a bowl and cover the top with cellophane and once it's cooled it goes in the fridge.
This is now ready for a number of things. If you've ever noticed how take aways have a nice succulent chicken that isn't dry and has lots of flavour, well this is more or less what they do. This chicken will go very nicely in a curry, stew, soup, sandwich, basically anything. The beauty of it is that it really only needs heating through so you can add it to any curry or pasta sauce once the sauce has been reduced.
It's very moist and tender, you'll never want to do chicken any other way and you use the whole bird.

There are still a carcass and skin to deal with, so what I do is to strain the poaching liquor and skim the oil off it and then set aside, then I add the skin and bones to a new pot with some new stock veg, carrot, celery and onion, fry this up for a little bit to brown the carcass and the veg, you want some caramelisation to occur to get the flavour in there. If I have a glass of white wine handy I deglaze with that before adding the rest of the poaching liquor back to the stock pot. I then boil this for an hour or so and skim off any dirty scum and bubbles that accumulate on top. Once done I strain it again and then skim the fat off the top, or use a gravy seperator to do this. I then reduce this at least by half as it's a large amount of stock and a little dilute, if you want you can reduce it right down to a tablespoon or two for an amazingly powerful jus.
That is basically all there is to it.

Next post I'll show where some of the chicken got used.

Disclaimer: I realise the photo showing the chicken and the veg on one chopping board is not good health and safety practise, but this was merely for a staged shot before the lot went into the pot together.


  1. Sounds great, i'll give it a go

    Katie Bonar

  2. Good tip, ta. Do you eat the gizzards too? My mother-in-law fries them up and chomps them down ;-)

  3. I've used the gizzards in stuffing before, I'm quite partial to a spicey pasta tomato sauce that's full of chicken livers too, they're cheap at the Chinese stores.

  4. Yes, using a whole chicken is great - I love the broth, especially when I'm feeling under the weather.
    We usually use the meat for Hühnerfrikassee, do you know that dish?

    Btw, instead of the celery stick we use celery root.

    I sometimes prepare the broth and use part of it for Hot and Sour Thai soup, the other part goes into the freezer for later use.

    How long do you dare to keep your cooked chicken meat for in the fridge?

  5. My chicken meat doesn't usually last that long to be honest, considering that I did this post and chicken on Saturday, I still have some chicken in the fridge at the moment which I will happily use in my lunch sandwiches tomorrow for work. I suppose a week.
    If you have a recipe for Huehnerfrikassee I'd love to get my hands on it, there are some German standards that I don't know how to do that I'd love to know.

  6. I would also sometimes freeze the cooked chicken if I know I won't get to it too soon. It makes a very quick dinner when my wife isn't in the mood to do anything too elaborate.

  7. Eoin, I have a question about the first part. Do you chop the carrot and celery that go in with the poaching chicken? I see half an onion and a celery stick in your photo but I am not sure.... Thx

  8. I don't bother to chop stock veg to be honest. They're being thrown out later anyway.

  9. Hi Eoin,

    this is the Hühnerfrikassee-Rezept that I usually go by:

    As white asparagus is hard to get here I usually use courgette cut into two to three cm long strips. I also leave out the peas but that's only because I'm not too keen on them.
    I add capers and a little garlic powder. And I use quite a lot of the Worcester sauce that's already part of the recipe to make sure that it tastes of something. :)

    When time is a problem you can also make this with left over pieces of chicken and instant chicken broth.

  10. Oh, btw, I believe in roughly chopping the stock veg as I think this way you get more of the veg goodness out.

  11. Nice one Sylke, I always liked Huehnerfrikasee when I was in Germany, I'd have made up a close recipe I think but better to have a genuine one.
    I break the veg roughly myself, but it's not critical, but yeah I suppose you might get more out of it.

    Thanks again.