One Chicken, Four Meals

If you don't have a grill, you can still make excellent cast iron BBQ chicken legs with a homemade BBQ sauce glaze.


One Chicken, Four Meals

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In honor of our current recession, or depression if you are a realist, I decided to write a few posts showing, in my opinion, the pinnacle of food frugality: the whole chicken.

I think Americans are for some reason scared to death of the full chicken. Most people buy boneless, skinless breasts and call it good. In reality though, you get much more bang for your buck (not to mention flavor) by buying one of these:

On a budget? Meet your new friend.
On a budget? Meet your new friend.

Even if you buy really quality, hormone free chicken, you will get huge discounts if you buy the entire bird because you have to do the butchering yourself. The bird that I bought for this series of posts weighted about 4.5 pounds and cost only $12. Per pound, that is way less than factory raised boneless, skinless, flavorless breasts. And I fed two people for four meals with it. From a budget standpoint, that is hard to beat.

The first time you cut up your own chicken, it might be a bit intimidating. It really isn’t too bad though. I thought about trying to explain it in this post, but then realized that there are plenty of authorities out there that do a fantastic job of detailing the process. There are very good explanations of the process at Cooking for Engineers, Gourmet Sleuth, and here is a Youtube video where she uses a technique that is new to me but seems to work.

The key is to relax and take your time. Eventually, you should end up with eight pieces of chicken and some leftovers.

Easily four meals for 2 people.
Easily four meals for 2 people.

Before I get started with the first meal, two quick notes:

1) If you are feeding more than two people you would have to adjust the recipes I’m posting over the next few days. What’s nice about every recipe is that none of them require a specific cut of chicken. You could cook the entire chicken using any of the recipes so feel free to experiment. Or you could buy more than one chicken.
2) If you are a serious meat eater you might find that these meals are a bit light. The goal with these meals though is to eat less meat, but make sure that it is packed with flavor.

That’s why the first meal is Barbeque Chicken.

Cast Iron BBQ Chicken Legs

Serves 4
Prep Time:
Total Time:
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If you don’t have a grill, you can still make excellent cast iron BBQ chicken legs with a homemade BBQ sauce glaze.


2 pounds chicken legs (or any chicken pieces really)
Vegetable oil

Simple Confidence BBQ Sauce:

1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons bourbon
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon chili powder
Pinch of salt


1) For BBQ sauce, stir together ingredients in a small pot over medium heat. Let that reduce for 10-15 minutes and stir occasionally to make sure it isn’t burning. It’s okay if sauce is still a bit on the thin side after this as it will cook more on the chicken.

2) To start the chicken, heat cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add a drizzle of oil and sear your chicken legs for 5-6 minutes until they are browned.

3) Coat chicken in a nice layer of the BBQ sauce and cook in a preheated 400 degree Fahrenheit oven (just transfer cast iron from stovetop to oven) for 15-20 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

4) Baste chicken again with sauce five minutes before they are done and serve them immediately with some extra sauce on the side. I like to serve these with veggies and maybe roasted potatoes!

Obviously, you can use any part of the chicken for this, but if I have to pick, these guys are my favorite to use for barbeque.

Trying to get a leg up.
Trying to get a leg up.

As far as the barbeque part of this goes, you could buy sauce from the store, but in the spirit of saving money, I thought I would make some from leftover stuff in my fridge. I don’t even like to call this stuff barbeque sauce. I like to call it confidence sauce. I call it that because it is very flexible, you can add stuff to it easily and use what you have, but no matter what you put in it, it is probably going to be good.

Ketchup is in the bowl.
Ketchup is in the bowl.

Once all of that is mixed together, put it in a saucepan and let it start simmering on low. Stir it occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Update: For this BBQ sauce, I actually used some homemade ketchup that I made for a guest post over at Endless Simmer. Check it out: In Defense of Ketchup.

Confidence in a pan.
Confidence in a pan.

While that is reducing (should take 10-15 minutes), you can get your chicken started. I like to use a pan that goes easily from stove top to oven. For me that is my cast iron skillet. On medium high heat, cook your legs for 5-6 minutes a side until they sear nicely.

Seared chicken.
Seared chicken.

Once your sauce is reduced nicely, turn off the heat. It’s okay if it cools a little bit and it is better to have it a bit thin rather than too thick as we are going to cook it in the oven also. This was mine after probably 10 minutes.

Reduced by probably half.
Reduced by probably half.

Then slather this stuff on your chicken. I piled on as much as I could, but had some left over which I served on the side.

Come on.
Come on.

Put this in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until your legs are cooked through.

These legs are very flavorful. I could have eaten a few of them, but honestly one was enough to satisfy me. I served mine with sauteed spinach and some Au gratin potatoes.

The full meal.
The full meal.

I can’t say enough about the homemade barbeque sauce. It is really easy to make and, in my opinion, is a lot more flavorful than many of the brands sold in the store. And it gives you a chance to clean out the pantry a bit.

Could I eat a whole chicken like this? Yes.
Could I eat a whole chicken like this? Yes.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for the second meal I made with my chicken.  It’s easier to keep up if you sign-up for Macheesmo updates via email or RSS.

8 Responses to “One Chicken, Four Meals” Leave a comment

  1. Ha! Thanks for the comment. If I ever write a cookbook it is going to be called "The Slathering."

    Don't steal that from me Internet.

  2. smart post, nick. i don't know why people avoid whole chickens. also, pretty much anything with bourbon is tops in my book.

  3. I often buy whole chickens, too: I roast them whole, take the meat off the bones and use for quesadillas/casseroles/soup/sandwiches, and then put all the bones, skin and juices from the roasting pan into a stockpot, add water, and make stock. Very frugal.

  4. What great ideas! (Yours & Erika's). I have a couple whole chickens in my freezer waiting for their moment in the sun. I'll do 1 whole for some of Erika's ideas & 1 cut up for yours. Excellent!

    Thanks for sharing the ideas & your photos. ;o}

  5. I enjoyed following the whole entry, I always thought one of the main things to count when you write a blog is learning how to complement the ideas with images, that's exploiting at the maximum the possibilities of a ciber-space! Good work on this entry!

  6. Just fixed these using commercial BBQ sauce (we’re camping). It is being added to our camping menu. They were awesome and didn’t take long. Thanks!

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