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Frugal Recipe: Cooking a Whole Chicken

Ever wonder how to cook a whole chicken?  I was preparing supper yesterday evening and I realized that I don’t post a lot about cooking here on MDJ.  Cooking/recipes can become a popular topic as everyone eats and why not save some money while your at it?

This recipe is for cooking a whole chicken.  There are various times at the grocery store when they have fresh whole chickens on sale.  I consider them on sale when they cost around $4.39/kg (~$2/lb).

Here are the goods:

What you’ll need:

  • ~ 2.5-3 lb fresh whole chicken (if frozen, thawed first)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Other spices/herbs that you enjoy.  I personally like to use chicken boullion (low salt, no msg), savoury, and italian spice mix.


  • Remove the bag that sits inside the chicken.
  • Thoroughly clean the chicken under running water.
  • Place chicken in a roasting pan, generously coating (inside and out) with salt, pepper and other spices/herbs that you enjoy.
  • Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over chicken
  • Preheat oven to 350F


  • If you like the breast to be extra juicy (who doesn’t), then make sure to cook with the breast side down (opposite of the picture).
  • 350F preheated oven for 25-30 min/lb.  Works out to be about 1.5 hrs for a 3 lb chicken.
  • You’ll know when it’s done when the thighs internal temperature reaches 180F or if it bleeds clear.  I usually use the indicator of a nice browning of the skin.


  • After the chicken is done cooking, take it out of the oven and let it sit for around 10 min before carving.

Done! An easy peasy recipe that can be extremely cost effective providing you find the chickens on sale.

Do you have any frugal recipes to share?

Photo credit: ninjapoodles

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FT About the author: FT is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 38 comments… add one }
  • Avatar Richard March 13, 2008, 8:30 am

    Nice recipe and cost-saving tip. I haven’t been in Canada in a while (working in the UK for the past 2.5 months) so my pricing knowledge is all skewed right now, but doesn’t a Loblaws or Costco rotisserie chicken only cost about $5 or $6 after taxes? I didn’t think that you would only be saving a dollar or two…

    I never realized that the profit margins for them are so low (not factoring in that the chicken probably costs them $2).

  • Avatar Four Pillars March 13, 2008, 8:38 am

    I’ve found the store rotisserie chicken to be cheaper than the fresh chicken – seems silly.

  • Avatar FrugalTrader March 13, 2008, 9:55 am

    Hey guys, I would also pick an already cooked chicken, but the best price around here is $7.99/chicken + tax (not unless you buy cold) and they aren’t as good as home cooked ones (imo).

  • Avatar Hannah - The Penny Mine March 13, 2008, 9:58 am

    Lovely recipe! I also personally enjoy some of that Kraft 5-minute rice with soy sauce and a can of corn to make it a full meal, and still keeps it to be very cheap per serving!

  • Avatar Andrew March 13, 2008, 10:18 am

    Sorry to be a bit of a spoilsport, but as somebody who cares about what he eats both from a quality and from a cost perspective, buying cheap chicken is a bad idea for several reasons:

    1. Health. Cheap, factory farmed chicken WILL arrive laced with antibiotics and hormones. If you’re investing in yourself you should try and live long enough to reap the rewards.

    2. Animal rights. I am a confirmed carnivore and have no problems with killing animals for food. However, I don’t want to be responsible, and our buying habits do make us responsible, for the life factory chickens are subjected to.

    My solution is simply to eat less meat. When I eat it i should be the best I can afford, a free range, organic bird rather than something that spent a miserable life in a concentration camp for poultry. I then make a number of meals out of one chicken. If I roast it, I use the bones to make a soup the next day. I keep some of the meat back and add it for extra flavour. If I don’t feel like soup I will make a stock for another day. Nothing is wasted, everything is used.

    I don’t meant to rant or preach, but this is something that’s close to my heart.



  • Avatar FourPillars March 13, 2008, 10:22 am

    FT – I agree that cooking your own chicken is better (and more fun).

