One chicken – three meals

I love to try new recipes and cook with chicken often. Recipes often call for 1 1/2 lbs or so of chicken pieces, breasts, etc. But I only cook with boneless, skinless breasts and don’t know how to convert:

a) The amount of chicken to use, and;
b) The cooking time.

Any general guidelines?

If your recipe calls for 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast, with bone and skin, you can substitute 1 pound boneless, skinless breasts. If it calls for thighs, with bone and skin, you can substitute 3/4-pound boneless, skinless thighs. If the recipe just calls for chicken pieces, aim for between 3/4 and 1 pound of boneless, skinless meat.

As for cooking time, you do not need to cook boneless cuts as long as chicken pieces. Of course, time depends on the cooking method, but I would not recommend cooking a boneless breast more than 15 or 20 minutes. Longer than that, and you start drying out the unprotected meat. Whole chickens, on the other hand, can be roasted up to 1 1/4 hours.

Your question raises an important issue for me: I’ve recently found that some people will not purchase, cook or eat chicken on the bone. Now, don’t get me wrong – there is a place for boneless breast meat in chicken cookery. Salads, sandwiches, kabobs and chicken strips are all ideal healthful menu items, and boneless breasts were created expressly for these purposes. And yes, boneless chicken is convenient and easy to prepare. But this is all at the sacrifice of flavor and moisture: Any meat cooked on the bone and covered by skin is more moist and flavorful than meat cooked without either.

When I want to relax after a long tough work week, I roast a whole chicken – perfectly. You can get one and squeeze two or three meals out of it. Roasting a chicken is a pleasant experience; the house is filled with real cooking aromas on a Friday evening. Try adding potatoes to the roast for a hearty meal. After 1 1/4 hours of basting every 15 minutes, the pan is removed from the oven to rest the chicken 10 minutes before carving. This rest redistributes the juices in the meat (the juices you won’t find in a cooked boneless breast). I like to serve the carved chicken with mushroom gravy or a salsa.

After dinner, I finish carving and refrigerate the extra pieces for Sunday. The carcass is broken in half and placed into a soup pot, covered with cold water and cooked for two hours to make broth. Pick the meat off the bones and you’ve got the main ingredients for Saturday afternoon soup. Result? Three meals from one inexpensive purchase!

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