Without a doubt one convenience item that many, many home cooks rely on to simplify weeknight meals is store-bought rotisserie chicken.  While I certainly understand the convenience aspect of using a pre-cooked chicken to cut down on meal prep, I do not like that it comes along with an excessive amount of plastic and likely from a factory farm I know nothing about.  My solution to this is simple.  I buy a few whole chickens from our local butcher shop and keep them on hand in the freezer.  When we have a lazy day at home, I fire up the oven and roast a chicken.  Then we shred the meat and freeze the shredded cooked chicken to be used in any recipe I like at a moment’s notice.  I also save the chicken bones and scraps to make chicken stock (more on that tomorrow).  Using these methods, you can get quite a lot of bang for your buck from one chicken.  I realize like many homemade versions of store bought things, this may sound labor intensive but I promise this is very, very easy and requires very little active work.

Indy area readers, I can’t say enough wonderful things about Moody Meats.  We have been purchasing nearly all of our eggs, poultry and meat from them for years and they are wonderful.  I think it’s important to know where your food comes from and support local farmers when you can, so I feel very lucky having such a great butcher shop just minutes away from my house.

To ensure that the meat stays moist, I do a quick brining step.  Combine ½ cup of table salt and 2 quarts of cold water in a stockpot or Dutch oven.  Stir to dissolve.

Place the chicken in the brine, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.  I turn mine halfway through to make sure both sides are getting the brine but turning may not be necessary depending on the shape and size of your pot.

Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.  Brush about 2 tablespoons of melted butter over the chicken, covering both sides.  Season with salt and pepper.  This is the point when you can also add aromatics to the cavity if you wish such as lemon, garlic, and other spices or herbs.  I don’t usually bother with that if I am making the chicken simple for the purpose of shredding and freezing.  If I’m making a roast chicken as a main dish, I absolutely do that.  This garlic rosemary roast chicken is divine.  Seriously.

Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  When the chicken is all prepped and ready, place it in a roasting pan breast-side down.  I add in a couple balls of scrap aluminum foil to help keep it from sliding around too much.  Roast for 15 minutes.   Turn the chicken so that it is breast-side up.  Increase the oven temperature to 450˚ F.  Continue to roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the breast registers 160˚ F and in the thigh around 170˚ F, approximately 25-30 minutes*.

*Once again, I have to harp on the importance of using an instant read thermometer in your kitchen.  To me this is an absolutely essential tool for cooking meat, poultry and seafood, and is also useful for baking and other confections.  Depending on the size of your chicken, whether your oven runs a little warm or cool, and various other factors, the cooking time for roasting a chicken or other poultry can vary widely.  Aiming for a specific temperature rather than cooking for a certain time ensures that the chicken will be well cooked without being dried out and also that it will not be undercooked and still pink inside.  Mine generally take quite a bit longer than the time suggested in recipes so this really is crucial!  I am in love with my Thermapen.  It is a little pricey but totally worth the investment in my opinion, and it beats the pants off all the models I’ve tried in the past.

Once the chicken is cooked, cut the meat off of the bones and shred with two forks.  Or, if you have a stand mixer, use this method.  Mind blown, seriously.  We tried it last week and it really works.  Can’t believe how much time we could have saved by knowing about this sooner!   I store the shredded chicken in freezer storage containers and then just use as needed.  (See this post for more helpful freezer info.)

Now that you have your cooked chicken on hand, there is so much you can do with it.  Use it to add some protein to salad, pizza, pasta, soup, risotto, quesadillas, etc.  There are just so many possibilities!  Here are some of my favorite recipes to make use of it:

Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Casserole

Thai Chicken Pizza

Roast Chicken Wraps with Black Bean Salsa and Guacamole

Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad

  • I love roast chicken and looking forward to your chicken stock recipe. I recently write about it on my blog. It is so healthy for you it is even known as Jewish penicillin!

  • Blog is the new Black

    Great tips! I just roasted a chicken for the second time ever yesterday and I agree, it’s much less intimidating than it sounds. I am wondering why you roast it breast side down for 15 minutes and then turn it. What is he benefit of doing so, and for just 15 minutes? I’ve never read that tip before!

  • Jen

    Can’t wait to try this! I wish we had a local butcher! Thanks Annie! By the way…the link to the Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Casserole seems to be incorrect. It takes you to the Rosemary Garlic Roast Chicken. Happy Monday!

  • Michele

    Thank you thank you thank you! I am a beginner cook and was given a frozen chicken by my mother-in-law. It has been in my freezer for a few months now, because I didn’t have the courage to prepare it! Thank you for making this seem easier and feasible!

  • Beth

    Can we talk about how I never would have thought to use the KA for shredding chicken?? What a great idea!

  • Thanks for sharing!

  • Amy

    I bet it makes your whole house smell great, too! I should definitely give this a try. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to your chicken broth tips.

  • Amy

    I have been a fan of roasting whole chickens, freezing the shredded meat, and making stock for quite some time. You can’t beat the convenience of having that cooked shredded meat in the freezer for quick prep of another meal! And homemade stock – Yumm! I cannot wait to try using the mixer to shred the chicken – amazing tip!!! I’d roast one today but I’m without an oven for a few days until a part comes in! (Darn!)

  • I’m definitely guilty of the last minute rotisserie chicken run, but we’re also trying to source our meat locally and from places we know didn’t stuff it with antibiotics and who knows what else. This makes the process seem much less daunting. Thanks for sharing!