    Andrew – if I have to make a choice between following your advice and the juicy picture that FT provided – I’m sorry, but the picture wins hands down! :)


  • Avatar Ramona March 13, 2008, 10:23 am

    It’s 8:49 in the morning & my mouth is watering! My frugal recipe isn’t really a recipe. Cook some pasta, like rigatoni or penne. While it is cooking (8 – 10 minutes), chop up some veggies like red pepper, green pepper, onion, broccoli, and garlic, fry these up with a little olive oil, add some jarred sauce. Then drain your pasta, throw in with the sauce for a minute or two to mix well. Dump it all into a pasta bowl and enjoy!! Got this from going to Cuba and enjoying at the buffett – very yummy, and meatless, and quick and easy.

  • Avatar Richard March 13, 2008, 11:57 am

    I’m all for animal welfare and eating organic, but the price is what usually turns me off. I am trying to eat the cheapest food possible, so even when it comes to a large bag of carrots for 55p (GBP) vs. half the bag at 65p, I’ll go for the bigger bag. This organic wave of thinking is still relatively new, while we forget that they’ve been using hormones and antibiotics for much longer.

  • Avatar DAvid March 13, 2008, 12:13 pm

    Rotisserie Chicken — best deal out there. They are cheaper fully cooked than in the raw or frozen state, costs nothing in time or cooking, and there is a fine selection ready just in time for the after-work crowd.

    The only problem I have is they cool down a bit on the walk home.


  • Avatar Mike March 13, 2008, 12:55 pm

    quick tip here: I’ve found making from scratch is usually cheaper, and I can choose how healthy it is. Ex. Granola bars, a 1 kg box of them is about $10, a quick guestimate says my recipe is made for $3-4 … But you sacrifice time, which is really what convenience foods are selling– the time it takes to learn howto and to physically prepare good tasting things.


  • Avatar Canadian Dream March 13, 2008, 1:03 pm


    Ah I do like to roast my own as well. Here’s a twist for you. Soak the chicken in a salt water solution for 24 hours in the fridge. Then put it in a slow cooker with two oranges cut up and some fresh roasmary (in and out of the chicken). Cook for 10 hours.

    The meat just falls off the bone and is SO GOOD!


  • Avatar Phil March 13, 2008, 1:35 pm

    I have to agree with Andrew here. If you are buying chicken at 2$ a pound you are basically buying hormones and water. They are boosted with hormones during their short lives and then the packaging process involves literally using syringes to shoot the meat with a water-based solution to increase it’s weight.

    Now I don’t mind the hormones so much, but buying water really ticks me off.

    Better go for the 10$ to 12$ 2-pounder from a small producer. Yes, it’s 5$ a pound, but it’s real meat. Anyway, once you try it you won’t go back.

    Another trick to reduce cooking time, is to wrap the chicken in parchment paper or aluminum foil with vegetables inside. Cook it at 425 F for 1 hour and 20 minutes. It keeps all the juices inside and makes your chicken tender and juicy.

  • Avatar Spiderman March 13, 2008, 1:54 pm

    very nice, i agree with that.

  • Avatar FourPillars March 13, 2008, 2:17 pm

    FT – I just left a comment over at your GRS thread – what a bunch of whackjobs over there! Any thoughts I’ve had of doing a GP there have evaporated quickly…. :)

    Recipes: One recipe I’ve done in the past is “beer can chicken”.

    Get a whole chicken and a 24 of your favourite beer.

    Put a bunch of herbs on the outside and inside of the chicken.

    Stand up the chicken on an open beer can which is mostly full. This can be done on the bbq or in the oven. Getting the chicken to stay up is the hard part.

    Cook at 375? for I think 2 hours or so.

    Eat the chicken and do what you can to the rest of the 24. :)


    • Avatar FrugalTrader March 13, 2008, 2:23 pm

      FP, lol, the bigger the audience, the more criticism one faces. I can only imagine the comments that J.D gets on a daily basis. Great recipe btw.

