“You can do anything with the whole chicken,” says Mary Poehnelt, a butcher and now a cook at Ming Tsai’s restaurant Blue Ginger in Wellesley.
There are four main parts to the chicken, she says: breasts, wings, legs, as well as bones and gizzards.
Chicken is very versatile, and each part can be prepared in its own unique way.
Breasts can be prepared as bone-in split or without bones and skins. The bone provides more flavor while cooking the meat, therefore when cooking without the bone, it is a good idea to marinate the chicken for 1 to 2 hours prior to cooking.
Chicken tenderloins are a great part of the breast; they are perfect for chicken fingers.
Wings are a favorite appetizer that can be easily prepared at home. “If you don’t frequently buy whole chickens, you can save up your chicken wings in the freezer. They last for about three months,” Poehnelt says.
Legs are possibly the best part of a chicken, according to Mary. The whole leg is filled with a lot of flavor, especially in the area referred to as “the oyster.” You can stuff butter and rosemary between the skin and meat of the leg, then bake it in the oven, or separate the thigh from the drumstick for a completely different dish. The thigh is perfect for stir-fry, while the drumstick lends itself well for chicken lollipops.
Bones and gizzards are ideal for chicken stock or soup. Just braise these parts slightly, add some root vegetables, a little salt and pepper, add water, then simmer for about two hours and you have home-made delicious chicken soup.
Whatever you decide to do with a whole chicken, it is sure to be delicious and much more cost-effective than purchasing the parts already butchered.