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“Sunday chicken”

October 26, 2008

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Chicken for dinner used to be reserved for Sundays.  Biodynamic principles call for a small laying flock on a farm, only there to be the scavengers to glean through the leftover grains, and for pest patrol.  Never as a staple as we Americans now know it.  We never had chicken for dinner.  All we had were wily banties for eggs, and they kept a static population, we never had any extras for harvesting. Chicken was a luxury to raise for meat, and only bought occasionally.

That changed on our farm, when we decided we would add pastured broilers to our operation, ala Joel Salatin.  Joel’s method is the best for building a permaculture grazing farm, with multiple species stacking.  Most people that try it, are concerned with the end product, the finished bird, so usually the pasture management aspect takes a back seat.  With the Cornish X broilers of today, it is easy to get a good carcass weight, no matter what you feed, and in all reality, even if the chicken was raised inside, just like it’s conventional counterparts, the bird will still (hopefully) not be stressed from overcrowding, and the processing on a small scale usually insures a cleaner product.  The hardest part is getting off every single feather, but really the important part is to keep the intestinal contents off the meat.  Home butchering, or at a small plant usually gets that kind of result.  What I mean is, a feather here or there isn’t as important as the getting the guts out without getting crap on your meat.  When you are doing this, you make sure this doesn’t happen. You will withhold the feed to clean out the intestinal tract, knowing this will lessen your chances of sullying your meat.  When you buy a chicken from the store, they were processed in a facility that handles thousands of birds a day.  Even if it is an organic chicken, – different $hit, same smell.  I don’t know about you, but if I had to butcher chickens every day, I would not care about the job either.  The factory just adds enough sanitizer to clean things up.  But all that bleach must not be helping, since so many people get sick from undercooked poultry.

But as usual, I’m wandering.  We don’t sell chickens anymore, but after all those years of raising poultry and eating chicken all the time, we have acquired a taste for chicken.  And it is expensive to raise.  So until we throw in the towel and quit raising meat chickens, I squeeze every scrap of food value out a chicken.  We use one a week.  I posted about this earlier, but this post will be a little more detailed and with pictures.  What I like best about this method is that I always have broth (more like demi-glace) on hand.  DH has autoimmune issues, so cooking with gelatinous broth is essential for his meals.  Bone rich broth or stock is not be confused with watered down store bought stock, or bouillon cubes (chemical cubes) reconstituted with water.  If I have a jar of this in the refrigerator, I will use it often to cook with, and I haven’t had to process it in large amounts and then can it.  It easily keeps a week in the fridge and it can be re-boiled to freshen.  I do can some, if I’m not using it up, but for me this works the best.  I used to save bags of wings, and backs, with the intention of making copious amounts of stock, but I rarely got around to it.  And that took up a lot of freezer space.  For me it works better to have the whole chickens in the freezer and I can cook them in any form I wish.  Some end up as gifts and some I use for barter. 

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Our chickens averaged almost 6 pounds this year, so there is a lot of meat on them.  However, I cook the smaller ones the same as the big ones.  We will just have a little less meat in some of our meals.  We don’t even notice, and not one bit of this goes to waste.

The yield of one chicken:

5 days of lunch meat for DH
2 or 3 days lunch meat for Ruth Less
1 1/2 to 2 quarts of gelatinous broth/stock
2 meals with chicken, like enchiladas, pot pie, or chicken salad
small bits of meat for soup
dog food
cat food
more stock after the initial cooking

This is my “Sunday Chicken”:

What you need:
1 broiler or fryer chicken
sharp knife
cutting board, (I devote one for each type of meat)
5 quart roaster
2 quarts water
wide mouth quart canning jars, quarts or pints
vegetables, optional

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Thawed out chicken. 

Always practice mise en place with meat in the kitchen.  Get everything ready before hand and wash your hands frequently.  To lower my risk of contamination of other cooking utensils, when I start boning out meat, I have a dish pan of soapy water on hand so I can wash my hands multiple times during this process.  With the dish pan of water waiting, I don’t have to touch the faucets.  I don’t worry so much about our chicken, but most people get their poultry from the store.  So this is just a good habit to get into.   It never fails that the phone will ring, and I will need to wash my hands.  I keep thawing out meat on the bottom shelves of my refrigerator, to prevent contamination of other foods in the refrigerator.  