      I’m going to try both and slow cooker recipe a la Tim and the beer one a la Mike. Beer one sounds more fun. :)

  • Avatar Andrew March 13, 2008, 2:46 pm

    One more comment from the chef – this time about beer can chicken: If you want to try this, use something stainless steel, not an actual beer can. The temperatures the beer might reach in a stove (or worse, on a BBQ) are high enough to leach solvents from the paint into the food. So, don’t do it, it’s bad for your health.

    Sorry to be the resident killjoy today :( but I’d thought it important to pass this on.


  • Avatar ETF Income March 13, 2008, 2:50 pm

    It is good to eat that MDJ talks about other interesting posting other than finance. Good job!

  • Avatar nobleea March 13, 2008, 2:56 pm

    Just a reminder to everyone that chicken should be thawed in the fridge, NOT the counter, or anything around room temperature.

    Takes some planning (have to start thawing stuff on monday for a wednesday meal), but the nasty bacteria in chicken starts growing at around 10C. Of course, cooking it properly should eliminate problems, but why increase the possibility?

  • Avatar Dividendgrowth March 13, 2008, 3:59 pm

    The best frugal recipe out there is to cook at home rather than eat out. :-)

  • Avatar Acorn March 13, 2008, 9:20 pm

    My advice… use very few spices and a bottle of beer instead of a can… Much easier to maintain vertical chicken position. Spread 1/8″ of course salt inside the pan. (salt vaporizes, it gives extra test) Also, wrap the wings in the foil. Used this recipe hundreds time …always works… especially with shot of vodka or whiskey before you eat…strait.…no ice.

  • Avatar Jeremy March 13, 2008, 11:38 pm

    Whole chickens are extremely cost-effective when compared to buying most pieces of the chicken individually. Sure, you might be able to get a rotisserie chicken pre-cooked in the deli section of your supermarket, but they are usually quite small and very overcooked. Not to mention, you don’t have all of the great natural juices that go into the roasting pan that allows you to make the best gravy ever.

    We usually roast a chicken once a week or at least every two weeks. For the two of us, that can typically mean more than enough for one good dinner, possibly lunch the next day, and the chicken carcass is great for making homemade chicken stock that can be used in soup or a number of other great recipes.

    Way better than spending 8 dollars for a package of boneless chicken breasts for just one meal.

  • Avatar Little Ms. Scoroge March 14, 2008, 1:06 am

    Just thought I will add my family’s 2 fav recipes.
    1)Put chicken pieces( thighs/ drumsticks) in a slow cooker. Add a cup of BBQ sauce (any store bought one will do). Now add a cup of coke,not the diet one. Cook it on medium for 6 hours and serve with salad. The sauce is very delish to mop up with bread.
    2)Leave chicken coated with tandoori spice(dry powder or bottled paste available at any supermarket’s International aisle)and yoghurt for 1-2 hours or even overnight for a tastier and tender chicken.Youghurt makes the chicken tender. Grill it/BBQ it. serve with naan bread and raitha( grate cucumber into yoghurt, add salt,paste made of crushed mint leaves &1or 2 green chillies)for a truly satisfying meal.

  • Avatar Harrington Brooks March 14, 2008, 5:46 am

    Thanks for the recipe ideas, shame you had to post such a nice picture of a chicken when I haven’t ate yet ;)

  • Avatar Livingalmostlarge March 17, 2008, 2:21 am

    Slow cook the chicken. You get broth out of it and the meat is so tender it falls off the bones to get the most meat out of the chicken. Use the bones to get the broth extra tasty, stew it for a bit.

    Use the chicken for a main dish, enchiladas, tacos, chicken salad, pretty much anything.

  • Avatar Thanh Dang March 24, 2008, 12:02 am

    If you want to live frugal, I would add this part:

    When I cook a chicken, I fill my oven with other stuff (ex. lasagna, oven potatoes, muffins … and such.

  • Avatar James April 23, 2008, 1:03 pm

    The thing is they use chickens that are ready to expire when they make the roasted ones in the grocery stores.Doesnt mean they are bad it just means they are not the freshest.

