A whole, poached chicken is an incredibly useful thing have in your kitchen. It's easy to do, particularly if you have a crock pot. When you're done, you'll have meat for chicken sandwiches, chicken salads, or even chicken and dumplings. Or, you can store a bag full of chicken meat to keep in the freezer for a rainy day. A bonus is the beautiful chicken broth you'll have when you're done, which can also be frozen.
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Things you need
- Whole chicken
- Pot deep enough to hold the chicken plus at least an inch
- Water or other liquid, enough to cover the chicken
- Flavoring vegetables (optional)
- Flavoring herbs and spices (optional)
First you must rinse your chicken. Trim any hanging pieces of skin or fat, but don't skin the chicken before poaching. Make sure you remove the bag of giblets and neck.
Put your rinsed, trimmed chicken into the pot.
Add any flavouring vegetables or fruits that appeal to you. Put them in the cavity, or around the perimeter of the bird. The standard is onion, celery and carrot, but parsnips and turnips are also good candidates. Don't forget fruits like lemon and orange, even cranberries. These are things that will add flavour to the chicken, then be discarded. (Or liquefied as part of a gravy or sauce.)
Add any herbs or spices that strike your fancy. Classics are bay leaf, parsley, thyme or marjoram, rosemary, even garlic. Other possibilities are things like fresh ginger, juniper berries, or sweet spices, like cloves. Citrus peel is a great addition. Don't forget pepper and salt, if you can use it. You can also add a few spoonfuls of soy sauce or other Asian seasoning.
Now, add enough liquid to cover the chicken. You can use water, but you can also use wine or fruit juice for all or part of the liquid. You can even use chicken stock or broth, to end up with a double-strength broth.
Cook, barely simmering, until chicken is completely cooked and pulling away from the bone. The best way to cook this is in a crock pot. Assemble it, turn it on low, and go to bed or to work. On a hob, allow about two hours on a very low flame. Allow to cool, covered, in the broth, then remove the meat from the bones and skin. Remove the fat from the top of the broth. Once you've removed the meat, you can put it in one freezer bag, and the broth in another. You may want to strain the broth.
Tips and warnings
- Amp up the broth by turning it into a stock. Roast the cleaned carcase and skin for twenty minutes in a 350 degree oven, then simmer the broth for an hour or two with the browned carcase and skin. Cool, strain and skim.
- You can spread the meat out on a baking tray to freeze, then put the frozen chicken pieces in a freezer bag.
- Freeze the broth in a freezer bag, flat, and you'll have it on hand in an easy-to-store form. You can also freeze the broth in ice cube trays, then store the cubes in a bag.
- Keep animals away from the cooked chicken bones. They will splinter when chewed and can be fatal to dogs and cats and others.