I LOVE using all of a large chicken, and getting the most meals out of my cooking. So here goes. I really like the 5-6 pounders! (Or cooking two birds at once!)
If you're already adept at cooking, here's the basic rundown:
meal 1: dark meat: legs/wings/thighs
meal 2: one of the breasts, shredded, in soup
meal 3: the other breast, shredded or chopped, with tacos or in a casserole
bonus: cook the carcass again for stock to use in yet another meal, or to freeze. If you want more info on how to do this, read on...
Choose one of the following two pathways:
1. Roasted in the oven... or
2. In the Instant Pot directly from frozen
This is a good choice if you want to feature the dark meat as the first meal. I can still get away with serving my kids the legs and wings, and Adam and I eat the thighs, (and clean up whatever the kids don't eat). With a large chicken like this, you may want to spatchcock it, to keep the breasts moist in the oven.
Serve that first meal with whatever veggies are in season, and maybe a side of rice if you want it.
During clean up, before you put the leftovers away, pick the rest of the chicken! Pick all the chicken off the bones. Be sure to get the back meat! You can shred it with a fork, or chop. Separate into two containers, and refrigerate.Now you have chicken for two separate meals of your choice: chicken soup, white chicken chili, taco night, chicken salad, chicken casserole, or just plain chicken for young kids (if you have young kids, you get it!)
With the chicken carcass, put it in a slow cooker and let cook overnight, and you'll have stock in the morning. Or you can refrigerate the carcass for up to 3 days, and pull it out when you're ready to make stock on the stove by simmering it for a few hours. Be sure to strain the stock. You can either use that stock immediately for the chicken soup, or freeze it for later use.
Instant Pot method (you can do this from frozen!)
When I go this route, I usually have a hankering for white chicken chili. For some reason I can't get enough of this!
Here's what I do: In the morning, cook a very large chicken directly in the instant pot. (If I forgot to thaw one, I cook in instant pot directly from frozen. I use this site just for a time guide for how long to cook it.) I use 2-3 cups water and season just with a little salt and a little olive oil. When it's done, I remove the lid to let cool until ok to handle.
Early afternoon (at my kids' nap), pick chicken. Remove legs/thighs and put in fridge for another meal. Note the dark meat cooked this way tastes just fine, but doesn't look quite as impressive as a roasted chicken.
Shred or chop breasts. If you started with a large enough chicken, you should have enough for two meals! Keep half the white meat for the chili, and store the other half for another meal. (Tacos, anyone?)
Strain liquid and return to instant pot. Voila, here's your soup base for your first meal. Make chicken soup, or white chicken chili.
The next day, you can have the legs, thighs and wings, and finally, you have more chopped or shredded chicken for the meal of your choice. Sometimes I don't feel that creative in the kitchen (or have much time for meal prep), so I really love having chicken ready to go during the week. So there's one of my cooking secrets!
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