How to stretch a chicken to last the whole week
I am in the process of rewriting this series, originally written in 2014. So while I am doing that, the quantities etc in the associated recipes may not all match up – please bear with me. There will be much better pictures too!
Do I need to buy a whole chicken?
Buying a whole chicken and jointing it yourself is cheaper than buying ready jointed chicken pieces. If you are going to roast a chicken, then a whole one is much nicer to present at the table I think than pieces.
The price per kg of a whole chicken is much cheaper than a pack of breasts (the most expensive), thighs or wings. You may of course specifically want, say, wings, for a recipe you are making. A whole medium chicken at the time of writing costs £3.19 in Aldi
A medium chicken, on average, will yield coming up to a kilo of cooked meat.
How to use a whole chicken for multiple meals
I mentioned recently that I had been inspired to do a stretchy chicken series. I expect most families who need to stretch the pennies have favourite ways to stretch a chicken and ways to stretch minced beef.
There is just me and Mike to feed here, so most of my ideas will be for two people. Although when creating the plan, I thought I’d make it a family plan and make each meal serve 4. If you are a couple like us, each meal can be used over 2 nights. Or freeze half for another time.
We had roasted chicken last night, with some stuffing to pad it out, and in the interests of research I have bought some value stuffing. We don’t usually have stuffing as my husband isn’t keen, although he liked the way I made it this time!
First steps – the whole chicken
I decided to roast the chicken as a first step in this series and the first meal we would have would be a roast lunch. I weighed what we cut off for ourselves and it came to a smidge over 100g of breast for husband, and the thigh I cut for myself, once I’d minused off the bones, was about the same.
I mixed up the stuffing, which the instructions said needed 250ml of water. So I used the liquid from one of the tins of organic green beans that I got from Approved Food for extra flavour. I used half of a tin of beans at lunchtime that I’ll tell you about later. I also opened the oven and poured out a couple of tablespoons of the juice from the chicken pan and added that to the stuffing mix as well, for yet more added flavour. Then put the stuffing in tiny little piles on a baking sheet. They came out as lovely, crispy outsided little morsels.
The chicken was roasted in the usual way, with no additions, just the chicken.
How to roast a chicken
The simplest way is to take all the packaging off and pop it into a roasting tin. It’s recommended that raw chicken is not washed as there is more risk from splashing than not washing it. Any splashing can spread campylobacter bacteria on to other surfaces, other food, your skin, your clothing and equipment which can lead to serious illness. If by chance the chicken has campylobacter or other bacteria on it, the cooking process will kill it off.
Take the bird out of its packaging and put straight into a roasting tin. Don’t cover with foil or anything else. I don’t usually bother to oil or season the skin, the fat released as the skin cooks is enough.
Just place the tin in the middle of the oven which is on at 200C / 180C Fan / Gas 6 / 400F for about an hour and a half until the skin is a beautiful golden colour and it is cooked through. To check it’s cooked through put a knife in the thickest part of a leg and see if the juices run clear. Or use a temperature probe to check that the internal temperature is 170-175°F (77-79°C).
Once the chicken is cooked through, remove the bird to a serving dish to rest, making sure you hold the chicken over the roasting dish until the juices have run out and back into the tin, and cover with a piece of foil and a couple of tea-towels to keep warm.
What to do with chicken juices after roasting – making proper chicken gravy
One of the things I like best when roasting a chicken, apart from crispy skin – and who doesn’t like that! – is the gorgeous flavoursome juices. There is SO much flavour in them. They can be used to make utterly delectable gravy, and if you don’t use it all with the roast chicken, add a spoonful or two to any other chicken recipe to boost the flavour.
Making gravy is a very useful skill to have under your belt. Proper gravy has SO much flavour, much better than granules.
Once the chicken was cooked, I removed the cooked bird from the roasting tin to a serving platter to rest the chicken under a piece of foil topped with a couple of tea-towels.
While that was happening, to the juice, in the roasting tin, I added a splash of wine, a tsp of mustard, a spoonful of flour, some bay leaves, a tsp red currant jelly, salt and pepper. Then simmered on the hob, whisking all the while until thickened. Tip in any resting juices from the dish too. Make the gravy in the roasting tin as all those sticky brown bits have bags of flavour and need to be incorporated into the gravy while you whisk. Taste and season. Yum!
This makes a simply glorious gravy and there’s nothing quite like it. It has bags of flavour which helps when stretching a chicken this way. A spoon or two of this flavoursome gravy can be added to other recipes to boost the chicken flavour.
I use all the juice and all the fat from a roast chicken. Chefs tend to say that where there’s fat, there’s flavour! Each portion of dinner last night had a little gravy, and the rest will be used as added flavouring when making the other recipes using this chicken. If you’d rather not use the fat in your gravy, keep it and use it as cooking fat during the week. Delicious!
Once the chicken has cooled, pick all the remaining meat off and weigh it.
We had just over 100g each on our roast dinner.
Picking all the chicken off the carcass yielded 677g.
There is just over half the stuffing left and I will use that in something or other.
Once you have picked off all the meat, put the carcass and any skin, bones and leftover juice in a large saucepan (you may need to break the carcass in half to fit it in) Put in one and a half litres of water and a couple of bay leaves if you have them. Add a little splash of white vinegar. The acid of the vinegar helps the calcium to leach out of the bones giving you more goodness in your stock. You can add some clean, washed egg shells too if you like. Egg shells are made from calcium and will also contribute calcium to your stock. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for 2 or 3 hours. A slow cooker is great for this and will save fuel.
Once the stock has cooled, strain the bones and skin out and pick over the carcass again. This will yield you a further 100g of little morsels.
So the total meat yield from a typical medium sized chicken is 200g (our 2 portions of roast dinner) 677g (the initial carcass stripping) and 100g (the post stock making stripping), making a grand total of 977g. To achieve a whole weeks budget stretching chicken recipes, you will need to weigh the roast chicken dinner portions when you serve them, and the remaining yield so you know how much you have available for the weeks recipes.
Easy ways to stretch a whole chicken
You may think that the recommended amount of chicken in each of these frugal recipies doesn’t look like it would be enough. I have tested every one of them several times and believe me when I say that they taste of chicken – and are delicious! I wouldn’t recommend them to you if they weren’t.
Adjusting the recipes to accommodate 977g chicken, each making 4 servings, I was able to stretch it to do the following:-
- Roast chicken, 400g chicken, gravy, with stuffing, 4 portions
- Risotto, 140g chicken, onion, half the the stock, some vegetables butter and parmesan, 4 portions
- Pizza, 117g chicken, tomato sauce, maybe some stuffing, 4 portions
- Spicy Pasta Bake, white sauce, 120g chicken, onion, spices, stuffing, 4 portions
- Tart, 100g chicken, onions, sweetcorn, couple of eggs, no cheese, stuffing, 4 portions
- Pie, 100g chicken, some of the gravy, onion, maybe some sweetcorn or mushrooms, maybe some stuffing, 4 portions
- Soup with the remaining half of the stock, red lentils, onion, spices, 4 portions
this comes out at a total of 28 portions, which I think is pretty good!
This means that 1 medium chicken can be used to make 7 different budget stretching chicken recipes and feed your family for a week – bargaintastic!
What do you think? Can it be stretched further than that? What other ways would you use? Have you got a favourite way?