- Whole chicken or several pieces of chicken, leg-quarters are fine
- Water to cover
Many recipes call for cooked chicken. If you have leftovers from a roast chicken or even a turkey then they are fine to use. If you don’t have leftovers then you need to learn how to cook chicken. The best way is simply boiling the chicken until it’s tender. Actually it doesn’t boil, it simmers. Boiling a chicken is more about taking the time to do it than it is about special techniques; more grunt work than artisan’s talent. So even though it’s work, don’t be intimidated by it. Women have been boiling chickens for thousands of years and if they can do it under primitive circumstances then you can certainly do it with your high tech kitchen stove and the unimagined luxury of kitchen sink with running water. Don’t doubt yourself, just plunge in and do it without a backwards glance.
Arrange several pieces of chicken in a large pot. Add water to cover. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. You should see big rapid bubbles all over the surface. Now reduce the heat to medium low. Wait a few minutes and the big bubbles should slowly settle down to lazy bubbles that perk up now and then but aren’t in too much of a hurry to get anywhere. This is called simmering, essentially it’s a very slow boil.
Cover the pot. Allow it to simmer for about 1-1/4 hours, or up to 2 hours if need be. After cooking for an hour poke a fork in the biggest piece of chicken. Lift up and see if the chicken falls off of the fork.
Also check to see the color of any juices coming out of the chicken. If the chicken falls off of the fork and the juices are clear then all the chicken is done. If the chicken sticks stubbornly to the fork and the juices are any shade of pink then cook it some more.
When the chicken is tender (falls off the fork) remove the pot from the heat. Fish out the chicken pieces if you can. If the chicken is too tender to fish out the you have to drain it. Place your colander or strainer over a large pot or bowl. Even a clean dishpan will work if necessary. Pour the boiled chicken into the colander. The meat and bones will be caught inside the colander while the broth drains into the pot or bowl. Shake the strainer briefly to get as much of the juice out as possible. Place the strainer, filled with the chicken, on a plate. Set it aside to cool.
Pour the juice back into the pot. Put the pot back on the stove over high heat. Boil the juice rapidly until it’s reduced by about half. Remove from the heat and cool until the liquid won’t melt your refrigerator. This may take up to an hour. Transfer the broth to a large container like a bowl or plastic tub. Chill overnight. The next morning you will see a cake of light yellow fat sitting on top of the broth. Remove it and toss it into the garbage. The remaining broth will be very stiff, like gelatin. That’s because the gelatin in the chicken bones has literally gelled the broth. It may used anywhere you would use commercial chicken broth or bouillon. This is strong broth and can be diluted with water if necessary. If your chicken was “enhanced” with a saline solution then the broth will already be plenty salty. If not then try salting your homemade broth with broth powder or bouillon cubes. Regular salt works too of course, but salting it with bouillon cubes makes it extra tasty. Herb-Ox makes a sodium-free broth powder that will add a bit of extra flavor to your stock without adding any extra sodium.
Meanwhile, when the chicken is cool enough to handle remove it from the bones. Some bones are sneaky, so look the chicken over well. The bones may be thrown out or boiled a little longer with the broth on the stove to make it extra rich. They will have to be drained out again before putting the broth into the fridge.
Place the cooked chicken into plastic bags or other containers. Store in the fridge until needed, or up to 4 days. The cooked chicken may also be frozen if desired. It will keep well for a couple of months but begins to diminish in quality soon after. To keep it for longer freeze it covered with some of the chicken broth. This will keep for several months in a good freezer without losing quality.
For 1-cup of cooked chicken, no skin or fat.
Per Serving: 242 Calories; 6g Fat (24.7% calories from fat); 43g Protein; 0g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary Fiber; 119mg Cholesterol; 108mg Sodium.
Exchanges: 6 Lean Meat.
For 1-cup of chicken broth, all fat removed, no salt added.
Per Serving: 38 Calories; 1g Fat (34.7% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 40mg Sodium.
Exchanges: 1/2 Lean Meat.