This quote is attributed to President Herbert Hoover in 1928. At the time, it was a sign of prosperity to have enough money to cook a whole chicken. Nowadays, though, we've strayed so very far away from considering a chicken in a pot as a prosperous item. In fact, most people find it perplexing to boil a whole chicken. Why would you do that when you can just buy the parts you need? Why indeed!
From an economic standpoint, a whole chicken is a great value. The one you see here was on special at Whole Foods. This organic chicken, weighing 4.1 pounds, was $7.50. If you are doing the math, when was the last time you bought organic chicken or any chicken for less than $2.00 per pound? I normally do not buy a chicken this large for two reasons. One, it's just Brian and me and so it's too much chicken for us ... almost. Two, weighing over 3.5 pounds meant it was not a candidate for my favorite way to prepare a whole chicken which you can find here. But, it was such a good deal on a that I couldn't pass it up.
So I brought the big chicken home and wondered what to do. I considered butchering it into its eight constituent pieces so Brian could grill it. I pondered roasting the whole thing using a new method. However, I kept coming back to the idea that if I boiled it I would save time by cooking the meat and making broth at the same time, rather than by roasting first and then using the leftover scraps and bones for stock.
And so using inspiration from Jamie Oliver, I got to work. In just over an hour one Sunday afternoon I went from having a raw chicken to nearly 3 quarts of broth (12 cups!) plus almost 5 cups of shredded, delicious meat. All this from a $7.50 chicken. Just the broth alone would have cost me $7.50 at least to buy three quarts of organic, low-sodium broth. Since preparing a whole chicken this way, I have turned the chicken meat into made-from-scratch enchiladas and chicken tacos. Brian froze the broth in reasonable serving sizes so we can defrost it as needed for soups and as a base for rice, quinoa and polenta dishes.
In short, boiling a whole chicken saves a lot of money, is delicious, and is not incredibly time consuming. And here's how you do it:
1 4-5 pound chicken, preferably organic, bag of innards removed and saved for another use
4-6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 onion peeled and quartered
a couple of carrots, washed with ends removed, quartered
a couple of stalks of celery, washed with ends removed, quartered
10 black peppercorns
1 1/2 t of kosher or coarse sea salt
Note: you can also add herbs as Jamie Oliver does, but I prefer not to because I want the meat to taste neutral so I can use it in everything from salads to curries.
In a dutch oven or stockpot (minimum size you'll need is 7.25 quarts), place the chicken. Then place all the remaining ingredients, except the water, around the chicken. Fill the pot with water to cover the chicken and place a lid on it. Bring the chicken to boil over medium heat. Then reduce the heat to a simmer. You may have to place the lid askance if the water threatens to boil over. Cook the chicken until done, which based on the size of your chicken and the heat from your lowest setting, will take an hour to an hour and twenty minutes.
Once done turn off the heat and move the whole production off the stove to cool a bit. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, carefully remove it from the pot. It may fall apart a bit. Shred the chicken meat and dispose of the bones, the skin, and the connective tissues. You can store the meat in the fridge to use within the next three days or you may wish to freeze it. Use it in any recipe that calls for shredded chicken.
Next, use a slotted spoon to remove most of the vegetables from the pot. You can save these and puree them to be used as a soup or compost them or dispose of them. Removing the vegetables will avoid unpleasant splashing when you drain the broth.
Prepare to drain the broth. Have ready a large pitcher, a fine mesh strainer, and what device you plan to use to store the broth. In your sink, set up the pitcher with the strainer resting over the opening and the pour the broth through the strainer. Empty the pitcher as needed into storage devices. The broth will keep 7-10 days in the fridge or can be frozen for longer term storage.