Here at Happy Hen Farm, we sell pasture raised, soy-free, whole chicken to our community surrounding the Raleigh area. We have been raising chickens for meat for a few years now and bought from other farmers in the years before that, so we are no strangers to working with a whole chicken in the kitchen. Actually, I'm going to switch from "we" to "I" here because, in all honesty, Jason (Mr. Happy Hen Farm), has many skills but kitchen skills are not on that list! I don't think he would be too upset with me for putting that out there... especially if I cook something on this post! :) So, I am going to take some time to hopefully take some of the intimidation away from working with a whole chicken, give you my favorite recipe for cooking a whole chicken, an easy recipe for a whole chicken in the Instant Pot, and show you how to cut it up into pieces instead of cooking it whole. Bonus instructions for making broth/stock, too!
What is my number one favorite thing to do with a whole chicken? Roast it. You guys know how delicious that roasted Thanksgiving turkey is, right? It is moist and flavorful with crispy, delicious skin. It is an ordeal though, right? Roasted chicken is, dare I say, BETTER. I love turkey but the flavor is not as versatile as chicken. Plus, a chicken will roast in just over an hour - hands off and with things you have on hand anyway - and when it is done, it is such a treat. In our house, the kids fight over the crispy skin. If you haven't tried it, find a weekend night and try this recipe. I started with this recipe by Barefoot Contessa and have modified it over the years based on what I have on hand and personal preferences to make our own slightly less fussy version (click button below to see this version), but whichever you make it - it will be DELICIOUS.
Happy Hen Farm's Easy Roasted Chicken
I try to make use of every bit of the chicken. I use the leftover chicken meat to make chicken salad, pastas, soup, etc. You know the chicken broth or chicken stock that you pay $3 to $5 per box for at the store? It is super easy to make yourself and freeze. If you are limited on freezer space, make the broth and use it for a soup later that week. I usually pick the leftover meat off that night, and take everything thing that is left (bones and the neck, if that is included) and put in a freezer bag and freeze until I am ready to make broth. Speaking of, broth is my second favorite thing to do with a whole chicken. No matter what you do with that whole chicken - roast it whole, cut into pieces, cook whole in the instant pot, etc. - consider making broth. So many recipes call for it and it's an easy thing to store in the freezer.
This recipe from the Pioneer Woman is an easy one to do in the slow cooker or on slow cooker mode in your instant pot overnight. You can take everything leftover from the roasted chicken recipe above (except the lemon unless you like lemony broth), then add the carrots, bay leaf, and celery (I never have parsnips on hand - so I would leave that out - if you have them go for it!). If it is a weeknight, and you have to go to work the next morning, just cover the slow cooker bowl and put it in the fridge until you get back home. I have been known to leave it in the fridge a few days... so if you get too busy, I won't judge you!
*Note: You could also make this in the Instant Pot on high pressure for 40 minutes.
What about weeknights? You want something quick and hands off. This is a go-to in our house for those nights when we have ball games or meetings or whatever happened on weeknights before the coronavirus. I am a farmer, home cook, busy mom, and many, many other things - but not an Instant Pot expert. So instead of trying to recreate the wheel - here is a link to a completely unaffiliated site's recipe that I use as a guide for timing on the Instant Pot: Pressure Cooker Whole Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary
You should know that the skin does not crisp up at all in the pressure cooker. The steam will not allow for that. The searing in this recipe is just to give the skin some color (same with the paprika). However, I use this basic recipe, usually with whatever herbs I have on hand (usually dried), water instead of chicken broth, and the whole lemon in the cavity instead of zested. It is a weeknight dinner after all! I have even used a frozen chicken straight out of the freezer and modified the time based on internet searches. I will definitely not commit to those times in writing though - you will have to search it up yourself and experiment.
The meat can be used right away as a main course with sides. I have omitted the herbs and lemon in the past and served on sandwiches with BBQ sauce with oven fries as well. This gives you one weeknight dinner, then you can pick the extra meat off and use for something else like a rice or pasta dish the next night. Or you can leave the extra meat on and make broth with the whole carcass that night (see above broth recipe) and then make a soup with the leftover chicken and broth the next night.
There are lots of delicious things to make with a whole chicken and hopefully this has helped give you a few ideas to get started! If you have a favorite recipe, please share it in the comments!
Thank you, farm friends!
Stephanie with HHF