Chicken- A favorite meal
Many people will agree that chicken is one of the most popular and delightful meals we have today. Chicken can be prepared in many ways using fantastic recipes suitable for pressure cooking the meat. Chicken is one of the meats that retain much flavor and releases tasty juices that make the meal even more attractive. You can easily tell when chicken is cooking because of the pleasant strong aroma that fills the air.
In this post, I will be writing about chicken, the different breeds, selection, how to preserve and process frozen chicken as well as tips on using a whole chicken for your meals. First, let’s talk about different chicken breeds and some inspection methods.
The early origins of chicken can be traced to India in 2000 B.C. the birds were grown as a source of meat. It was easy to take care of chickens at that time because they scratched the grounds for food and were resistant to many diseases.
Over time, the birds were prominently recognized in places such as America and Britain, and other parts of the world. In these places, different breeds of the birds were discovered, and inter-breeding also resulted in chickens with particular features. The first chickens found in India were the Southeast Asian red birds. Other breeds such as the Cornish and White Rock were soon bred in parts of England.
Since these early times, chicken has become highly demanded from local farms that make huge profits raising and selling the birds or their eggs.
Buying chicken from the market
In the market you can buy chicken packaged for sale in different ways, for example, you can find the whole chicken, halves, skinned chicken or boneless chicken for sale. Chicken is usually valued and sold by weight. This means you will see different price tags on the chicken pieces. Other ways chicken can be classified include by age before it was slaughtered or how the chicken was raised. Some chickens are also labeled according to the breed to help buyers identify what they need.
After buying chicken, you may choose to prepare it immediately or preserve the chicken until you need to use it. In most cases, the chicken you will buy has been frozen. In the next part, I will be writing about how to preserve frozen chicken; you can also buy chicken that has just been slaughtered from the farm directly. However, you should either make plans to freeze the chicken or cook it immediately.
Preserving frozen chicken
Frozen chicken can last as long as six months if you use a good method of preservation. This means it is best to indicate the date you put the chicken in the freezer; this can be done by sticking a label on the packaging. The recommended temperature for storing frozen chicken is 0 degrees Fahrenheit. The chicken should be kept away from other foods in the freezer, most probably on the lowest platform in the freezer.
If your chicken is frozen, you will need to plan before cooking. It will take about two days from frozen chicken to thaw and be ready for cooking. I always advise everyone to allow chicken thaw normally at room temperature without the use of a microwave or cooking. Alternatively, it is possible to cook your chicken even when it is frozen; however, the cooking time will be considerably longer because of the state of the chicken. Regarding marinating chicken, it is advised that you should proceed with marinating after thawing the chicken, marinating can be done for as long as 24-hours, during which time, the chicken should be kept in a refrigerator.
Frequently asked questions about chicken
Can fats from chicken be avoided by removing the skin before cooking?
Not exactly, you can find fat deposits beneath the skin; this fat can be trimmed off to reduce total fats in the meal. However, the skin plays a role during the cooking process. Cooking chicken with the skin helps to tenderize the meat. It also helps to retain the juices that make the meat delicious. So if you want to remove the skin, it is best to do this after cooking the chicken.
Why does the color of chicken meat vary?
There may be variations in the color of chicken meat due to the way they have been raised and the feeds the chicken were given at the farm. Chicken meat is usually different shades of yellow regarding color.
I notice that sometimes the color of chicken meat is gray after cooking; does this mean the chicken was bad?
It is safe to eat chicken meat that has turned grayish in color; the change in appearance has happened because of certain reasons. For example, the color of your chicken meat may have turned gray because the meat was frozen. Other reasons such as freezing younger chickens can cause a change in color because the bones have not reached full maturity.
What are the obvious signs to know when chicken is cooked?
This is a good question because properly cooked chicken tastes better. There are some helpful signs to know when your chicken is ready. You can start by using a thermometer to check if the meat is done. This is the easiest test because many recipes specify the temperature at which you can remove your chicken. Also, the texture of the meat can also be used as an indication to know if your chicken is ready. After proper cooking, chicken meat should be tender. Some recipes indicate the color of chicken meat when it is ready, but this approach cannot be used by beginners because the chicken meat is always a shade of pink even at high temperature.
Regarding texture, if the chicken meat has a rubbery feel, it is not ready, and you will need to cook it further. So to answer this question, you can tell if the chicken is ready to be served when the meat is pink and tender. You will also notice the juices are running freely; this happens regardless of the cooking method you use; however, grilled or smoked chicken may have a slightly deeper shade of pink. To ensure your chicken is properly cooked, the temperature should be as high as 160 degrees. However, the temperature should be indicated in the recipe you have chosen.
Another tip is the use of temperature charts for chicken. These charts show the different temperature for cooked chicken based on your cooking plan.
I notice some variation in color when I buy a packet of giblets, is there an explanation for this?
The giblets include parts of a chicken such as liver, heart, gizzard, and other edible internal organs. These parts of the chicken normally have different colors; for example, the liver is known to be reddish brown, sometimes yellow. The heart, dark red, and the color of gizzards may vary. However, you should avoid eating liver when it looks green; this means it has been contaminated by bile.
Is it necessary to wash chicken before cooking?
This is a personal choice. Generally, chicken is cooked at a high temperature which means any bacteria or other micro-organisms are destroyed during cooking. I should note that many people will wash chicken meat just as a hygienic practice so if you have the time, feel free to wash your chicken.
Is there a guideline to know the quantity of chicken to buy?