  • Avatar Rhonda Farrell September 22, 2008, 3:37 pm

    When i cook a chicken i always save enough meat and all the bones for the next day and make a soup for dinner.I find when i roast the chicken it really makes the soup a nicer flavour. I serve it with homemade garlic bread also! Yum

  • Avatar Stephen Schaub February 15, 2010, 8:13 pm

    Recipe for “Beer-Can-Chicken”


    1 box Zatarain’s Crab/Shrimp Boil spice
    1 package sliced pepperoni
    1 2.5-3lb whole chicken
    1 whole sweet yellow onion
    Olive oil
    6-pack of sweet beer canned. (PBR, Molsons, etc…the sweeter, the better.)
    Non-latex exam gloves (remember, you’re doing poultry, here…)
    Aluminum foil
    Optional: beer can chicken stainless steel holder from Home Depot or other retailer.


    1/4 cup garlic salt
    1/4 cup onion salt
    1/4 cup celery salt
    1/4 cup seasoned salt
    1/4 cup sweet Hungarian paprika
    2 tbls freshly ground allspice
    1 tbls chili powder



    Drink one beer.

    Remove chicken from wrapper and pat dry inside and out with paper towels. Be sure it’s dry inside and out. If it isn’t dry, your rub won’t stick. Remove any giblet bag you find inside.

    Drink one beer.

    Combine all rub ingredients and mix well.

    With your gloved fingers, loosen the skin from around the chicken breast on both sides. Insert 8-10 pepperoni slices between the breast skin and breast meat on each side. Sprinkle the rub mixture all over the outside and the inside of the chicken.

    Drink one beer.

    Drink 1/2 of one beer. Pour 1/2 of the package of Zatarain’s crab/shrimp boil into what’s left of the half-beer. Set the beer-Zatarain’s mixture into the can holder, then lower the prepped chicken down on top of the beer can. (Although the stand is optional, it has a wide base and your beer-can-chicken assembly won’t tip over as easily. Plus, the stand goes into the dishwasher when you’re done….)

    Cut the onion into quarters. Insert one quarter into the cavity where the chicken’s crop used to be (base of where the neck used to be) and put another quarter on top of that.

    Optional: you can use the aluminum foil to make a swim suit for the chicken. Make a top and bottom and hold the foil in place with toothpicks. When the chicken is done, the “foiled” places will not be browned, but all the rest will be. Tan-lines, you know.

    Drink one beer.

    Place the chicken-beercan-stand in:

    350 degree oven (in an oven-proof baking dish or 2 half-size aluminum pans) for 2 1/2 hours or until the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees with an instant read thermometer.

    225 degree smoker with apple wood smoke for 5 hrs or until the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees with an instant read thermometer.

    This is the best chicken I’ve ever eaten. Be sure that if you compete in a contest with this recipe, the pepperoni will be considered illegal garnish and you will be disqualified if you don’t remove every last bit before you turn in the entry. Personal experience, here.

    Disassemble the chicken as you see fit and devour accordingly.

  • Avatar Maggie November 24, 2010, 11:13 am

    Halogen ovens are great for saving on cooking time. They cut the time for cooking anything by nearly a half and they use less energy too.

  • Avatar Steve Zussino December 6, 2010, 7:24 pm

    Here is a post I created, most frugal soup available,


  • Avatar squirrellover January 31, 2012, 6:30 pm

    I bought two whole chickens for $10 the other day I will trying this recipe tonight. Making your own chicken is much better then buying those nasty pre-cooked chickens…

  • Avatar Pattysmint February 11, 2012, 3:59 pm

    I agree with the others about purchasing quality meat. Get to know your local small chicken farmer or visit a farm market. You pay extra but you get more for your $. You get a better quality and better tasting meat and it doesn’t shrink in the oven when cooked. I have a growing family of five (inc. 2 teenage boys) I’m lucky to get one supermarket chicken around to all for one meal. From a local small producer I get a large chicken that feeds all well for one meal as well as sandwiches for lunches the next day and a yummy soup for another two meals.

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