What’s the USP? It’s nose-to-tail cooking, but for chickens! So beak-to-tail-feather, then. The Whole Chicken breaks down the bird both literally and metaphorically, with chapters dedicated to all our favourite cuts, as well as mince, offal, bones, skin and, in a move that technically fits the bill but feels a little too eager to get the chicken on the table, eggs.
Who wrote it? Author Carl Clarke has definite chicken-cred. I mean, I imagine his credibility is at rock bottom with actual chickens – he keeps eating them. But through Chick ‘n’ Sours and spin-off Chick’n he has two of the coolest bird-and-apostrophe-centric restaurants in London to his name.
Is it good bedtime reading? Though Clarke skips out on chapter introductions (who needs to be told that thighs are the best bit of the chicken for the umpteenth time?), he quickly makes up for it with passionate and practical introductions to each recipe. Forget about the bedtime reading though, it’s the kitchen dance-offs that you’ll be focused on: the book offers five brilliantly curated playlists to keep you entertained whilst you prepare, cook and eat the whole of your chicken.
How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Not even a little bit. Clarke goes into a decent amount of detail throughout. There’s a refreshing commitment to clarity, in fact. The book lists both metric and imperial measurements at every opportunity, and even features both British and American terms where necessary (cling film/plastic wrap, etc).
What’s the faff factor? Clearly marked at the side of the page. A small scale next to each recipe ranks the dish as either ‘easy peasy’, ‘almost breezy’, or ‘worth the effort’. That said, quite a lot of the dishes fall into that latter category. The scale isn’t particularly consistent either. The Next Level Breville grilled sandwich is listed as ‘worth the effort’, and whilst it’s certainly a lot more of a commitment than your usual toastie, it pales by comparison to the Chicken Nuggets with Kimchi Bacon Ranch Dip and Spicy Shake.
What will I love? The sheer range of dishes on offer here. Clarke draws on a number of different cuisines, though East Asia and the United States are perhaps the most obvious influences. Everything here looks absolutely delicious, and the design of the book itself only emphasises this. The Whole Chicken is intensely cool, and you’ll be a little surprised to find that it’s willing to hang out with you and your other cookbooks.
What won’t I love? There’s a disappointing amount of recipes representing the less commonly used pieces of the chicken. Given the title of the book is ‘The Whole Chicken’, you’d perhaps expect a little more attention to be paid to these areas. Instead, the overwhelming majority of the book is dedicated to those traditional cuts. The entire offal section comprises of just five recipes, meaning that those looking for inspired uses for chicken heart (a delicacy in several countries) will find just one stand-alone recipe. The same goes, inexplicably, for the liver, gizzards and feet – despite each of these having myriad uses in various global cuisines.
Killer recipes: My Friend Romy’s Butter Chicken Recipe, Doritos-Coated Schnitzel with Fried Eggs and Anchovies, Gunpowder Wings, Xian-Spiced Chicken Scratchings and Cherry Cola Chicken Legs.
Should I buy it? Despite not fully realising the promise of its title, The Whole Chicken does offer up an irresistible wealth of dishes drawn from genuinely global influences. It isn’t the first book to do a deep dive on the chicken, but it feels very much of its own space. I have Diana Henry’s lovely A Bird in the Hand on my shelves too, but comparing the two here feels a little like throwing Delia Smith in the ring with David Chang.
Suitable for: Beginner to confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars
Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Brighton-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas
Buy this book
The Whole Chicken: 100 easy but innovative ways to cook from beak to tail
£22, Hardie Grant