I resisted cooking whole chickens for YEARS. Like, my whole adult life. It felt too grown up/soccer mom but also sounded super grody due to the fact that you basically have to get to 3rd base with a chicken. My mom finally talked me in to learning how to cook them when I was really working on keeping my grocery budget down a few years ago. I can’t believe it took me so long to learn to roast whole chickens! You really need to do this. It is super easy, really inexpensive and tastes amazing! This is my normal, untrained person way of preparing and roasting a whole chicken. Because that is what I am. Just a gal who cooks for her family. No special training needed. Well, I mean, probably a little bit more training would help but whose got time for that?
You can buy whole chickens year round in your meat department at your local grocery. But I know when I see the ads and they are $0.80 cents a pound, that is a great sale and you want to pick up a few of them then. And I say pick up a few of them because since you are going to be roasting something in the oven for an entire afternoon, it makes sense to make more than one at a time and make twice as much meat without hardly any extra work. You can see from the package the one on the right says the total cost is $3.25. Just think of how much you pay for a package of chicken breast fillets! When I buy two whole chickens and pull all the meat off the bone, I have enough chicken for at least four meals for my family of 4. Crazy, right!
So yes. It is gross. And the very first time my mom had me do this I was super squeamish. But it does get easier. Remove the chickens and clean them one at a time. I’m a super stickler for germs and such (I’m straight risk management, people) so I like to handle one bird at a time. I also keep a double ply plastic grocery in the sink to place the discarded pieces, such as the bag and grody inside bird parts. You can see my handy kitchen shears in the sink but the only thing I needed those for was to get the bag open. And I guess you could wear gloves, but you will still feel squishy things through them…
Ok, so here we go. To stick your hand all up in there feels a little bit like jumping in to a pool that you know is ice-cold. You know you are going to do it, but it isn’t going to be entirely pleasant, but then it will get better and then you will be done. Take a big deep breath and stick your hand in the cavity. Grab a handful and immediately stop thinking about it. Don’t think. Sing a song. Really loud. Create an out-of-body experience and go watch some Real Housewives in your head. Do anything but think about what you are touching. This is how you don’t throw up. Then you remove it and throw it in the grocery bag and don’t look at it again. Repeat until you have everything out of the bird. It really isn’t that bad. But trust me, I was right there with you a few years ago.
Once you think you have most of the “stuff” out, give the cavity a rinse. There is stuff that comes streaming out that isn’t gorgeous. Continue your deep breaths and non-thinking. So after about five minutes of mild discomfort, you are finished cleaning.
The basic recipe for roasting a whole chicken, at least according to my mom, is chicken stock, maybe some lemon and maybe some cut up onions. At the very least, you need a few cans of chicken broth with the other things just being flavor agents. But I came across this recipe for using a Mexican beer and lime (one for you, one for the bird) that I modified a little bit. YOU GUYS! The house smelled freaking ridiculous while these chickens were roasting. And while the meat was flavorful, it didn’t make it taste so much that you would be unable to use the chicken in other kinds of dishes that were not of the Mexican variety. Because that is the point of cooking whole chickens. You get a meal the night you cook them, but then with the leftovers, you can eat the chicken plain or work it in to other recipes. So versatile.
For this recipe you mix the beer and chicken stock. You will want to baste the chickens every half an hour or so throughout the cooking process to keep it moist. It is not as tedious as it sounds. I am a super lazy cook and I was even ok with this step. You will want to put the chicken, breasts down, in a roasting pan. I used to have the hardest time knowing which side had the breasts. But you can tell from the picture above that if you look at them more like a person than a bird, you understand where things are. See their elbows? I mean, their wings look just like arms. And their legs look just like, well, legs. So butts up, breasts down. Sometimes when I write things I giggle. But only because I think of the people searching for a term that I used. And this is what they find. Oh the disappointment they must feel!
Add your spices, salt and pepper, paprika, whatever feels good. Gosh dang do I want a Pacifico with lime right now though! It’s totally fine, although this posts at 3 am in the morning, it is really about 4:30 pm as I’m writing this so its ok for me to want one.
Roast them in a 325 degree oven for about 3 1/2 – 4 hours. What? Are you crazy? No. Do it. I try to do these on a Sunday afternoon when we are being lazy at home. But you could easily put them in right after you get home from school pick up. The slow cooking helps them to stay really moist (and I’ve never had a problem with the leftovers being dry either). If the birds start to get a little too brown for your taste, just tent them with foil. I’m not a skin person so I kind of just ignore it since I’m just going to remove it anyway.
Once they have cooled a bit, remove as much of the meet as possible. I discard the rest. I know others keep the bones to create their own homemade chicken stock. But I’m not that much of a hippie. I have a meal sealer machine thingy that I use to freeze the rest of the chicken in meal sized portions. It makes it super easy to grab one to thaw out the night before I need it. I really feel like I was missing out by not knowing how to roast a whole chicken. I promise you the cleaning part is not as bad as you think it is and will be done super fast. Best. Thing. Ever.
Big thanks to my husband for taking most of these photos for me. We did this in our old house right before we moved. I wasn’t sure the photos would even come out because this was my old camera and I had a hell of a time taking photos indoors with its extremely low ISO! The pictures may not be the prettiest but the info is good. And I know you won’t be disappointed!