You probably already know that chicken is a great source for lean protein, lower in saturated fat than red meat, with a few B vitamins to boot. But did you know a classic roast chicken, with its crispy skin and juicy meat, is actually a cheap and healthy trick? Pound for pound, a whole chicken is more affordable than cut-up parts. Roast a bird on Sunday, and you’re set up for a week’s worth of delicious dinners, from soups and salads to fragrant curries and comforting casseroles.
If roasting a whole chicken sounds daunting, rest assured, it doesn’t have to be. No need to fuss with brining or turning. Just get the bird in the oven, kick back for an hour or two, and you’ll still pull out a beautiful, burnished roast.
A Classic Roast Chicken Recipe
Start with a whole chicken, about 4–5 lbs (2–2.5 kg). A few hours ahead or the night before, pat the chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle all over with salt. Cover and refrigerate. Preheat an oven to 400–450°F (200–230°C). Pull the chicken out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Rub all over with extra-virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper. Add seasonings, if you like, slipping finely chopped fresh herbs (thyme, tarragon, or marjoram) under the skin or sprinkling ground spices (paprika or cumin) on top. Roast the chicken until the skin is golden and the juices run clear; a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, not touching bone, should reach 165°F (74°C). It’ll take 1 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature of the oven and the size of your bird. Let rest for 10 minutes before carving.
One chicken feeds two people for a few meals. Double up and roast two birds to feed four.
Meal Plan: Make it Last All Week
Day 1: Wings & Drumsticks
Right after roasting, savor the littlest, crispiest cuts. Yes, the white meat is the leanest, but the dark meat contains 30 percent more iron and some healthy monounsaturated fats that pack in flavor, especially right out of the oven. Pull off those drumsticks and wings, stat!
Serve ’em up some mashed sweet potatoes or whipped cauliflower, with Brussels sprouts, green beans, or peas.
Day 2: Breasts
For round two, carve off the breasts and remove the skin. Tender white meat is delicious in salads, sandwiches, and wraps—no additional cooking required. A few ideas:
- Chopped salad: Toss sliced chicken with your favorite veggies and dressing! Go Southwestern with black beans, tomatoes, corn, and avocado. Or try Thai flavors, like shredded cabbage, carrots, cilantro, and peanuts.
- Chicken salad: Swap mayo for plain yogurt to make this creamy classic a little lighter. Stir in grapes, celery, or pecans, or give it a tasty spin with curry powder and raisins. Pile it on whole-wheat toast.
- Burritos or tacos: Shredded chicken makes taco night a snap. Fill soft tortillas with black beans and corn, and go big on salsa and guacamole.
Day 3: Thighs
A few days later, dig into the succulent thighs. Rich dark meat reheats beautifully in baked pastas, casseroles, and curries. Meals to consider:
- Pasta: Prepare your favorite shape, like penne or rotini, and stir in spicy tomato sauce, and veggies, like eggplant or mushrooms. Sprinkle with mozzarella and bake until toasty.
- Casserole: Remember the humble rice casserole? Make it healthy with brown rice, a nutritious whole-grain base, and then go retro with chicken and broccoli, or get spicy with jambalaya.
- Curry: For something saucy and spicy, curry it up. Indian, Thai, or Japanese; green, red, or yellow; pastes make it easy. Try green curry with bell pepper and basil, red with butternut squash or pumpkin, or yellow with spinach and carrots.
Day 4: Bones
When you get down to bones, you could just bin it. Or you could turn delicious, homemade stock and one last handful of scraps into dinner—soup’s on!
Make your own bone broth (a.k.a. stock), by dropping the carcass into a big pot or slow cooker. Add hunks of onion, carrot, and celery, and a bay leaf and a few peppercorns. Fill with water and simmer for a few hours. Strain and skim the fat before creating soup or stew. Some great options:
- Soups: Once you have delicious homemade stock, start dropping in noodles, rice, or veggies. Try classic chicken noodle with peas and carrots, or elevate it with wild rice and ginger. Or get fresh with rice noodles, poached eggs, and a whole lot of fresh herbs.
- Stews: A chicken stew is the ultimate comfort food. Start with a roux of butter and flour, which will thicken up that liquid. Then add hearty veggies, like mushrooms and chard.
What’s your tried-and-true chicken recipe? Join the conversation below.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.