Monday, July 1, 2013

How to Roast a Whole, Pastured Chicken: A Real Food Money Saver

How to Roast a Whole, Pastured Chicken: A Real Food Money Saver

Can you believe that until a few weeks ago, I had never cooked a whole chicken before? For some reason, it always seemed intimidating to me. I wrongly assumed it was more complicated and instead opted for pre-cut chicken pieces. And you know what? I paid the price for it...literally.

Cut, trimmed and sorted chicken is $2-5+ dollars MORE per pound than whole chicken. I bought the local, pastured (pasture-raised) chicken pictured above with a high animal welfare rating for $2.99/lb at a nearby health food store. At my local national chain grocery store, they sell pre-cut boneless, skinless chicken breasts (factory farmed meat, mind you) for $5.99/lb. The dark meat, bone-in cuts go for $3.99 or 4.99/lb depending on the piece.

I understand that sometimes convenience wins out, but, in the end, you're paying the grocery store, deli or butcher extra money to do something that is absurdly simple.

If you're like me and want to reduce your food costs so that you can afford to buy better quality products like organic, local vegetables, organic, grass-fed dairy products and humanely treated, sustainable and healthy meats like 100% grass-fed beef or pastured chicken, then whole roasting is one way to save money.
And aside from savings, the other major benefit to roasting a whole chicken is the leftovers. Tear off and shred extra chicken meat to use for salads, pasta, chicken casserole, chicken pot pie, etc. After all the useable meat has been removed, you can slow cook the roasted bones with veggie scraps and aromatics to make homemade stock.

If that's not enough to sell your frugal foodie self, imagine your home perfumed with roasting meat and fresh (or dried) herbs. It's tantalizing! And any veggies you stick around the chicken will cook in the drippings. They are out of this world!

How to Roast a Whole, Pastured Chicken: A Real Food Money Saver

P.S. The whole, pastured chicken I purchased already had the legs trussed (tied with kitchen string so the legs are close together). If you'd like to learn how to do this, here's a great picture tutorial from Simply Recipes. However, trussing is not mandatory. 

Whole Roasted Pastured Chicken with Chopped Potatoes, Carrots & Radishes
A whole roasted, pastured chicken seasoned with herbs, olive oil or butter and spices, stuffed with lemon, garlic and onion for then roasted on a bed of potatoes, carrots, and radishes. A frugal, flavorful and fragrant homemade meal that costs less per pound than pre-cut chicken pieces. Use the leftover roasted bones for making homemade stock. 
Yield: depends on weight/size of chicken (a 3 lb serves about 2-3 people)

1 whole pastured chicken (fresh or thawed)
2-3+ tablespoons pastured butter (softened) or extra virgin olive oil
--I recommend this olive oil brand since it passed the EVOO Test--
Sea salt (I recommend Pink Himalayan, Celtic or Utah sourced salt)
Cracked black pepper
Granulated garlic or garlic powder
Homemade lemon pepper seasoning (or your favorite all-purpose seasoning)
2-3 tablespoons (total) of dried or chopped fresh herbs
(examples: rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley, oregano, basil, herb de Provence)
1 lemon, cut in half
2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 a sweet onion, peeled and chopped
Organic red or Yukon gold potatoes, washed and chopped
Organic carrots, washed, ends removed and chopped
Organic radishes, washed, ends removed and halved

Recommended Equipment
Roasting Pan (the pan is highly rated but I recommend replacing the non-stick rack with something non-toxic like stainless steel or silicone)
Kitchen Twine, for trussing (this one includes a nifty stainless steel holder!)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large roasting pan with aluminum foil. Set the chicken on the counter so it can lose some of the fridge chill while you're prepping. Mix either the olive oil or softened butter with your choice of herbs,  seasonings, sea salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Place the chicken breast side up, gently lift up the skin above the breast and slide your hand/fingers up under the skin to remove it from the meat. Try not to break it. The skin helps keep the chicken moist while cooking. Move your hand all around the chicken as much as you can, lifting the skin. Take 3/4 of the olive oil or butter mixture and rub it all over the chicken meat (underneath the skin you just lifted). This serves to keep the chicken moist and flavorful and is especially important if you are the type that removes the skin before eating.

Take the other 1/4 of the mixture and rub it all over the outside of the pastured chicken. If desired, you can season the outside with additional salt, pepper, granulated garlic and all-purpose seasoning. Place the chicken in the middle of the roasting pan and wash your hands thoroughly with hot soapy water.

Wash and prep the potatoes, carrots and radishes, place in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil or melted butter and additional seasonings of your choice (I like sea salt, pepper, granulated garlic and dried rosemary). Scatter the veggies all around the chicken in the roasting pan.

Slice a lemon in half and squeeze the juice across the pastured chicken and veggies and place the halves inside the chicken cavity. Smash and peel the garlic, peel and chop the onion, then place both inside the cavity as well. 

Bake for 15 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and cook for approximately 20 minutes per pound of chicken. To be sure, test the chicken meat with a kitchen thermometer and make sure it has reached 165 degrees. When cooked to the proper temperature, remove from the oven, tent with foil or a kitchen towel and rest for 10 minutes so the juices redistribute.

Notes & Tips

  • The chicken will still taste amazing with a few ingredients like olive oil or pastured butter, salt and pepper; however, the dried or fresh herbs really add a lot of flavor.
  • The lemon, garlic and onion are also (like the trussing) not obligatory, but stuffing the cavity with these aromatics helps to perfume the chicken. 
  • Make sure not to chop your veggies too large or they might not cook all the way through. If they're not fork tender when the chicken is finished, remove the chicken to the counter-top and finish the veggies in the oven.
  • If you didn't catch it above, pastured chicken mean the hen was "pasture raised". That essentially means it lived a healthy, happy life with full access to the outdoors and lots of bugs! 

Want to learn more about the factory farmed chicken and egg industry? Check out my post on why you should only eat pastured eggs + unraveling the real meanings behind egg carton labels.

More chicken recipes: 

I'd like to hear from YOU!

What's your favorite seasoning for roasted chicken?

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