Y’all. What I am about to share is so simple many of you will wonder if I am trying to be funny. (What’s next, “How to make toast?” “How to boil water?”) But I am exactly average in the kitchen and I did NOT know this until just recently. So this post is for anyone else who happened to be standing behind the door when “basic cooking knowledge” was dispensed.
My kick in the pants came when I heard (or read?) writer and podcaster Meagan Francis say something to the effect of “I was in my thirties before I ever bought chicken that was not already cut into pieces.” And I thought, “How else would you buy it?”
As it turns out, those chickens that actually look like chickens in the meat department of the grocery store are not just for decoration. Who knew?
Also, they are cheaper by the pound than the already-cut-up variety. (And no, you don’t end up paying so much for pounds of bone and guts that it all comes out even, which is what I told myself for a long time.)
So it makes good sense to buy these chickeny-looking chickens. But then you get it home and have to figure out something to do with it. This is where I was stuck for a very long time. But now I have an answer, and at the end of this post, you will too!
I. Cook the Chicken
Of course, there are a hundred things you can do to achieve this purpose. But this is the option that is the absolute easiest:
Step 1: (This is the worst part.) Remove chicken from plastic wrapper and stick your hand inside the cavity to remove any organs. (At this point, you can save them for later, or just throw them out.) Rinse the chicken with cold water.
Step 2: Put the chicken in the crock pot (any way it will fit). Turn on the crock pot. Forgetting to turn the crock pot on is literally the only way you can mess up this recipe.
Step 3: If you insist on another step, shake some salt over the skin. Use sea salt if you want to feel fancy.
Step 4: Let the chicken cook until it is done. (Approx half a day if you have it on high; most of the day if you turn it on low.) I’m sure you could use a meat thermometer. I just wait until I can look through the glass lid and see the meat literally falling off of the bones.
Step 5: Let the chicken cool off a bit, then take the whole bird out of the pot and take the meat off of the bones.
This is kind of gross and messy, but it is not difficult, and you’ll get faster at this the more times you do it. MIND OVER MATTER!
That’s it! Now you have a giant pile of shredded chicken–and you are ready to put it into tacos, pasta, pot pie, soup, fried rice, chicken salad, or whatever else looked good to you on Pinterest. At this point you can also freeze it to give your future self a major head on dinner another day.
(NOTE: because your meat will be so falling-apart tender, use it for SHREDDED chicken. Don’t expect to be able to carve this bird into beautiful pieces that have any shape at all.)
You already feel like a million bucks, and your house already smells like chicken. Now you are ready to take it to the next level!
II. Make your own broth. (I AM NOT KIDDING.)
Step 1: Dump that nasty pile of bones, etc. back into the crock pot full of cooking juices. (This is where you can use the organs from the first Step 1 if you saved them.)
Step 2: Add: an onion, carrots, and/or celery if you have them. (I keep a big jar of freeze-dried minced onions in my spice cabinet.) Cover the whole shebang with water and turn the crock pot back on low. Leave it alone for 12-24 hours.
Step 3: Strain the broth. There is probably a better way to do this, but here’s my technique: Use clothespins to secure a clean cloth napkin to the top of a pitcher (cheesecloth would be better, but I never have any). Pour the broth through the napkin SLOWLY. Discard the chunks and keep the golden goodness.
Step 4: Instagram the crap out of your homemade chicken broth and let your friends and relatives think you are an amazing homemaker.
(If you don’t need the broth right away, it freezes beautifully. Use ice cube trays, muffin tins, or plastic bags, depending on how much you usually need at a time.)
N.B.: This WILL make your house smell like chicken for about two days. It doesn’t bother me, but if you are pregnant or sensitive to smells, or if you live in a freakishly small apartment, it may be overwhelming.