So you've bought a whole chicken but now you find yourself wondering how to use a whole chicken.. You've come to the right place for a zero waste menu.
The options really are endless when it comes to deciding how to tackle your whole chicken adventure. Although buying chicken that hasn't been processed is a more timely process, it's always cheaper and gives you a lot more control. It's just an added bonus that you can make tons of broth at no extra charge!
How to Process a Chicken
For recipes that don't require you to bake or cook the chicken whole, it's important to break down the chicken in a way that allows you to minimize the waste.
Personally, I like chicken parts that are bone-in and skin-on because they almost always have more flavour. If the recipe calls for it, you can always debone it and remove the skin, but buying whole gives you so many more opportunities to build on the natural richness of the bird.
I've tried many different methods to break down a whole chicken, but the instruction I always keep going back to is the NYT video from Melissa Clark. The video below is the guide I always use when I'm struggling with a bird.
Although this is the video that works best for me, you may have different methods that speak to you more. Here are a few other methods that I have used in the past from Gordon Ramsay and Mike Greenfield from Pro Home Cooks (2:42).
Important note: Make sure to cook your chicken to the proper internal temperature! Check out this handy guide on food safety in the kitchen.
Recipes Using a Whole Chicken
There's more than just roasted chicken to use up a whole chicken. These are some of my absolute favorite recipes, techniques and ideas to use a chicken top to bottom in a single recipe. Make sure to check out my meal planning guide for more chicken ideas.
- Jacques Pepin's Whole Roasted Chicken - NYT Cooking
- Slow Cooker Whole Chicken - The Kitchn
- Triple Dipped Fried Chicken - All Recipes
- Chicken Parts, 9 Ways - Mark Bittman
- Chicken Marbella - Maritime Glutton
- Chicken Afritada - Salu Salo
- Chicken Fricot (Acadian Stew) - All Recipes
- Chicken Adobo - Panlasang Pinoy
One of the most under-rated parts of buying whole chickens is all the skin! Here are some of my favourite ways to use chicken skin that may otherwise just be thrown out.
- Schmaltz and Gribenes - Tori Avey
- Schmaltz and Gribines is also known as Rendered Chicken Fat and Crispy Chicken Skin Crackings - and is a classic Ashkenazi Jewish dish that uses chicken skin to create a deliciously rich cooking oil (rendered chicken fat) and a crispy topper made of the leftover chicken skin.
- Cauliflower with Tandoori Chicken Skin - Tasting Table
- Kawa Yakitori - All Recipes
- Kawa Yakitori is a Japanese dish of grilled chicken skin. Kawa means "chicken skin" and Yakitori is a style of cooking that involves grilling on skewers.
- Chicken Skin Powder - The Takeout
Now that you've processed your chicken, it's time to put it to good use. Starting with the breast! I know this cut gets a lot of hate for being kind of plain.. and it can be. But it can also be a really quick and nearly foolproof way to cook chicken.
Different Cooking Methods
- Instant Pot Chicken Breasts (From Frozen) - Detoxinista
- Air Fryer Chicken Breast (From Frozen) - Where is My Spoon
- Sous Vide Chicken Breast - Anova Culinary
- Poached Chicken Breast - Spend With Pennies
- Grilled Chicken Breast - Once Upon a Chef
- Instant Pot Shredded Chicken - The Recipe Rebel
- Asparagus Stuffed Chicken - Gimme Delicious
- Sweet Yellow Thai Curry - Maritime Glutton
- Stuffed Chicken Parmesan - Natasha's Kitchen
- Sriracha Fried Chicken Mac and Cheese - Maritime Glutton
- Chicken Katsu - Rasa Malaysia
- Chicken Marsala - Cafe Delites
- Maple Curry Chicken Penne - Maritime Glutton
- Spicy Chicken Salad Bagels - Ricardo Cuisine
- Crispy Skinned Chicken Breast with Smashed Potatoes and Green Beans - Hello Fresh
- Taco Bell Chicken Quesadilla - Maritime Glutton
- Butter Chicken - The Kitchen Paper
- 15 Minute Coconut Curry Noodle Soup - Woks of Life
Chicken thighs are a cut that really don't get enough love. They're inexpensive and absolutely loaded with flavor. They're also much harder to mess up than chicken breast because it's inherently much more juicy.
Different Cooking Methods
- Air Fryer Chicken Thighs - Low Carb with Jennifer
- Instant Pot Chicken Thighs - Crunchy Creamy Sweet
- Sous Vide Chicken Thighs - Anova Culinary
- Grilled Chicken Thighs - The Salty Marshmallow
- Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken Thighs - Tip Buzz
- Chicken Shawarma - Tori Avey
- Arroz Caldo (Filipino Lugaw) - Maritime Glutton
- Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic - The Food Network
- Thai Peanut Chicken Satay - Damn Delicious
- Sweet and Sour Pork (Sub Chicken Thigh) - Recipe Tin Eats
I'll be honest - this isn't my favorite cut of chicken. It's not one I'd ever just buy on it's own. When you buy whole chickens, though, they're often my last to get used. Here are a few recipes that I've really enjoyed despite not loving drumsticks.
- Honey Teriyaki Drumsticks - Skinny Taste
- Baked Chicken Drumsticks - That Low Carb Life
- Honey Mustard Drumsticks - Jo Cooks
- Gochujang Braised Chicken - Epicurious
- Guy Fieri's Chipotle Mango Drumsticks - The Food Network
- Lemon Garlic Baked Drumsticks - The Mediterranean Dish
Where you only get 4 chicken wing halves with a whole chicken, I usually will keep them aside and freeze them until I've processed enough chickens to make wings. If you have a few chickens worth of wings saved up - these are my favourite ways to use them.
- Air Fryer Naked Chicken Wings - The Food Network
- This is THE recipe. There is almost no other recipe needed, ever, for chicken wings. Since buying an air fryer my partner and I eat this weekly, if not multiple times a week because it's so easy and so incredibly delicious. We toss them either in classic Franks Hot, Sweet Chili Sauce or our favourite local hot sauce - Spicy Boys from Fredericton.
- Battered Fried Chicken Wings - Dinner at the Zoo
- Korean Chicken Wings - Rasa Malaysia
- Garlic Parmesan Wings - Mantitlement
- Chicken Parm Wings - Delish
- Chicken Inasal - Foxy Folksy
- Thai Chicken Wings - All Recipes
- Greek Wings with Lemon and Feta - Bon Appetite
Chicken Carcass and Extra Bones
This is the single best part about whole chickens. If you buy pre-processed chickens you're missing out on the best homemade stock possible. My favourite recipe for a luxurious and rich stock is the Zero Waste Broth from my website! The best part is it's a guideline versus a recipe and allows you to make an outstanding broth or stock every time with a full guide on the dos and don'ts to ingredient selection.