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Slit the skin down the breastbone.

Loosen the skin on both breasts with your fingers.


This shows the chicken breast meat exposed.


Insert the knife next to the breastbone and begin cutting while pulling the meat away with your other hand.

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One breast cut away.  It’s OK to leave a little, it will just be more meat for the meals throughout the week.
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Breasts ready for…

Pull the skin back over the breastbone and pin in place with a toothpick.  This will give you a good piece of crispy skin and protect the drier breast meat that is still on the bone.  Place the chicken in the roaster with 2 quarts of water (and vegetables if you want) and roast for at least 3 hours.  I start at 400* and when I remember, I turn the oven down to 325* or 350*.  The time is not really so critical, the water keeps the meat moist and the longer cooking time just makes the broth better(thicker).

At this point, you can flip over the breast and pull off the tenderloins.   

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To get enough lunch meat for 5 days + I butterfly the breast meat at thin as possible.  It doesn’t have to be exact, but the thinner it is, the more pieces you will have.

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Ten pieces for lunches.  This includes the tenderloins.  You may want to set those aside and freeze them for a special meal.

Breast meat quickly sauteed in olive oil and lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, and in the background the roasted chicken and the broth.  While the chicken is warm, I lift it out of the broth with slotted spoons, and place it on a platter to cool.  Pour the broth into wide mouth canning jars and refrigerate.  The schmaltz will rise by morning and you can take it off if it bothers you.  But I usually just leave it on the gelatin and spoon around it.  Most of the time I use it up right away for gravy, or other recipes. 

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For my mid week meals, I usually plan a leg and thigh for each meal, and that is plenty for the three of us.  The dogs get the skin, and then the the carcass is cooked again for a thinner stock.  After the second cooking the cats get the bones which are very soft.  So I have used every bit of this chicken in many ways.  When I look at it that way, it helps me justify the cost.

My favorite part of this is the taste.  I do not like the taste of cooked chicken, that has been re-frozen and then reheated.  And I don’t really care for roasted chicken breast, it is too dry.   Sauteing the breast meat helps it retain a fresh flavor.  So even if I am being frugal and stretching my meals, it doesn’t feel like I’m depriving myself or my family.

28 Comments leave one →
  1. October 27, 2008 12:18 am

    Okay, picture me sitting here with my mouth hanging open and my right palm thunking my forehead! Your method of making chicken stock is brilliant! Why, oh why, have I never thought of that? You can bet that I’ll be trying this method this week.

    Love your step by step photos. We are big fans of thin sliced chicken breasts. I like them because they cook faster; my kids like them because the texture is easier for them to chow down on. Your birds are way bigger than what we can get at the store, and your meat and skin are way better looking compared to the pale stuff wrapped in celophane at the market. I remember my grandma telling me that you can tell a lot about the quality of chicken from the color of the skin, flesh, and fat. She preferred chicken that sported dark yellow fat, especially for broth.

    Sorry to hear that your hubby has some auto immune stuff; glad that he’s got you to help keep his system as healthy as possible.

    How great that you use every part of the critter. I really enjoy chicken liver. I can hear the collective “ewws”! It’s a special treat for me to find it hidden in the mass produced bird cavity of the poor beast that I get at the store. I’ve never quite developed a taste for the heart and gizzard though. My favorite is the thigh. YUM. I also like that dark meat on the bottom of the carcass.

    Man, now I’m craving chicken soup. Plus a chicken sandwich.

  2. October 27, 2008 7:27 am

    There isn’t much better than a fresh chicken.

  3. October 27, 2008 8:43 am

    OK, now I’m hungry. I have considered raising some chickens for meat but, I’m just not sure how to butcher them. Guess I better do a little research on that subject. I’m sure you do your own butchering, you know it’s done right and I think you are pretty frugal (tight, is what they call it when I do something like that) too. lol Great post as always.


