A store-bought roasted chicken is a blank slate, ready to become part of your vacation menu. So one of the first things I always do on vacation is buy a roasted chicken. Sure, I’d cook it from scratch myself at home, but who wants to hang out in a hot kitchen when the pool is calling or the canoe is begging for a paddle?

Roasted chicken is versatile, and buying a store-bought roasted chicken keeps your kitchen cool and keeps you on the porch with a book. What’s not to love?

Here’s how we make the most out of a roasted chicken in our own vacation home for easy vacation meals.

Related: 7 essential tips to be sure your vacation home rental kitchen is stocked and ready for cooking! (Or at least drinking coffee, right?)

1. Just eat the roasted chicken.

Duh, right? Roasted chicken is good hot or cold, and when you don’t have to do the work yourself, it sometimes tastes even better. When we’re on vacation, we also tend to reach for more sweets and junk food, so a little ready-to-eat protein is a good addition to the fridge.

2. Make roasted chicken salad.

When you’re ready, pick the chicken clean and use the bits and pieces to make chicken salad, so you have an easy lunch or snack on hand. We keep it simple when it comes to chicken salad: a dollop of mustard, salt and pepper, maybe some chopped pickle, onions, or celery — and just enough Duke’s mayo to pull it together.

And I fully support Martha Stewart’s addition of hot sauce to her classic chicken salad.

3. Toss leftovers with pasta to add protein and flavor.

If you have a lot of chicken left over, toss it with tortellini, penne, linguini, or whatever pasta you like eating. You could even throw together a basic casserole from the roast chicken plus anything you have around.

4. Make roasted chicken tacos, quesadillas or burritos.

Add guacamole, rice, salsa, beans, grilled veggies — any ingredients you would normally use for homemade tacos or burritos. It doesn’t matter that your chicken hasn’t been seasoned for this specific purpose; the proof is in the toppings. Style Blueprint’s taco bar idea is simple, and lets all your hungry eaters pick and choose the ingredients they like most. Which, of course, is another way to avoid even more leftovers.

Related: How to stock a vacation rental kitchen: 8 smart tips to stay on budget.

5. Make chicken stock.

Don’t @ me! Once I learned how easy it is to make chicken stock, I couldn’t bring myself to shell out bucks for the prepared kind any more. If you’ll need stock for any vacation recipes at all, just make it.

Add in one pot:
-the bones
-an onion cut into quarters with the skin, which is what makes the stock golden
-a stick of celery and a carrot if you have them
-salt and pepper to taste

(Note: All the ingredients for chicken stock are optional except the chicken, so if that’s all you have, go ahead! The flavors from a store-bought roasted chicken will make a rich and delicious stock.)

Then cover your ingredients with water, simmer for at least an hour, let it cool, and strain it into another container.

I use my chicken stock in grits, for adding flavor to rice, and of course to start all kinds of soups. But — if you don’t plan to use the stock while you’re vacationing, feel free to toss that carcass without a second thought.

6. Make good use of that jelly at the bottom of the chicken container.

You know that gooey stuff at the bottom of a roasted chicken? Does it look a little gross? Sure! But it’s a treasure, full of flavor, and all you have to do is scoop it out and stick it in a container in the fridge.

Tom Hirschfield at Food 52 has some great suggestions for using chicken jelly from your roast chicken — or hey, call it “pan juice” if that makes it sound a little more appealing.

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