The thought of reaching into a chicken and pulling out all of its innards is, well, creepy and gross. But, sometimes, ya gotta do what ya gotta do. I keep a freezer full of chopped chicken meat and homemade broth. Both of which cost me a fraction of what I used to spend on chicken breasts and Swanson broth. Plus, when I need chicken for casseroles or other recipes, it's ready to go. I've seen this done several ways on other blogs, this is just what works best for me, so I thought I'd share my own method.
I LOVE when my grocery store (I shop at HEB in Texas) puts their whole chickens on sale. I've seen them as low as $.44 a pound. More often, they're $.77 a pound...which is still a fabulous price. I'll buy 3-4 chickens every time they do this. And my house will smell like Chick-fil-A for days. And I'll feel like a total Holly Homemaker for preparing this many birds in such an easy fashion (that cost so little).
After you cut off the plastic wrapper, reach in and pull out the above pictured grossness. It's a neck, gizzards and other fun things. I also pull off the big piece of fat that's usually surrounding the opening as well. If you're lucky, your chicken will have it all in a little bag that you can easily pull out. My chickens never have that. It's literally my hand fishing around inside a chicken for all these lovelies.
Put your bird in breast side up. You will not add any additional liquids. Seriously...none whatsoever.
I season with a few sprinkles of garlic powder...
...and onion salt (but it's your call on what you use...get creative)!
Set your slow cooker to low and cook for 7-8 hours.
When it's done, it will literally fall a part. I pull the chicken out (sometimes piece by piece since it falls apart) and try to pull as many bones out and return them to the slow cooker. I get the bulk of the bones out right at first. At this point, I refrigerate the rest of the chicken overnight (which still has small bones in it that are harder to find). Once the chicken is cold, I pick it a part meticulously the next day and discard the rest of the bones. Chicken is easer to pick when it's cold. I hate missing bones (it freaks me out to find one in a casserole)...so I'm kind of OCD about it. Once your chicken is picked over, it's ready to freeze. I freeze mine in one cup containers so it's ready for casseroles and pre-measured.
Making the broth (or stock):
Once you've removed your chicken from your slow cooker, add the bones back in to the cooking liquid (like I mentioned above). I also throw in the skin, too, since we don't eat it. Then add a splash of apple cider vinegar (this helps draw more flavor & nutrients from the bones.)
Then add 5-6 cups of water. I happened to have carrots on hand that were about to go bad, so I threw them in, too. Sometimes, I'll add an onion or celery as well. But, if I'm lazy...I add nothing! :)
Turn your slow cooker on low (it may still be warm from the chicken cooking...I always feel like it does a marathon when I cook these things), cover with your lid and cook overnight (or about 8 hours).
The next morning, your broth is ready to go (and smells so yummy).
Strain out all of the bones, skin and veggies.
I truly love preparing chickens like this. You really get the most out of one bird. I use the broth for soups and such. It's unbelievable compared to the store-bought kind. I just defrost everything in the microwave and I'm ready for an easy homemade meal. Once you start preparing birds this way, you'll never go back. I noticed the other day that a 4-pack of chicken breasts was $11. And that's just for one meal. For $4, I stretched this to two meal's worth and lots of broth for a third. That's crazy good if you ask me!
Variations: Sometimes, I won't make the broth, but rather prepare the chicken as a meal for that night. I'll throw in barbeque sauce and an onion at the start of cooking. After sever hours, I'll have barbeque chicken for dinner. Or often, I'll use Target's Archer Farms brand of Hawaiian BBQ Sauce, along with a can of crushed pineapple and we'll have Hawaiian Chicken. The possibilities are endless. I'd love to hear how you prepare chickens, too!
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