  4. October 27, 2008 8:56 am

    I hope I remember to find this post again in a few years when we finally have our homestead.

    Do you have to supplement the broilers with anything or are they totally free range, grass and insect fed? I’m just wondering how much time and money go into your “meat birds” as opposed to your laying hens.

    Also, do you ever bother to process and cook roosters from your laying flock or do you find there isn’t enough meat to make it worth the while?

  5. Judi In PA permalink
    October 27, 2008 9:01 am

    My third sons’ birthday is this Friday and each of my youngins always get to pick their birthday dinners. He chose “Sunday dinner chicken”-his words, not mine. It is exactly like yours in the photo,(except there are two chickens) even down to the same roaster but I leave the breast on. It is so much easier for me and the kiddos don’t care a lick if it’s dry, just so it fills their guts! With mashed potatoes, peas and harvard red beets, he has his meal all picked out. At 6, shouldn’t he want pizza, hotdogs or something else full of chemicals and preservatives?ha ha

  6. October 27, 2008 12:02 pm

    Trapper-I’ve just had the call from our butcher that our ‘half cow’ will be cut and wrapped and ready for pick-up tomorrow. He asked if I wanted the fat. Apparently, people use it to feed wild birds. My question to him which he was unsure of answering was this, is there any reason I can’t feed the fat to my chickens and/or turkeys?

    If wild birds can/will eat it…

  7. October 27, 2008 12:10 pm

    Hidey ho,
    Yummy looking chicken I must say. Nice process for your stock too. We raised a few meat birds this year, but we will be raising A LOT more next year. They are so delicious! Anyway, for a good Sunday chicken meal for a not-so-delicious looking bird (ie. ornery old rooster) please check my recipe: Tillaboro Orchard#links
    Well, I tried to include a link. We’ll see if that works.

  8. October 27, 2008 12:56 pm

    Nita I never thought to cut the breasts out and use for a different meal…your so clever!

  9. October 27, 2008 7:19 pm

    6 pounds! Yep, I think we’ll be doing Cornish X’s next year. I enjoyed the reds as they’re more chicken like, but they ate just as much as yours and our yield was lower…

  10. October 27, 2008 11:14 pm

    what a wonderful post. I just bought a chicken at the store (sigh) but will try the trick of seperating the breasts off so it doesnt dry out so much in roasting.

    I tend to freeze whats left after slicing off all the meat and once I have 5or so make stock. My husband has celiac disease so even tho I can’t grow my own chickens I try my best to put as much love and effort into everything I make for him, and the freshbroth really has seemed to help his gut heal.

    I love the point you make in your other posts about the chicken/turkey/cow not just being a pplastic wrapped package in a store. Maybe its my inner druid or something but whenever I handle that pathetic plastic wrapped chicken or top round or turkey I try to close my eyes for a moment in respect and give thanks out loud to his poor creature who probably was never shown any respect or kindness. I dont think I’ve ever been near a live chicken up close other then some long off farm field trip in school Yes, I’m feeing the commercial machine by buying it, but well, in the middle of the suberbs I gotta feed my family on a limited budget as healthy as possible, and organic meat is the one thing I cannot grow here. So I pray over my meat, just like I pray over my vegetable plants as I harvest thanking them for keeping my husband and little ones fed. Some call it silly, but in howing appreciation for my food I think it really helps the food nourish my soul as well as my body. 🙂 I applaud you in how well you care for your animals!

    PS- I saw those photos of your canned goods and had to sigh in awe and pleasure, I dont have nearly as much as that by a long shot but damn canning is addicting and so satisfying in this crazy world that I KNOW that food I canned is safe and where it came from.

