It’s my birthday week . . . my favorite holiday of the year. I love that everyone around me celebrates me. Sure, maybe that’s a bit narcissistic, but hey, I gotta find the bright side of watching another year pass, another couple wrinkles become visible, and gray hairs appear, right?
This year I asked for a new set of poultry shears. This tool is a sure-fire way to stretch your grocery budget. Many recipes call for boneless, skinless chicken breasts and producers as well as grocery stores have jumped on board. Between the production of giant chicken breasts and the labor to bone and skin them, this is a rather expensive piece of chicken.
Plus, you lose all the benefits of minerals and nutrients the bones impart into the chicken as well as the flavor and moisture the skin creates. We are paying more for convenience while reducing the health benefits. Seems to be an on-going nutritional theme in America.
Here’s the best tip for the budget savy. Spend the extra dollars on the highest quality chicken you can afford and buy the whole chicken.
First, quality really counts for our health. We don’t need the giant chicken breast (and if you do eat one of those, remember it’s 2-3 servings!). I understand vegetarians concerns with meat consumption and have chosen to be animal product free at one point in my life. And I believe that if you’re eating conventionally raised animals, these are very valid concerns. Animals need to be raised in a traditional, natural environment. They need to be fed food they would consume naturally. They do not need to be pumped up with growth hormones or given high doses of antibiotics because of unnatural living conditions. Know where your food comes from!
I think the best solution is to purchase from the farm or a farmer’s market. Each Wednesday I visit Rogue Valley Brambles. I love walking to the barn as the chickens are freely roaming around the farm, doing what chickens do. They squawk at me, scratch for bugs, run around, and some lay eggs in the hen house. You don’t even have to close the gate because they love their surroundings and don’t leave. On slaughter day, they’ll be joining their friends in my freezer.
If your an urban person, or just too busy to find a farm, look for the Certified Humane label by the Humane Farm Animal Care organization. Next best is to look for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Organic label.
Second, now you have a whole chicken, in all it’s glory. You can roast the whole thing. You can half or quarter it which is great for grilling or broiling. Or you can cut it up. Truly a sharp knife with work, but I like the poultry shears. The cut up pieces can be easily frozen for future use. Unlike your supermarket “parts” you will get the delicious “oyster” of meat that lie on either side of the small of the back. Plus you won’t have a jumble of large and small parts from different chickens, which creates problems when trying to broil or fry.
Rather than try and explain how to cut up a chicken here, watch:
A couple additions, from my perspective. Along with the back bones, I’d recommend keeping the tip of the wing for stock, there’s not a lot of meat and they burn easily. Also, you can cut the breasts again by turning one breast half skin side up and cutting the breast in half diagonally through the bone so you end up with a total of four serving pieces.
If you are interested in making stock, which I highly recommend, you can also save all your extra vegetable pieces in the same bag. So, when you chop off the ends of carrots, the leaves of celery, the skins of onions, etc. that can all be frozen and used later for the stock. Very little needs to be wasted in our kitchens . . . especially when cooking on a budget.
By cutting up the chicken yourself, you’ll save money, have precisely the right parts, cut just the way you want, and you can make your own stock. It’ll only take a few minutes and you’ll be taking back your kitchen.