Your Roast Chicken Leftovers Game Plan

Put that bird to work.

October  5, 2018

We've partnered with Just Bare Chicken to share recipes, videos, and tips that make preparing not-boring, weeknight-friendly meals easy as can be.

There's a reason why chicken constantly ranks up there among our most popular recipes. Endlessly versatile, riffable, and leftover-friendly, chicken is truly the weeknight warrior you can lean on after harried work days and later-than-expected returns home.

To give myself a drumstick leg up ahead of the busy week, I'll cook two birds while I've got the hot oven going, usually during the weekend. I'm not a huge meal-prep gal in the traditional sense, but I am a general fan of cooking more than is needed to ensure a week's worth of reimagined leftovers and easy-breezy meals. (It's definitely worth mentioning, too, the cost effectiveness of buying whole birds rather than pieces.)

Say hello to dinner tonight...and tomorrow. Photo by Bobbi Lin

First things first: Get those birds going! Crank up that oven (we're talking 450°F or hotter) and make sure your birds' skins are nice and dry before giving 'em a rain shower of salt inside and out. You can either roast them atop your favorite root vegetables, where they will bestow juicy goodness as they cook, or up on a little rack so that you can ensure they crisp all the way around. Either method is great—just make sure you give them enough time to rest once they're done (at least 15 to 20 minutes) to allow for juice redistribution and to avoid a messy carving situation.

Here are just a couple of our favorite roast chicken recipes to get you going (if you choose to butcher it prior to cooking, here's a good tutorial):

On that first day, we usually enjoy the roast chicken just as it's intended: carved off the bone alongside roasted potatoes or a good crusty bread, and a nice zippy salad. Between my husband, daughter, and me, there's usually not much dark meat left; whatever we have left is likely breast meat (another reason why I advocate roasting off two at a time).

In the days that follow, that leftover meat is a lifesaver for both lunches and dinners, where it can play either a starring or a supporting role.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you plan on using up your batch roast chicken:

  • Arm yourself with the right tools. As with cooking in general, stocking your kitchen with the right tools is half the battle. In the case of batch-cooking, sturdy, dishwasher-safe containers will help keep your meat safe and organized. Some cooks prefer ceramic or porcelain roasting dishes, but I like to keep things simple with a sheet pan.
  • Hold back on the spices. While you certainly want the bird to be well-seasoned, you also want to keep the flavor of the meat relatively neutral so the you can use it in as many recipes as possible. Save the cumin and Herbes de Provence for the next transformative meal the chicken will take part in.
  • Think of chicken as an accent. Sure, chicken shines as the main ingredient in a lot of recipes, but think about meat as different ways to enhance vegetables or grains. The ever-popular peanut soba noodle salad becomes an even more filling meal when you add shredded chicken; consider stir-frying bits of chicken with a big batch of hardy greens, broccoli, or green beans.
  • Be flexible. We love a crispy skin, of course, but don't forget other cooking techniques like poaching, which is great if you plan to make anything that uses chicken stock throughout the week, as it's a by-product of the cooking process. You can even skip the oven altogether and try boiling a chicken. That way, you get the built-in bonus of a golden stock for soups, stews, risottos, congee, and more.
  • Keep it simple. These recipe ideas are merely here to give you inspiration. If your family prefers a straight-up roasted bird, give them what they want! It might just be a matter of mixing up the various sides: Instead of potatoes, consider parsnips or beets, a side of rice and beans, or even egg noodles with a creamy, rich sauce. Instead of a side salad, maybe it's quickly sautéed greens, like Swiss chard or baby collards. Instead of traditional pan sauce, offer up an always-welcome pesto or a more assertive chimichurri sauce.

Now Put That Chicken to Work!

How do you enjoy roast chicken during the week? Share your favorite tips with us below!

Feeding your family delicious food doesn't need to be stressful or time-consuming. In partnership with Just Bare Chicken, producers of all-natural, humane-certified chicken, we're excited to share more creative, easy ways to cook with chicken, from marinades to sheet-pan dinners.

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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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Hana Asbrink

Written by: Hana Asbrink

Hana is the senior lifestyle editor at Food52.