  11. October 29, 2008 7:05 am

    Between having just butchered turkeys with my friend Clarence and reading this post, I’m looking at my chickens daily and wondering if they are ready for the pot! Calendar says not for another 4-6 weeks, but your post has me anxious to try this…

  12. November 1, 2008 9:33 am

    I loved this post. Every ten days, I buy a big fat free-range chicken and roast it, then use the carcass for stock. One bird feeds me for ten days, easily. Rather than separating the breasts out, though, I brine the bird overnight, which keeps the white meat incredibly tender, and also adds wonderful flavor to the chicken in general.

  13. November 2, 2008 11:32 pm

    Paula, thanks, I love beef liver, but I just don’t care for chicken liver. DH’s doctor loves it though, so it is good bartering material. 🙂

    Linda, I agree.

    Chris, you guys could figure it out pretty fast. You wouldn’t believe how much better a chicken you raise yourself tastes. A friend of ours has some fancy equipment so we butcher there, but we do it ourselves.

    Tight is the term around here too, “Tighter than bark to a tree.”

    Everett, the broilers will only get about 10% – 30% at best from range, the rest has to be purchased grains.

    We only keep a few hens now, but when we had a large laying flock for egg sales, we did always eat the roosters at about 5 months of age. The meat was perfect, and the broth was the best.

    I did post about the cost of the broilers, with time spent, etc at the end of June or early August. Check the archives for pastured poultry. It is expensive to raise broiler chickens.

    Judi, smart kid, we pick out our birthday dinners too. I don’t even have to cook mine!! 🙂 He probably knows your cooking and the food you grow tastes alot better than some old pizza made with stale ingredients.

    HDR, no you can feed it to your chickens just don’t give them too much. Fatty liver syndrome is fairly common in domesticated birds that get rich foods in addition to their mash. They can have some, just not too much.

    You will love the broth, if you are following the Nourishing Traditions cookbook you will find all sorts of uses for it.

    You could use your tallow for soap… .

    Jocelyn, we go through a lot of chickens, and boy are they sure good. Thanks for the recipe link, I’ll check it out.

    Kim, thanks, 🙂 Maybe John will keep more chickens next time 😉

    Laura, your reds didn’t do too bad, I never could get them bigger than 4 lbs. I like the Cornish, for their predictability. I can tell right away if some aren’t growing right.

    Cynthia, I think you are right about blessing your food and have good thoughts while you are preparing it. Food prepared under anxiety or anger is not health giving, no matter how it was raised or fed. I’m sure you are contributing to your husbands healing with your healing thoughts.

    Canning is addicting isn’t it. I like to look at the filled jars, and remember summer. And I like the peace of mind that it brings me in regards to food safety.

    David, good idea on the brining!

  14. kelly1234 permalink
    November 15, 2008 7:54 pm

    Over the years I have raised many chickens for meat. I found that with a small flock, a small garden, and the leftovers from the table, I generally got chicken at a similar cost to the sale price at the supermarket.

    The difference is that the chicken is a so much better. I might add that I did not do that well with dual purpose chickens. It had to be birds bred for meat. The chicks were cheaper and they gained weight faster. The dual purpose just don’t put on the weight like birds bread for meat production.

  15. May 26, 2010 11:49 pm

    HI Guys
    I have just read this with interest as I am in Western Australia East of Perth by 300 kms mainly farming wheat and sheep pigs
    what I would like to know is when you reared the day old chicks did they have any Growth hormone given to them before you got them If I remember you say that there ready in two months from start to freezer I rear meat birds hear for our own use but they take me around 6 months to get to
    2.85 Kg I was wondering what size your chooks were
    Regards Trevor

    • May 27, 2010 5:01 am

      Trevor, no hormones, they are an industrial breed that is just for meat. I don’t know what commercial breed if any you have in Australia.

  16. December 20, 2010 10:07 am

    Thank you again, for all this wonderful information!
    I really appreciate it. 🙂

  17. January 22, 2011 4:55 pm

    do you make your own dog and cat food?

    • January 22, 2011 7:13 pm

      They get some kibble, but mostly they (dogs) eat what we eat, and the cats mostly hunt for a living and get a little kibble too.

  18. February 26, 2012 5:07 am

    am inspired by you. We are now planning on getting a chicken a week or so..should feed the two of us and the dog.


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