Cooking a rooster is pretty easy, but it can be intimidating for first-timers! It’s definitely a lost art that was daily life in our great-grandparent’s era. Let’s bring it back!
Roosters are delicious and make for an easy meal. We harvest 10-15 of our extra roosters from hatching every year, and they nourish our bodies all winter long. I’ve perfected my strategies for cooking a rooster over the years and I can’t wait to share them with you!
Let’s jump in!
Our Modern Problem
What if I told you that….300 million baby chicks are killed at hatcheries annually in the US, and 6 billion worldwide?
It’s because we, as a culture, only value hens. Most of the roosters that hatch are immediately sent to the grinder because no one has a purpose for them:
- Large commercial laying facilities only keep hens for egg production.
- Farmers and homesteaders typically only keep 1 rooster per 10 hens to keep the peace.
- A lot of people just don’t want to deal with roosters, period.
- Folks in the city aren’t even allowed to keep roosters.
- Cooking a rooster isn’t a common practice anymore. It’s all about boneless, skinless chicken breasts… It’s time to change that!
So What Do We Do?
Being born as a rooster is a tough deal. There’s no way around it. However, they do have incredible purpose beyond just being sent to the meat grinder within hours of hatching.
They make incredible, nourishing soup and offer a HUGE step toward self-sufficiency.
If you thought you were limited to eggs as a protein to nourish you and your family, keep reading! Even if you live in the city.
YES! Hear me out…
Roosters crow, a lot. They can be obnoxious. That’s why they aren’t allowed in the city. However, they only crow once they are maturing, and their crow starts out pretty quiet… so you have time to make your game plan once they start.
Let them grow out, live a great life for several months, and once they start alarming the neighborhood at 4am… then, it’s time.
Since they aren’t fully mature, they won’t be a huge chicken that’s worth piecing out or roasting in the oven, however, they make the most amazing, nourishing soup.
Cooking a rooster is super simple and great way to get back to basic, homegrown food. Honestly, they are so darn good that I justify hatching wayyyy more chicks than I need just so that I have more soup roosters!
If you’re looking to purchase baby chicks this spring…
I want to challenge you to do one of the following:
- Get your chicks from a small, local farm. Most of us don’t have the tools or training to sex chicks, so they’ll be “straight-run.” Straight run means that you’re getting a clutch that is unsexed, so you’ll get a mix of males and females.
- Find some fertile eggs to hatch yourself! You’ll naturally get a mix of roosters and hens, plus hatching is so much fun! Head over to My Favorite Things for links to my favorite incubators. I also sell fertile eggs and chicks every spring from my own flock, so please reach out to me if you’re interested!
- Buy straight-run chicks from a hatchery to save the roosters from the grinder, or, better yet, purposely ask for roosters so that you can save a handful!
Ok, Let’s Chat About Cooking That Rooster!
Congratulations! You’ve decided to welcome a few roosters to your crew this spring, or maybe you ended up with a rooster by accident (that happens, too!). Do you know what to do next? I can help!
Honestly, it’s so so simple. You don’t even need a special rooster soup recipe. You can convert any favorite crockpot chicken soup recipes that you already have to my basic rooster soup method below.
Cooking a Rooster 101:
Butcher the rooster
This is the first step. If you’ve never butchered a rooster before, I highly recommend watching a few YouTube videos on it first so that you know what to expect and can watch different methods.
- The Prairie Homestead has a great article outlining what to do, however don’t worry about plucking and scalding! You only need to keep the skin on if you’re baking, broiling, grilling, etc.
- We’re talking about soup today, so just slip the skin off – feathers and all. The Self-Sufficient Home Acre has a nice article showing how to do this. If you’ve cleaned your own pheasants before, it’s pretty much the same process!
Allow the rooster to rest
This is a very important step! Shortly after butchering, rigor mortis sets in and lasts anywhere from 1-5 days (depending on how old it is).
If this time period isn’t waited out, the dish will be tough and chewy. We like to put the bird in a gallon ziploc bag with a rubber band loosely holding the opening semi-together, then place in the fridge. Some airflow is important, but you don’t want the bird to dry out either.
For a teenage rooster, 2-3 days resting in the fridge should be more than sufficient. Now, you have 2 choices: cook it now or freeze it for later.
Freeze the rooster
You can certainly make rooster soup after a few days of resting, however, we usually have teenage roosters ready for butchering in July… and who wants soup on a hot July day? Not me!
Therefore, we prefer to butcher a bunch of them at the same time, let them rest for a few days, and then into the deep freeze they all go! When I’m craving soup during the long, cold days of winter I simply defrost the rooster and get to cooking!
Next, cooking that rooster!
Most crockpot chicken recipes out there call for boneless, skinless chicken breasts to be added along with the other ingredients at the beginning. For my rooster soup method, there are just a few modifications needed:
- Step #1: Start with only the rooster and wait on the other ingredients. Put the rooster in your crockpot, cover the bird halfway with water, and then cook on low for 6 hours.
