Thursday, January 06, 2011

Cooking a Skinned Bird

If you keep chickens, at some point you will have to decide what to do with the hens that are no longer laying. There really are three choices. You can keep them as pets. You can give them to someone else. Or you can use them for meat.

You've already invested a significant amount of time and money in these birds. The most frugal choice is to butcher them to get a little more out of your investment.

And if you've made that choice, the next choice you face is how to process the birds. You could choose the traditional way of plucking the bird, or you can skin the bird and avoid the plucking process. We've tried it both ways. We like skinning best.

Skinning the birds takes a little skill, and a little practice, but once you have it down, it is a very quick process. The end result is cleaner looking, and we don't eat the skin anyway. So, for us skinning the birds just makes sense.

From a cooking perspective though, it is a little different. We are all used to getting whole birds, or really any chicken with the bones, with the skin on. How do you cook a whole chicken with out the skin?

If you are cooking an older hen, the best way to cook it, with or without the skin, is to stew it. Simmer it in a big pot of liquid and spices for a couple hours, let the carcass cool, debone the meat and use it with the broth for dumplings or soup. Or the meat can be used for creamed chicken sandwiches, in casseroles, or chicken salad, and the broth can be reserved for later use (even frozen.) The same result can be achieved in a crock pot using less liquid. Older hens (or roosters) are too tough to be cooked any other way.

We normally skin our younger roosters and our meat birds also. They can be cooked the same as above. The majority of the time I cook them in the crockpot. Adding liquid is not necessary with a younger bird. I just season them, and let them cook. The skinned birds come out of the crockpot tender and moist.

To get the most from your whole chicken, debone it and use it to make many meals. I once challenged myself to see how many meals I could get out of one chicken. This was before we had many chickens. So, the challenge was taken using a store bought bird, but that bird was about the same size as the meat birds we raise now. I stretched that chicken for five meals. See a Stretched Chicken to see what all I made.

Honestly though, I rarely try to stretch a chicken like that anymore. I still like to make the chicken in the crockpot, but now we carve off the meat for a meal. Any remaining meat is picked off and that with the broth are used for soup, or the like, later in the week.

A skinned chicken can also be cooked in the oven. I like to brush it with olive oil, and then add spices depending on my mood. Ginger is one of my favorites, but often I use rosemary, curry, or other spices. Really, a skinned bird can be prepared just as you would a skin on bird for roasting except a skinned bird needs to be covered while it cooks. The end result will look a little different, but the taste is excellent.

To skin or pluck? Both have advantages and disadvantages. Skinning birds is our preferred method of processing. Cooking a skinned whole chicken (or duck) only takes a slight adjustment in your cooking method. The crockpot is my favorite way to produce a tender, moist and tasty bird. The oven works well also if you have a young bird. Sinned birds need to be cooked a little differently, but they produce delicious results.


  1. Hmmm...that does look different.
    Growing up, we always ate chicken and quail from our yard. It never bothered me then, but I think I am pickier with meat than I used to be. There is nothing at all wrong with it....I just don't think I would want to do it now. Most of the beef we eat, however, comes from my dad. I'm not around the cows much at all, so it doesn't bother me :).

  2. thanks for this post. i'm a vegetarian but my dogs aren't and i refuse to buy commercial dog food and am having difficulty justifying buying factory farmed meat from the grocery stores. i have hens and a rooster for eggs and will hatch some chicks this Spring. i've finally made the difficult decision to use some for meat birds for the dogs. good post.

  3. We skin our chickens as well. It just seemed easier than getting the whole setup going for plucking. We just processed 4 extra roosters over the weekend. My husband at some point would like to try building a whiz-bang plucker, but that keeps getting pushed back! I normally put them in the crockpot for an easy meal and the meat is so tender it falls off the bones.

  4. We skin our birds too. I have tried both. But, hands down, I would rather skin as to pluck. lol