Weeknight Cooking

How to Break Down a Whole Chicken (and Cook with It All Week)

January 15, 2015

There are 3 million chicken recipes on the internet. We're here to show you the good ones. Win, win.

Today: One chicken can go a long way -- an entire week of meals, to be exact.

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It's not uncommon for my weekly grocery list to feature a smattering of protein odds and ends. With one ribeye here, one pork chop there, it can resemble a catalogue of butcher's cuts -- plus, it makes for an exhausting grocery run. But for the weeks when lazily perusing the meat section isn't an option, there's always chicken. 

By using the thighs, wings, breasts, and even the carcass, you can turn one whole chicken into several dinners. This week, break down a chicken into the sum of its parts and help it realize its potential as a variety of satisfying chicken recipes. 


Shish Taouk with Toum (Chicken Kebabs with Garlic Sauce) by Oui, Chef

Shish Kebabs


Mexican Chicken Noodle Soup by jessie schupack

Mexican Chicken Noodle Soup


Minced Chicken and Cashew with Thai Basil by MummysLittleHelper

Cashew and Chicken Thai Basil



Roasted Achiote Chicken with Potatoes, Broccoli, and Tangerine Aioli by savorthis 

Roasted Achiote Chicken with Potatoes, Broccoli, and Tangerine Aioli


Extraordinary Marinated and Roasted Chicken, Potatoes, and Chickpeas by divasparkle 

Extraordinary Marinated and Roasted Chicken, Potatoes, and Chickpeas



Ideas in Food's Korean-Style Chicken Wings by Genius Recipes

Ideas in Food's Korean-Style Chicken Wings


Michael Ruhlman's Rosemary-Brined, Buttermilk-Fried Chicken by Genius Recipes


Carcass and giblets:

Chicken Broth by Cara Nicoletti

Chicken Broth


Chicken Giblet Gravy by Cara Nicoletti

Chicken Giblet Gravy

Is there an undiscovered Food52 chicken recipe you love? Send us a paragraph or two at [email protected] about why you love it, and it could be next week's Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner.

Video shot by Alex Lisowski and edited by Kyle Orosz.  

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The Dynamite Chicken cookbook is here! Get ready for 60 brand-new ways to love your favorite bird. Inside this clever collection by Food52 and chef Tyler Kord, you'll find everything from lightning-quick weeknight dinners to the coziest of comfort foods.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Karen C
    Karen C
  • AriH
  • Maria Elena
    Maria Elena
  • inpatskitchen
  • ChefJune
I eat everything.


Karen C. January 19, 2015
Here's how I was taught to cut up chicken by my frugal dad: Cut off the wings, don't bother to cut off the tips. Cut off the leg quarters, then divide. Cut off the front portion of the breast (you can feel the tip at the top of the breast). Cut off the back portion, and divide into two pieces, the front and the back. Cut off the breast portions, then divide into two pieces each. Save and cook the gizzard, heart and liver with the chicken in a separate pan if roasting, so you can take them out of the oven early. This, along with sides, would feed all 7 of us nicely.
AriH January 18, 2015
Yeah, this article is not really delivering. This is a listing of recipes involving the various parts of a chicken, but not specifically of the same single bird (you don't make a chicken wing recipe with just two wings). Like the concept but how about giving us a real case study of making a chicken stretch? I can (and regularly do) make a decent size roast chicken go for at least 4, possibly 5 meals for two people but then that's it.
Bevi January 19, 2015
For our household, we can get 4 meals for two people. We have the roast bird the first night (roasted with vegetables and with onion slices placed under the skin; the second night we do the same, or I make a chicken curry that lasts for 2 nights, or a chicken pot pie that allows me to chop up the remaining roasted veggies ( and I add some frozen peas). Then, I make chicken soup and throughly pick through all the remaining meat. Sometimes I simply pull all the meat off the bird after the first night so I can guesstimate my meat allotments for the remaining meals.
Maria E. January 16, 2015
Hello! I'm new to making stock (and cooking a whole fowl). Would you do a post where you show us your method for straining?
Leslie S. January 16, 2015
Hi Elena, this article shows a photo of the straining process: https://food52.com/blog/9739-how-to-make-chicken-stock-without-a-recipe
But we can look into doing a piece that describes the process more in-depth! Thanks!
inpatskitchen January 15, 2015
I'm having a hard time understanding how one chicken can feed even 2 people for an entire week... we'll roast one for dinner and then I'll make soup or chicken salad but that's only about three meals for the week. Am I too into protein? And if I break it down, the most I can get might be about eight pieces of chicken.
Leslie S. January 16, 2015
It definitely depends on the size of the chicken you use and how many sides you include with your meals - but I've found that I can pretty easily eat a chicken for five days with some great veggies, though you're right - seven days is a challenge!
Rebecca @. January 16, 2015
I came here to say the same thing. A 4 pound chicken may yield 2 lbs given a 50% yield. Protein requirements average about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, which comes to 55 g of protein for a 150 lb person or 7.3 ounces of chicken a day. Given that requirement, a chicken only yields ~4 days worth.

Knowing how to break down a chicken is valuable though and can definitely help towards a balanced diet supplemented with protein from other sources (assuming you buy 1 chicken per week per person).
Leslie S. January 16, 2015
Love your math! But I counted the carcass as well in my approximation, which can make several pints of broth to add to another meal.
ChefJune January 15, 2015
As much as I love chicken, and it IS one of my favorite food groups, I couldn't eat it five nights in a row. Nada. And I'm still not sure how people turn the carcass of a roast chicken into soup. We gnaw our bones, and I can't imagine reusing them.
Leslie S. January 15, 2015
It might be a good idea to sneak some other proteins in there in between! And as a fellow bone-gnawer, I usually use the part of the chicken where the white meat is to make broth (but wouldn't dream of sacrificing the legs or wings to make broth!).
AntoniaJames January 15, 2015
These "make one thing and eat it all week" columns really puzzle me. If I served the same thing more than twice in a week, there'd be a mutiny in my household. (And how uninteresting life would be!) Much more helpful would be a column on making one thing, using it two ways and then recommendations for further uses/re-incarnations after freezing the rest. In fact, one person should do the same column every week and then describe what they are cooking all week, using leftovers from the prior columns, what they cooked on the weekend to supplement, how they "double prepped/cooked" components, e.g., sweated onions and garlic, grated extra cheese, etc., to make great weeknight meals easily, fresh from the fridge and freezer. That's how smart, happy, better cooks operate (or at least the efficient, successful ones). ;o)
Leslie S. January 15, 2015
The thought here is that breaking down the chicken before cooking it lends itself to more variations than roasting one entire chicken and eating the same leftovers for the rest of the week -- so I think we're actually in agreement! (But I do like your suggestion for a leftovers column -- You might like our Not Sad Desk Lunch column as we do a lot of leftovers transformations there!)
savorthis January 15, 2015
Years ago I had a recipe site that featured an original recipe and then 'child' leftover recipes. It was a fun challenge. And it would make a really fun two-part contest....