My crispy roast chicken: 5 reasons why it’s the smartest way to eat a chook

I’m personally fatigued by the competing messages when it comes to weighing up the ethical v eco v health v hip pocket considerations and wanted to find a snaptight solution to buying and eating a damn chook that ticks off everything. You too?

After a little consultation and some Googling and kitchen playing I found The Solution. It lies in this technique, which can be summed up in a menu grab:

1. the most ethical, environmental and economical way to eat chicken is to eat different joints.

I’ve written about why it’s important to eat the whole animal before. Meat should be eaten respectfully. Eating all of an animal – not just the fashionable cuts, such as the breast – is the most mindful and conscionable way to go about things. It also saves a lot of cash as some of the unfashionable cuts are cheaper (wings anyone?). I really suggest playing around with drumsticks recipes (for bonus health reasons as I outline below), or recipes that use all different cuts of the chook… to see what you like best. I’ve provided details below of how to roast cuts of chook, too (if you’re not into buying a whole bird). I also like this recipe, which plays about with different cuts. Buy up several at your supermarket and experiment.

2. eating all your chook is best for your health.

Let’s break it down into some watercooler points:

  • The skin is highly nutritious: it contains fat-soluble vitamins and fatty acids.
  • Dark meat is better for you than the white: it contains more minerals.
  • The cartilage-y bits (the joints and wings) and the bones are the healing bits: these parts are where the minerals – particularly calcium, magnesium and potassium – are contained that feed, repair and calm the mucous lining in the small intestines and calm the nervous system. The gelatin in these parts also aid protein metabolism. Below I’m going to show you how to get the most of this phenomenon by cooking up the joints and wings and bones into a broth.

3. but to do this you must eat healthy organic chickens…

Quite simply free-range chooks don’t cut it, to my mind. Remember, free range certification merely means  the bird is able to move outside a cage. This ticks off one (ethical) consideration. Free-range chooks can still be fed nasty chemical-laden feed, and can be fed supplements to speed up their growth process which means their skeletons don’t grow properly, and this causes a host of issues. Organic chooks are free range AND supplement/chemical/antibiotic free. (For more on the difference between free range and organic, see below).

To my mind, organic is the ONLY way to eat chicken. For this is the thing: if you’re going to eat the whole bird, especially if you’re going to cook up the bones and cartilage and extract the minerals (which you’re going to want to, right?!),  you really don’t want to be extracting a whole heap of supplements and chemicals from it as well (right?!).

4. …and to do this, you need to get economical.

By now it might all be looking complicated. And expensive.  I know a big stumbling block to eating organic chickens is the extra cost. But if you’re buying organic, you can eat more of your chook with peace of mind. Which is economical. Which brings us full circle.

And, just to put things in perspective, a whole organic Inglewood Farms chook (which I use) costs about $20 and feeds 5-6 people. That’s $4 or so a serve. Inglewood Farm’s drums and wing portions are $9 per kg, while their popular chicken breast is $29.90 per kilo, which is a lot less than most standard (non-organic) meats and fish you’ll find at the supermarket.

 Also, you if you buy an air-chilled chook, you’ll get even more bang for your buck. Most chickens in this country (both conventional and otherwise), are water-chilled (more details below) which adds 17 per cent more weight – in chlorinated water! Inglewood Farms chooks are air-chilled, not water-chilled.

5. and to tick off all the boxes, it’s best to cook roast chook with a side of broth

The beauty of cooking a whole roast chicken is that you can pull off the not-so-good-when-roasted-bits (the wingettes, neck etc) before cooking AND use the carcass after you’ve roasted and eaten all the meat off it to then make a chicken stock (I’ve posted on the health benefits of chicken stock, and recipes). You can use the stock to baste and to make your chicken sauce on your next roast…and so it goes around and around.

Before I share the recipe, however, I figured you might like to know a few extra bits and pieces about eating chicken:

  • Look for white skin: the yellow skin pigmentation you find on conventional chickens is derived from xanthophyll, which naturally occurs in yellow corn, indicating the chook’s been fed on corn and grain.
  • Avoid roasting a frozen chook. They can be too watery. If you do use a frozen one, however, always thaw it in the fridge, uncovered, on some paper toweling and pat it dry before cooking.Cheats Crispy Roast Chicken with Sweet Potato CasseroleThis recipe combines the best of a number of techniques for roasting a cook, starting with cutting the whole chook in half, thus shortening the cooking time and not requiring constant turning, and, to my mind, making for a moister roast. Plonking things directly on top of the onion adds so much flavour, and stuffing butter under the skin ensures extra crispy skin.
    • 1 Inglewood Farm chicken, room temperature
    • 1 onion, thinly sliced (keeping the end cuts)
    • 1 whole head garlic, chopped in quarters
    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • sprigs thyme or oregano
    • sea salt and pepper
    • 2 lemons, halved
    • ½ cup chicken stock, vermouth or dry white wine

    Preheat the oven to 200 C. Toss onion and garlic (cut side down) in a roasting pan. Grab a sharp pair of kitchen scissors and cut the chicken in half down either side of the backbone (the chunkier, bonier “spine”, not the smoother breast bone) and snap/cut the wings at the end joint and remove.  Also cut off any chunky bits of fat.

    Rub the chicken on both sides with lemon juice, and rub down with salt and pepper and herbs. Splay the chook over the onion, placing the squeezed lemon halves underneath and sprinkle little chunks of the remaining butter over the top. Cook in the oven for 45 minutes.

    At 15 and 30 minutes, baste with the juices from the pan. The chook will be ready when you poke a drumstick with a skewer and the juices run clear, not pink.

    Remove the chook to a serving dish, along with the garlic and lemon, cover and leave in the still-warm oven. Place the pan over heat and deglaze with the stock/wine/vermouth and bring to a boil, scraping the onions and fatty bits. Add a little more liquid if you like and reduce.  You can strain the sauce (I prefer not to), and serve with the chicken, sweet potato casserole and some steamed greens.

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