- Step #2: After 6 hours, pull the rooster out and loosely shred the meat (I prefer chunks over strings). Save the bones for making bone broth later!
- Step #3: The edges of the crockpot gets a little gunky while cooking, so scrape and strain out any residual stuff with a small, fine mesh strainer. Here is the link to my favorite one.
- Step #4: Add the shredded chicken back to the crockpot along with any herbs and seasonings. Cook for 2 more hours on high.
- Step #5: Now what about the other ingredients for your recipe?
- Veggies: Lightly sauté them in a cast iron skillet or bake them on a sheet pan. Once softened, add them to the crockpot for the last 2 hours of cooking. I’ve found that simply adding them raw to the crockpot wasn’t enough time to cook all the way through.
- Grains or other ingredients (beans, pesto, seasonings, etc.): dump it right in for the last 2 hours on high!
At the end of this article, I walk you through each of these steps to make one of my favorite classic Minnesota dishes = wild rice soup!
There are few ways you could alter my rooster soup method!
Old roosters or retired hens
Sometimes, adult roosters begin to look at you sideways and it’s off to the pot they go! Or maybe you have some hens that are past their prime.
Older chickens take a bit more time to soften up, but they are still delicious if prepared properly! The rest time is quite a bit longer (minimum of 4-5 days) and cook on low for 10 hours instead of 6 hours.
One thing to note about cooking old chickens (vs the teenage roosters) is that they can be quite large and may not fit in your crockpot. In these cases, I recommend going back to the old fashioned stock pot on the stove. Cook low and slow.
Use your own favorite recipes
Here are some of my favorite recipes that I keep going back to! These are all traditional crockpot recipes, but if you follow my rooster soup method (described above) you’ll have a winning dish! Definitely don’t bother buying broth (often listed in the ingredients list) since you’ll be making your own broth while cooking the chicken.
- Chipotle Chicken Tortilla Soup by Half-Baked Harvest
- Crockpot Tuscan Lemon and White Bean Soup by Half-baked Harvest
- Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Soup by Chelsea’s Messy Apron
If you have any other favorite rooster recipes, please share them with us in the comments below!
What to Serve With It
- Crusty sourdough loaf with grass-fed butter. Yes, butter! Read more in my article: The Saturated Fat Controversy.
- Kale salad with a light vinaigrette
- Microgreens sprinkled on top of the soup!
Other Recipes You’ll Love
- Gluten Free Quiche With Garden Veggies
- Homestead Refried Beans
- Garden Fresh Rhubarb Crumble (Gluten Free!)
Interested in Raising True Meat Chickens?
While I certainly love roosters soup, it’s nice to have large chicken thighs for grilling or a whole chicken for roasting in the oven. For these occasions, we’ve been raising red rangers every summer for the past 7 years. Definitely read my article Why You Should Raise Red Ranger Chickens to learn more!
Recipe Card for Cooking a Rooster 101: Wild Rice with Roasted Mushrooms
Cooking a Rooster 101: Wild Rice with Roasted Mushrooms
- 1 Crockpot
- 1 Fine mesh strainer Small
- 1 whole Young Rooster skinned, and rested in the fridge minimum of 2-3 days after butchering
- 1 ½ cups Wild rice blend
- 1 bundle Fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, sage, etc.) tie them together in a little bundle with some kitchen twine
- ½ tsp Red pepper flakes
- 6 Carrots chopped
- 1 Onion chopped
- 3 stalks Celery chopped
- 6 tbsp Butter, ghee, or schmaltz divided
- 1 ½ pounds Portabella mushrooms sliced
- 4 cloves Garlic whole
- zest from 1 lemon
- salt & pepper
- Fresh parsley optional, for topping
- ½ cup Shredded parmesan optional, for topping
In the morning:
- Place the whole rooster in your crockpot and add enough water to cover the bird halfway.
- Cook on LOW for 6 hours.
After the 6 hours are up:
- Remove the rooster from the crockpot and transfer to a plate. Shred (I like big chunks rather than stringy pieces) and put aside the bones for making bone broth later!
- Take a small, fine-mesh strainer to remove any residual tidbits from your broth (optional: if you want a clean looking broth).
- Place the shredded chicken back in the crockpot.
- Add the wild rice blend, bundle of herbs and red pepper flakes.
- Turn the crockpot back on HIGH for 2 more hours
Meanwhile, cook the veggies:
- Heat a cast-iron skillet on medium heat
- Add 2 Tbsp butter or schmaltz to the cast-iron skillet, then add the chopped carrots, onions and celery once melted. Season with salt and pepper.
