How to cook a whole chicken

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Isn’t this a beaut? First whole chicken ever cooked by a happy customer!

When we first started raising meat chickens, I assumed everyone my age knew how to cook one. I’ll blame the lack of knowledge on the 90s craze of the boneless, skinless chicken breast. I also admit to being a slow learner…I rejected cooking as a kid, stumbled my way through early adulthood, and only in the past five years or so did I start feeling comfortable in the kitchen. Thankfully I married a man who loves to cook! Part of the fun of raising and selling meat chickens has been teaching our customers how to cook them. Most had never done it. Here’s our easy way to make sure your chicken is delicious.

An important note…we learned the hard way to never cook one the day of processing. The meat needs a chance to chill and relax. Keep it in the fridge for a day or two.

We typically roast the chicken in the oven, but a large crockpot works well too. For the oven, preheat to 400 degrees. Take the chicken out of the bag and put it in an oven safe dish. Next, add seasoning to the skin. My favorite spice blends are from Penzey’s and include the Bicentennial Rub and Ruth Ann’s Muskego Ave seasonings. In a pinch, salt and pepper work just as well. I begin by loosening the skin from the meat with my hand, making sure I rub the spice directly on the meat. Once seasoned, I also like to add a peeled whole onion to the cavity of the bird, which gives it a nice flavor. Put it in the preheated oven and cook for 15 min. Turn the heat down to 350 and continue to cook. We’ll check the bird at 60, 75 and 90 minutes with a meat thermometer, and take it out once it reaches the safe temperature of 165 degrees. This is measured by sticking the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. The juices should also run clear. Allow the meat to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. We like to have mashed potatoes and a green vegetable as our sides, along with homemade gravy.

Let us know your favorite way to cook in the comments below!

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A late harvest

Last year was the first year we’ve grown brussel sprouts. After reading some local blogs, I learned that they are late in maturing…well, ours are super late. Is this the last harvest of 2011 or the first of 2012? 🙂 Andy went and picked them yesterday and Lucy took pictures for him. Candy, our dog, was out helping too.

A self portrait

Andy let the chickens out to romp in the first snow of the season. They didn’t know what to think of this stuff.

For dinner tonight, Andy cooked up the sprouts by rendering some bacon fat off of three pieces of bacon, put a little butter in, added our very tiny sprouts, browned them, and cooked them in 1/2 cup water with some chicken stock and some garlic until the water was gone. They were delicious. Sally was hesitant to try them, but after the first one she was popping them like candy.

Beer Can Chicken Challenge

The Saturday after Thanksgiving we spent the day with family, watching the Buckeyes fight a tough battle with their rivals. In the spirit of competition, Andy and Adam decided to go head to head with chicken. We brought one of our “meat chickens” (as Sally calls them) and Adam bought a $1/pound “mart grocery” special. We have a double beer can cooker, and so they guys prepared them the same way and set them on the grill. Below, on the left is Andy’s, and on the right is Adam’s.

The guys quickly got to work carving them.

At first look and taste, I remarked how Adam’s seemed juicier. Andy was quick to remind me that it says on the label that they are injected with a 12% saline solution. Oh. So I started comparing the meat. The mart-special seemed to melt in your mouth, but then I figured out that isn’t such a good thing, as it was more gummy. Now on to our chicken. The meat was moist and tender, and the amount of texture far surpassed that of the store bought bird.

I am now fully convinced that locally, farm raised chickens are far superior to that at the grocery. I hope that next year we are able to grow more to be able to sell to our friends and family- you will be able to tell the difference!

Thanksgiving turkey

Although the turkeys weren’t yet market weight, Andy decided we needed to butcher two of them to see how they would compare against the store-bought turkey that would be at the Springer family Thanksgiving. His cousin Adam was in the area on Wednesday, and since he is gullible always up for an adventure, he helped Andy and I got to watch.

Lucy was home from school, so she was able to witness her first butchering. We used our neighbor’s fryer setup and a metal trashcan for the scalding process, as we still can’t get our scalder to work.

Scalding the turkey after the kill. To kill this time, Andy cut the throat while Adam used his full body weight to hold the bird down to prevent the meat from bruising. Another reason why I’m glad he was here…wonder if we can convince him to come back in a few weeks for the remaining 9 birds…

Lucy and I were watching from the porch during the plucking process. Her only comment was that it was “gross”.

Adam and Andy processing the birds. It was amazing to see how their insides compared to the chickens…obviously much bigger. Later on I looked outside to see Lucy and Linus playing with the esophagus. Andy says that he gave it to them to play with so they will learn to not be grossed out.

In the end, to be honest, it was hard to tell much of a difference between our 13 pound bird and the other Thanksgiving turkeys. I will say that the other birds were prepared by a trained chef, and that Andy put too many some interesting spices on ours. But at the end of the day I was still thankful for the way that we had raised them, and knowing exactly what I was eating.