the economy of a simple roasted chicken

roasted chicken2

Not all things are an efficient use of your time and energy. Take, for instance, the handheld electric fly swatter. The premise of the handheld electric fly swatter is that you smack said insect once and the electric current zaps the bug dead. It’s sort of like the big POW! that kills the bugs in the cartoons in bug spray commercials, but without the use of toxic chemicals. It’s a fine idea, in theory; quick, easy, portable, and just the sort of thing that calls to husbands from hardware store shelves.

In reality, at least in our house, I’ve watched my husband wield the electric fly swatter’s power several times, in a show of impressively noisy sparks as the fly makes contact, only to temporarily stun the fly. Then, since the fly quickly revives and starts buzzing around again, there’s more swatting and sparking until, after several zaps, the fly finally succumbs. This is not to mention that your husband ends up stalking a wary fly using increasingly risky maneuvers (holding the electrified swatter near a sink), all in an effort to demonstrate that it really was worth the money.

In my humble opinion, I’m way more efficient (and safe) with a small towel and a single well-aimed thwack!, wherein the fly actually is toast. To be fair, maybe the flies are just bigger here in Texas from being around all that cattle and such. I’m betting that there’s more than enough voltage in that electrified fly swatter to kill a fruit fly on the first zap, though since the fruit fly is so tiny, it would probably just sail right through the wire webbing, snickering as it buzzes away.

simple roasted chicken2

On the other hand, roasting a chicken is a very efficient use of your time and energy, especially if you make a habit of using every single part of it. Start with a simple recipe, like this one from Zenbelly chef Simone Shifnadel, that makes use of salt as its single seasoning and, depending on the size of the bird, a little over an hour in the oven. With the oven temperature at 425Fº, I calculate about twenty minutes per pound.

Once the chicken is roasted, it yields about 3/4 cup of drippings that you can strain, let solidify in the fridge, and then separate into chicken fat and broth. Both the chicken fat and the broth can be used to add fantastic flavor to cooking. To make it even easier, you can sauté a big batch of greens right in the leftover drippings without straining. Since the drippings are well-salted from the roasting chicken, there’s no need to season the greens, unless you want to add a little freshly ground black pepper to the mix. My husband likes to use a mandolin to slice onions into the pan drippings and sauté them a bit, and then add the greens. When not manning the electric fly swatter, this is a regular kitchen job of his.

drippings 71
Pan drippings from roasted chicken

chicken fat 1
Strain the drippings into a heat-proof container, which separates into fat (top) and broth (bottom)

chicken fat 2
Let solidify in refrigerator, then scoop the top layer of chicken fat into a separate container and store in fridge. The bottom layer can be re-heated and used like broth.

schmaltz (147)
Chicken fat

If you don’t eat the whole chicken in one meal, make your favorite chicken salad the next day from the leftover shredded meat. Lately I’ve been making the “Madras Curry Chicken Salad” from The Nom Nom Paleo Cookbook, and I tailor the ingredients of Michelle’s recipe to a more autoimmune-friendly version for me, substituting turmeric for the curry powder and sprouted pumpkin seeds for the almonds.

After you eat the meat, save the leftover bones and skin, including the neck bone that may come packaged with the offal. I put everything in a freezer bag to save for making bone broth. Don’t throw away the giblets (liver, heart, gizzards) that may come packaged with your chicken either. Offal is one of the most nutrient-dense parts of an animal, and it’s a shame to waste it. I freeze the giblets and use them when I make Garlic-Sage Chicken Patties from Mickey Trescott’s The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, grinding the giblets and chicken thighs together so any “offal” taste mixes right in among the other ingredients.

At the same time you are roasting the chicken, you can throw in a tray of veggies on another rack underneath the chicken to roast too. I like to do squash or sweet potatoes, smeared with some coconut oil and salt, and whatever other seasonings you like, and I put the veggies in for the total amount of time they need minus how long the chicken needs to cook.

roasted squash

So let’s review the economy of a simple roasted chicken:

1. a lovely roasted chicken
2. sumptious pan drippings, used straight away or strained, separated, and used later as #3 and #4
3. chicken fat for cooking or sautéing
4. rich, gelatinous broth for sautéing
5. leftover bones (including the neck bone that is usually packaged with the giblets)to make bone broth
6. leftover giblets (liver, gizzard, heart-also known as offal)
7. leftover chicken to make chicken salad for lunch
8. a delicious meal with a small amount of effort
9. A happy husband who needs nourishment from working the handheld electric fly swatter (insert other family members and reasons as applies to you)

That’s a pretty decent list, if you ask me, and all from one roasted chicken. I think it’s fair to call it a great meal that keeps on giving, and all with no imminent danger of electrocution.

simple roasted chicken
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: dinner
Serves: Serves 2 to 4
  • 1 4-lb. organic whole chicken, rinsed and dried (check the cavity before rinsing and remove giblets-liver, heart, gizzards, and also the neck bone)
  • 1 Tablespoon sea salt
  • A cast-iron Dutch oven or cast-iron combo pan
  • Heat-proof pastry brush for basting
  1. Preheat your oven to 425F.
  2. Place the rinsed and dried chicken in the Dutch oven or deeper bottom half of the combo pan. Sprinkle salt over the entire chicken, as well as a little bit in the cavity of the chicken.
  3. Position the chicken with the breast facing up, and place uncovered in the oven on the middle rack.
  4. Cook for one hour, then using protective oven mitts, carefully remove the chicken to your stovetop, and use your pastry brush to baste the top and sides of the chicken with the juices that have collected in the bottom of the pan. Be careful not to accidentally touch the very hot pan!
  5. Place the chicken back in the oven and cook for another twenty minutes until skin is a deep golden color (I calculate twenty minutes per pound at 425Fº). Remove and place on stovetop, basting one final time. Let cool for at least 15 minutes, then remove to a platter and carve into desired pieces. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later. Can be made a day ahead.
As mentioned above, use the pan drippings to sauté a batch of greens, or strain into a heat-proof container, solidify in the refrigerator, and carefully scrape the solidified chicken fat from the gelled broth underneath, storing each separately for later use.


2 thoughts on “the economy of a simple roasted chicken

  1. Hi Michelle,

    I loved reading this article/recipe as I enjoy all of your writing. The economy of simple well-prepared food is a favorite topic of mine. My wife and I often do quick rough calculations on the cost of a given meal, and it is always considerably less than we’d pay for a similar meal eating out.

    Another favorite topic is the much maligned electric bug zapper, which I purchased directly from my local barber, who inexplicably had a stash of them for sale.. It is totally worth the money! I tend to use it more for wasps buzzing about the garden than for flies. I hadn’t considered the calisthenic aspect to it thus far, but I do ensure that no water is in the sink when using it.


    • Thank you, Michael! I appreciate you taking the time to comment. We often do the rough calculation thing when eating out as well, and for sure it is often a lot cheaper.

      Hmmm…an inexplicable stash, eh? Trouble offloading them, perhaps? I have to say that’s a genius way to sell them: to a captive and attentive client. Who needs a high overhead hardware store to lure those male customers in when you can buy them from your local barber, no? Maybe the zapper is more effective with wasps, but I swear my story about its effectiveness with flies is a factual account! As far as being worth the money, well, our home is still divided on that verdict. 🙂

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