A whole chicken is the uncooked carcass of a domesticated fowl, typically a broiler or roaster chicken, with its internal organs, head, and feet removed. It is readily available in most grocery stores and butcher shops, and is a versatile and economical option, offering a rich combination of white and dark meat which can be used in a variety of dishes and cuisines.
The cooking methods for whole chicken include roasting, baking, grilling, and stewing. Using a whole chicken also allows the home cook the opportunity to make use of the bones and leftover meat to create homemade broth.
Whole chicken can be a daunting ingredient with the potential for multiple questions to arise both pre and post-cooking. Where people most commonly go wrong is in the cooking times and temperatures, often either overcooking or undercooking the chicken. Both these mistakes can affect the taste and texture of the chicken, with overcooking making the chicken dry and tough, while undercooking it can lead to health risks. Further, they also struggle with flavoring it evenly throughout. The key to get the most out of your whole chicken is to ensure that you thoroughly season it inside and outside, and truss it nicely before cooking to ensure an even cook throughout. For a crispier chicken skin, you can air dry it in the fridge overnight before roasting. Carving the chicken properly also involves a certain technique which needs some getting used to. While it's commonly known that the leftovers are perfect for making stock or soup, a little known fact is that the chicken skin can be used to make delicious 'chicken cracklings'.
How long should I roast a whole chicken?
Why is my roasted chicken dry?
How can I make my roast chicken more flavorful?
How should I truss a chicken?
Why is there a pink color near the bone of my cooked chicken?
How can I get a crispy skin?
What temperature should chicken be cooked to?
How do I carve a roast chicken?
How to get moist chicken when roasting?
How can I use the leftover chicken bones?
Expiration & Storage Tips
When does whole chicken expire?
A whole uncooked chicken in the fridge will stay good for 1-2 days from the 'sell by' date on its packaging. However, if it's stored in the freezer, a whole chicken can last up to a year. Once cooked, leftover chicken should be consumed within 3-4 days when stored in the fridge, while its freezer life extends to about 2-6 months.
How do you tell if whole chicken is bad?
Fresh chicken is plump and should have a pinkish flesh. If it's gone bad, you will see noticeable changes. If the flesh is turning gray or greenish, or there's a foul smell, those are signs of spoilage. Similarly, if the chicken feels slimy or tacky to the touch, it means it's no longer safe to eat. For cooked chicken, if there's an off smell or mold, it's definitely spoiled.
Tips for storing whole chicken to extend shelf life
• Always store chicken at a temperature below 40°F to prevent the growth of bacteria.
• Fresh chicken should be stored in the meat drawer or the coldest part of your refrigerator.
• If you plan on freezing the chicken, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn.
• To defrost frozen chicken, it's best to leave it in the fridge overnight. However, if you're in a hurry, you can use the defrost function on your microwave, just be sure to cook it immediately after to prevent bacteria buildup.
• To extend the shelf life of cooked chicken, store it in shallow airtight containers or wrap it tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil or plastic wrap.