Stewing a Whole Chicken

When I was married in 1952, my mother showed me two housekeeping techniques that she considered invaluable – how to iron a man’s dress shirt and how to cut up a chicken.  Both tutorials served me well since two of my four children were boys so I spent a lot of time ironing shirts, and for over 50 years, I never considered buying anything but a whole chicken that I could cut up the way I liked and save money, too.

My husband (who was the only one in the family who would eat almost any part of the chicken) passed away six years ago, everybody else was concerned about the fat in dark meat, and even the dog was on a chicken breast diet after a pancreatitis attack.  At that point, I started buying skinless chicken breasts, either fresh from the market or in big freezer packs from Sam’s.  They were handy to use with no waste and I was completely converted.

Then, one day I saw a blog about cooking a whole chicken in a slow cooker.  I’m not a big fan of slow cookers, so I cooked mine on the stovetop in a big Dutch oven.   I realized even after removing the skin after cooking, there was still more fat than in the skinless variety, but the taste and texture of the chicken was so wonderful that I felt it was worth it.  Here’s how I do a whole chicken:

My market handles a good quality fresh Amish roaster which I buy in a 4-pound  size for about $7.  I wash the chicken and put it in a big Dutch oven, cover with water and cook over medium heat for approximately 1-1/2 hours…

….turning halfway through the cooking.

When the chicken is done (and I like it very well done), I remove the pot from the heat, place the chicken on a platter to cool slightly and pour the broth into a large container.  When the chicken is cool enough to handle, I remove the skin and remove the chicken from the bones, separating it into containers:  white meat, dark meat and scraps for the dog.

From the 4 lb., 11 oz., chicken I cooked today, I got 3 cups of white meat, 1-1/2 cups of dark meat, 1 cup of scraps and 8 cups of rich chicken broth.

I prefer to leave any seasonings or vegetables out of this procedure so I can have more options on using the chicken and broth.  I put the packages of chicken in the freezer (minus what I wanted to use that day) and refrigerated the broth.  The next morning, I will remove any fat from the broth and put it in smaller containers for the freezer.  Note that this broth won’t have the preservatives of commercial broth and should be in containers that will be used in a few days.

The flavor of the chicken is great and the broth is so much better than the canned or boxed stuff.  I feel I get my full money’s worth out of $7 worth of chicken and with minimal time and trouble.

Here are some of my favorite recipes using a cup or two of cooked chicken.  Either white or dark meat can be used.

Chicken and Black Bean Burrito Casserole

Chicken and Asparagus Pudding

Yukon Chicken Salad

Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan

Balsamic Chicken Melt

Easy Chicken a la King

Chicken Puffs with Mushroom Sauce

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Lillian Applegate Westfelt was a mother of 4, grandmother of 6, and great-grandmother of 3. She was an 86-year-old widow living in a nice little bungalow with her oldest daughter and a beagle-dachsund named Addie. She passed away in November, 2018.

15 thoughts on “Stewing a Whole Chicken”

  1. My MIL always bought a whole chicken and cut it up to fry. The pieces were so small I felt. Nowadays with the boneless skinless breasts the pieces are way too big. LOL I cut them up into strips which I fry in oil and then cover in bar b q sauce. I have even bought the skinless boneless thighs which are huge too. I covered them in panko crumbs and fried them and they were so good. Chicken is so versatile.

    1. I agree with you on the size of chicken pieces. I don’t what kind of chickens these are! The two ways you mention you fix chicken sound great. Lillian

  2. Lillian, My mom passed away a year ago; she was 55 and I’m 28. There are alot of things, like this, that I took for granted and never learned from her. I thought I had all the time in the world to get these little tidbits. I found your blog shortly after she passed, and it’s been a God-send. I just needed to thank you for your blog. It’s quelled some of my domestic anxieties since I can’t just pick up the phone and call her with a question. *big cyber hug* ~Amanda

    1. What a beautiful comment – I’m overwhelmed. I’m so sorry you had to lose your mother at such a young age for both of you. I’m sure you have many wonderful memories.

      There are so many great blogs out there – I’m just a great-grandma writing as if I were talking to my children. I’m so glad if anything I wrote was of help to you.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write. Lillian

  3. Lillian,

    I am a college student out in Washington State. I wanted to comment and wish you well. My boyfriend works on an organic farm and bring me home fresh eggs and frozen meats. I’m trying my first stewing hen this evening following this recipe.

    Thanks a ton,

  4. I got two “mature chicken, stewing fowl” for $4.30 last week, so I’m googling around to see what to do with the second one (I made soup with the first one) when I stumbled across this post.

    Do you save your bones to make broth? You can make a mineral-rich broth from those chicken bones (and skin and joints and tendons), even after you’ve cooked them one to get the meat off them. Toss ’em in a pot with a few cloves of whole garlic, cover with water, add a splash of apple cider vinegar (to help extract the minerals from the bones), bring to a boil, and then let them simmer anywhere from 8 to 24 hours, depending on how many bones you have and how rich you like your broth. I recently learned that tou can cook the same bones over and over until they disintegrate; that’s how you know you’ve extracted all the minerals from them. I wish I’d known that before I threw away two pots’ worth of beef marrow bones! Bonus: bone broth is super-healthy, as well as a great base for soups, stews, and gravies.

    1. Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to comment.

      I’m glad that the comment is there for all to see and learn how to get even more rich broth from the chicken. It sounds super-healthy. Lillian

  5. I had to come back here and print this out – have a craving for homemade soup and it’s been years since I’ve done it – thanks for being here for me.

  6. I always make my own chicken broth. It has been a while since I have stewed a whole chicken. It sure brings back memories of cooking old laying hens. They were always too tough to roast.

  7. Nothing like coming into a home after someone has slow cooked a chicken! I use some for a meal that night and then for chicken sandwiches for my husband the next day. The rest I put into a large pot with the broth, after skimming off the fat, and add vegetables and noodles and have enough soup for us and others. Everybody loves homemade soup but very few people have the time to make it now a days.

    1. I agree with you that there is nothing as cozy as a chicken slow cooking in the kitchen. I love how you made full use of a chicken to make some wonderful meals.

  8. I am happy to find your blog. I am a dad and for about two weeks each month I work from home. When that happens, I am the go to person for dinner. Today I am making a bean soup and needed a “generic” stewed chicken. I can cook pretty much anything but have never, until now, stewed a whole one. Thanks for your help.

  9. Thank you so much for this simple recipe. A lot of places and try to get information on cooking whole chickens, it’s very complicated. We’ve been raising our own chickens for meat, and I’m trying to find the best ways to cook on the birds to keep and store. Simple and effective. I’m new to this homesteading stuff.

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