  • Anne

    Hi Annie – I know I’ve said this before, but I love your blog! I follow numerous cooking blogs, and your’s is hands down the best one. And for so many reasons, the most important being that everything you present (and I mean everything) is of such high quality – both in taste and presentation. I am often disappointed with recipes I try from other blogs. Typically, the recipes from your blog become my go-to recipes from then on. Thanks for all the care and precision you put into your cooking and baking! We eat like kings in our house – often times thanks to you.

  • Caroline L.

    Great tutorial – thanks for sharing! Definitely a classic!

  • Becca J

    I’m curious to know how you handle flipping a hot, slippery chicken. Is there a graceful way to do it, or is it the hair-raising experience that I imagine it to be?

  • No more rotisserie chicken for me! And I love the tip for shredding chicken in the mixer. That will save me so much time!

  • *raising hand sheepishly* I have never roasted a chicken. Seriously. Roasting anything scares me. I think it is because of the pot roast debacle of 2003. How do you mess up pot roast? I’ve made a turkey or two, but I always have to have my mother on the phone the entire time, talking me off of the ledge.

  • Susan in England

    I’m very surprised that the total cooking time is 45 minutes- I usually cook a standard size chicken for 90 minutes, longer for a large one, at 180 C; lower than you suggest but I’m shocked that it cooks that much more quickly. I will get a probe thermometer and look up those temperatures in centrigrade!

  • janmci

    As always such wonderful suggestions. I fully agree that roasting a chicken then using the leftovers for other meals and the bones for stock is a great way to go. So glad that you are still blogging and providing inspiration to us.

  • Laura

    Nothing beats a good roast chicken! So Ina-esque :)

  • this is pretty cool!

  • Peggy

    I used to work in a county health department as a sanitarian, and we used the Thermapen to inspect restaurants. It really is the best!

  • Jenny

    Thanks for the tip about shredding the chicken! Hadn’t heard of that before. Love roasted chicken and making stock!

  • What kind of contraption are you roasting that chicken in? In the pictures it looks like a bowl, andd it looks really useful!

  • Susan G

    I feel like a “Thank you, Annie!” from me is overdue. You’ve inspired me to push past my comfort level this year and try new cooking techniques and new foods! I really enjoy and appreciate your blog. I’m proud to let you know that I started roasting whole chickens a few months ago! My husband was amazed and impressed. My best to you and your family. Thanks again for continuing to inspire your readers!

  • annieseats

    I used a roasting pan :)

  • deputyswife Deputy

    I have always been intimidated by this process! I have a couple of questions, if you don’t mind. I read that you keep a few chickens in the freezer. So, do you cook the chicken frozen? If not, can I do that? Also, before cooking is there anything I need to get out of the chest cavity? (Or am I confusing this with a turkey?) Next time whole chickens are on sale, I am definitely doing this!

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  • Anne

    Do you use a rack your roasting pan, or do you just put the meat directly in?

  • victoria

    also – your roasting pan looks more like a pot in the pictures as it appears very deep with taller sides – do you possibly have a link this to buy – or maybe the brand? I have seen several roasting pans with lower sides that look more like a lasagna pan with a rack inside but I like the looks of the one you used better. Thank you thank you! Can’t wait to try this! Oh – and thank you for suggesting the thermapen – I so need a new meat thermometer!!

  • victoria

    that helps a lot! Thank you!!!

  • Josie

    During our move I got in the bad habit of the rotisserie chicken. I have been saving the carcasses for stock though at least! I need to get back in the habit of roasting chickens. I’ve never tried the breast-side down trick, will have to try that!

  • annieseats

    I don’t know the brand or anything. It was so long ago when I bought it, all I remember is that it was a super cheap option…so probably either Target or our grocery store. Sorry!

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  • Loretta E

    I always love a good roast chicken! It’s just as good plain, hot and fresh out of the oven as it is in a recipe. You just can’t lose with a solid roast chicken.

  • kristin

    i seriously spent forever trying to find a recipe for this right before the hurricane! it was our ‘feast’ before the electricity was anticipated to go out (it didn’t for us! thank goodness). i can’t wait to make it again, with your recipe, and hopefully avoid the sad faces of the kids. (kid #1 made the worst ever faces when we were cutting the meat… hilarious, and also heartbreaking for this people pleaser momma)

  • My Boyfriend and I are moving to Noblesville in a month or so, so thank you for the reference to Moody’s because I have a meat and potatoes kinda guy lol. Plus we both like to know where are food is coming from and are big fans of supporting our community. This recipe looks delicious, so we will be stopping there to get meat and such and I will try this! :) Thank you Annie!

  • Nancy

    This is my first time ever making a whole “bird”. . . of any kind. It’s currently in the oven and smells fantastic! However, I have cooked the chicken to the correct temperature, but there is still red juice running from the inside. My mom suggested covering with a lid, lowering the heat, and continuing to cook. I’m wondering if this happens to you and what you would suggest?

  • annieseats

    If the temperature is correct, it’s time to stop the roasting. Congrats on your first whole bird :)

  • SK

    This is what I am talking about,anytime I want to try something new, the first thing I do is search on your blog and that is what I did when I bought a fryer chicken for the first time (only because it was super cheap, almost free) anyways, I hate handling raw chicken and the thought of dealing with the whole the bird always put me off. But this time I didn’t have an option. Since the bird was already in the fridge :-) I roasted a whole bird (I make turkey every year and I know chicken should be much easier but even so) anyways followed your direction, used different aromatics but the basic process was almost the same. The result was a beautiful roasted chicken worthy of a magazine cover :-) thank you once again. Maybe I will email you this picture too.