- Once the veggies are soft and slightly caramelized, add them to the crockpot
45 min before the dish is done, cook the mushrooms:
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees
- Grease an oven sheet pan with 1 Tbsp butter or schmaltz, then add the sliced mushrooms and whole garlic cloves.
- Place pats of the remaining 3 Tbsp butter or schmaltz on top of the mushrooms, and place in the oven for 25-30 min.
- After 5 minutes, the fat should have melted. Briefly pull the sheet pan out to add the lemon zest, salt, pepper and stir the mushrooms so they are evenly coated. Give it another stir halfway through the cooking period.
- Smash the roasted garlic cloves with a fork and stir the pulp into the mushrooms.
- Add the roasted mushrooms to the crockpot
- Take a look at the moisture level of your soup. Add an extra 1-2 cups of water if it's thicker than you like.
- You can remove the bundle of herbs at this point if you wish, but I like to leave it so that the flavor continues to build
- Top bowls with shredded parmesan cheese and fresh parsley. Enjoy!
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18 thoughts on “Cooking a Rooster: The Basics”
This recipe brought back a lot of childhood memories. In Jamaica, we raised a lot of chickens in our backyard mainly for eggs. I remember my mom killing and cooking 2 of our roosters. That was the toughest chicken meat ever. It took many hours of stewing to get them tenderized. We did not own a pressure cooker or a slow cooker then. But I am intrigued by your rooter soup recipe, Katie. I am yet to come across a rooster recipe online. Only a homesteader can come up with this interesting recipe. Looks delicious.
Cooking a rooster is definitely a long-lost art, but it can be done! Letting it rest in the fridge for days and then doing long, slow cooking is definitely key. I’m glad you enjoyed reading my recipe and maybe you’ll get to try it out someday 🙂
I so wish I’d read this before when we culled two of our roosters. When we butchered them I didn’t know to let the meat rest before I popped them in the freezer and I’m cooking them today in the crockpot after I marinate them.
I’m hoping it turns out ok anyway but at least I will know next time! Thanks!
There’s a learning curve, for sure! If you freeze the chickens right away, you can still let them rest in the fridge for a few days after they thaw out before cooking.
Aloha Katie, I take pop shots with my pellet gun at the neighborhood chickens when i catch them scratching in my garden to scare them off (wild chooks everywhere here in the islands and they can be quite a nuisance) and its been a minute since Ive had a kill shot but I got the prime rooster today so i went online to check out recipes and cure time. Before i simply skinned or plucked and left my birds in the fridge in a bag for a few days. I cant remember how long exactly but i probably put salt herbs and garlic in them from the start.
My question pertains to the rest period (curing -for rigor mortis or what?) in the fridge and seasoning…. Any reason to rest them with or without salt/pepper/herbs/garlic from the start?
I usually eat the young hens I shoot (garden patrol) and compost the old roosters but this time i want to try eating the nice alpha rooster i bagged today- he is fairly young even though fully mature and was a gorgeous bird. Haha my own chick wants to make earrings from some of his plumage!
Hi Tim! Great question! If it’s an adult rooster, I would wait at least 4-5 days to let him rest in the fridge. So, with that, I wouldn’t add any garlic or herbs yet because they’ll lose quality by the time it comes to actually cooking him. I’d add them fresh when it’s time to get cooking!
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I love this! We have been more diligent about not wasting food and getting the maximum benefit from all of our chickens. This article will help in the future when I have too many roosters!
I’m so glad to hear it! Keep up the good work 🙂
It makes us sad that the roosters aren’t even given a chance. You’d think big manufacturers would let the roosters live to maturity and then cull them specifically for stocks and soups. We’re in the city where we’re not supposed to have any roosters, but if we DO get chickens before we leave here, we’ll get straight run and deal with what we have. Thanks for the information and the recipe ideas!
Yes – it’s such a huge loss. Not only in life, but potential food source. Love hearing that you’ll get straight run when the timing is right!
In some ways I’m a terrible homesteader. I’m not a vegetarian, but it’s hard for me to eat what I raise. I think this is a really practical guide and I think a rooster that gets to live a happy life for a few months is better off. I’ll put this into consideration 🙂 Thank you for the post! My sister-in-law and I were recently talking about getting some meat chickens. I’ll let you know if we go down that path.
I totally hear you on this and I think roosters are definitely easier to process than hens, so I’d recommend starting there! I have another article on raising red rangers (meat chickens); definitely check it out! Good luck 🙂
I am so excited for this! I can’t stand our rooster. He attacks us constantly but he’s a good rooster so my husband won’t let me butcher him. Now I have an awesome recipe!
Haha, shoot! An attacking rooster is a soup rooster in my book! 🙂
When you rest the rooster in the big bag with a loose rubber band around the top, this may be a silly question, but I assume it is refrigerated for those days?
Excellent question! Yes, definitely refrigerated. I should clarify that in my post – thank you, Margaret!