Rubber chicken? It doesn't sound too appealing, does it? I call cooking a whole chicken in a crock pot "rubber chicken" because you're able to cook one chicken and stretch it out into two meals, plus some healthy homemade broth.
Buying a whole chicken is one of the best ways to get the most bang for your buck and stretch your budget at the grocery store. You'll want to buy the chicken when it is on sale, of course. I like the Extra Meaty Oven Roaster Chickens from Perdue...it really is extra meaty. :) The chicken I cooked last night was just over 6 lbs. and cost $5.98, under a dollar a pound. If you're feeding less mouths (mine is a family of five) or using the chicken for only one meal, you could get a smaller bird and get it even cheaper. I got a smaller chicken a few weeks ago and paid three dollars and some change for it.
There was a time, a few years back, when I was totally skeeved over the idea of handling a whole chicken. In fact, the first time I cooked a whole chicken I wore plastic gloves and used two sets of tongs to manipulate it when it was raw. Once you do it once, you'll get over it. It's really not bad. Pinky promise.
It takes a whole chicken 2 days to thaw in the fridge, so you're going to want to take it out of the freezer 2 days before you intend to cook it. I double bag mine in plastic grocery store bags before putting it in the fridge. Then when I go to get it ready to put in the crock pot, I untie the bags, cut the top of the plastic the chicken is packaged in and rip it down the sides to get the chicken out. This way all the blood and gross chicken goop is contained in the bags and not all over the sink or counter.
Don't forget to remove the bag of whatever chicken guts are inside the cavity of the chicken. Drop it right into the plastic bags. I then transfer the chicken to a colander in the sink. It's easier and less messy to rinse and then season the chicken that way. Give the chicken a thorough rinsing. Be sure to "fill and spill" the cavity to rinse that out as well. After you've cleaned the chicken, it's time to season it.
If you're just cooking the chicken to use the meat and not eating it for dinner that night, you can season it with just good old salt and pepper. If you're eating the chicken for dinner that night, you might want to use other seasonings too. Garlic powder and paprika works. I like to use seasoned salt, rosemary and thyme (gives the broth a nice, rich flavor.).
Set your crock pot up, mist it with non-stick cooking spray (to make clean up easier) and turn it on Low. Place the chicken in the crock pot, put the lid on and forget about it for at least the next 7 hours. There's no need to add water or any other liquid to the crock pot. The chicken has plenty of it's own juices that will keep it moist while it cooks.
7 hours later you will have a delicious chicken that's ready for eating. If you're not going to serve it for dinner, let it cool down a bit then remove all the meat from the bones. Gotta pick that chicken clean to get the most out of it.(Leave the liquid in the crock pot to make broth.) You can use the meat for anything else you would use cooked chicken for: soups, casseroles, pot pie, etc, etc.
After you've removed the meat from the bones, put the bones back in the crock pot with the liquid that's there from cooking the chicken and add 5 cups of water to the crock pot. We don't eat the chicken skin so I throw that in there too to add flavor. Put the lid on the crock pot, set it on Low and cook the broth overnight. I throw a splash of vinegar in as well. It helps draw the minerals and nutrients from the bones. When you wake up, your house will smell like a combination of Boston Market and a Chinese Buffet. It's all good, spray some Febreze. Use a slotted spoon to strain out the bones and other little bits that may be floating around.
You now have homemade chicken broth! Not only did it not cost you anything, it doesn't have the preservatives and crazy crap that store bought chicken broth has. Pour the broth into tall containers. Leave an inch or two of space at the top of the containers. Put the containers in the fridge to cool. When the broth has cooled completely, there will be a big layer of fat at the top of the containers. Scrape it off with a spoon and you're broth is ready to go. You can use it right away or freeze it for up to 6 months. I got roughly 70 ounces of broth from the chicken I cooked last night.
Here's what last night's dinner cost:
I'm going to use 4 people instead of the 5 in my family since the average family is 4....and since my two year hasn't eaten dinner in a year, so he really doesn't count. :)
The chicken was $5.98, so we'll say $6.00. Divided by 4 people that's $1.50 a person.
I served the chicken with Stove Top Chicken Stuffing that I got on sale when it was 10/$1.00. I bought 5 boxes and used a $3.00 off when you buy 5 coupon, so I paid $2.00 for 5 boxes of stuffing. That's 40 cents a box 1 box divided by 4 people is 10 cents per serving. (You have to stock up on Stove Top when it goes on sale 10/$1.00 in the summer. They don't put it on sale that low during the colder months when people are more likely to want to buy it.)
We also had corn, which was 40 cents from Shop Rite's Can Can Sale, which is also 10 cents a serving.
That's a $1.70 a person for dinner. $6.80 for dinner for a family of 4. It doesn't get much cheaper than that. Plus I got 70 ounces of broth from it and 1 1/2 cups of left over chicken. I'll be using half the broth and all of the chicken to make chicken and rice soup tonight for tomorrow's lunch and then I'll freeze the remaining broth to use later.
6 bucks for one whole chicken and I'm getting a dinner, a lunch and leftover broth to freeze out of it. :)