The quantity of chicken you should buy depends on the number of guests, family members and how long you want the meat to last. You can buy more chicken pieces if you plan to cook different meals such as soups, stews, and other side dishes. Here is a breakdown of the chicken pieces you can find in a regular pack, two wings, two thighs, two breasts, and two drum sticks.
Common terminology for chicken
Broiler-Fryer is the name given to chicken aged between 7-13 weeks. These chickens are sought for their tender meat, and they are suitable for different types of cooking methods such as frying, broiling, braising, roasting, or grilling. The Broiler-Fryers weigh about 1 ½ to 4 pounds averagely, and one chicken can provide enough meat for a family of four to give an example.
Roasters are chickens aged from 3 -5 months. These chickens also have tender meat when cooked. They are succulent, and the juice produced when roasters are cooked adds a flavor that enhances the taste. Roasters can be roasted, grilled or fried, among other suitable cooking methods. The roasters weigh about 3 ½ to 7 pounds, one of these chickens can provide enough meat for a family of six during a meal.
This classification of chickens are much older. The stewing chickens are usually ten months or older. They are also in high demand by people who like chicken meat with a stronger flavor. The meat is, however, tougher because of the chicken’s age. These chickens are best for making soups and stews. They are cooked by any suitable moist heat method such as braising or steaming. The stewing chicken should be cooked slowly to make the meat tender; the chickens weigh between 4-7 pounds.
Capons are male chickens. The name Capon is used to distinguish these chickens because they have been castrated to encourage growth. These chickens are big and fleshy. They are suitable for people who enjoy chicken meat with high fat. The meat also has strong, delightful flavor and reasonably tender. Capons weigh between 5 and 9 pounds when fully grown.
Rock Cornish Hen
These are smaller chickens, a hybrid from crossing the Cornish chicken with other breeds. The hens are ready for consumption at five or six weeks. At this time they weigh about 2 pounds. The meat from Rock Cornish hen is not so much, but it can serve two people adequately. The small size of this chicken makes them suitable for roasting whole.
The Poussins are little chicks of about three or four weeks. Consumers seek them for the tender meat and delicious flavor. The Poussins are quite expensive, sold in high ranking restaurants and grocery stores.
The word ‘Hen’ is the name given to female chickens at the stage of maturity. The name is used generally across all chicken breeds. Hens are a source of eggs and delicious meat. They are usually deboned and sold in grocery shops. Hens are the favorite chicken meat for stews or baking. The weight is dependent on the breed.
Cock or Rooster
The cock/rooster is a mature male chicken. It is easy to spot the cocks; they have a prominent comb which is bright red in color. The meat from cock/rooster has remarkably tougher and darker when compared to other chicken. This is why it is recommended that the meat from cocks be cooked using moist cooking methods to make the meat tender.
In the absence of specific distinguishing features, it is hard to tell the chicken on the shelves, after it has been packaged. Many farms do not specify the breed and other details.
Quality control measures –retailing chicken
To protect the consumer’s certain standards have been set for the preparation and sale of chicken for public consumption. These standards are enforced by the relevant agencies in each region. The checks are done to ensure the chicken is meaty, clean, and there are no bruises or discoloration on the meat.
Here are some other important considerations made when assessing the quality of chicken sold in public;
Use of Antibiotics or steroids
The use of antibiotics or steroids when raising chickens is prohibited after a particular age. Antibiotics may be necessary when the birds are still small. However, they must be stopped a few months before the farmer plans to slaughter and sell the birds. This approach protects consumers from indirectly ingesting antibiotics used to treat the chickens.
Labeling of chicken
On the labels, you will mostly find words such as ‘Fresh,’ this term can be interpreted in many ways. The chicken regarded as fresh according to the standards is the product which has been prepared and stored in a refrigeration system above 26 degrees. In this regard, any chicken that has been frozen before it is displayed for sale cannot be labeled as fresh.
You may also see the tag ‘No Additives’ written on the label. This means no type of chemicals or artificial ingredients have been used to prepare or preserve the chicken. It is an indication that the chicken was only fed with organic feeds; however, antibiotics may have been used following the approved methods.
Methods of poultry farming
The quality of your chicken also depends on the methods used in raising the birds. Consumers mainly prefer chickens raised using organic methods. The outcome, regarding quality and price, depends on the desirable qualities of the chicken. The conventional methods of raising chickens have been modernized to help farmers grow more volume and make profits to sustain their farms.
Regarding methods or raising and preparing chickens, you will find terms such as Kosher chickens. These are birds that have been raised according to the Jewish laws. The process of slaughtering these birds also follows the approved Jewish methods which involve the use of machines. After slaughtering the birds, feathers are removed by soaking in cold water instead of using hot water. Generally, farmers produce fewer Kosher chickens; this is one of the reasons they are quite expensive.
In modern poultry farms, chickens are raised in a stress-free environment for about 9-10 weeks. This period is allowed to ensure the birds are healthy and have enough meat. The use of extra organic supplements such as soybeans, corn, and other vegetables help to improve the quality of chicken meat.
Chickens grown in organic settings are also allowed to roam in free range, to allow the chickens to enjoy a stress-free environment. They are also fed particular organic feeds consistently all through their lives. Regular checks are done by the relevant authorities to ensure all practices are in line with the approved poultry farming standards.
Over time, farmers, have distinguished between the free-range chickens (those birds allowed access to the outdoors) and birds raised in modern cages. The higher quality of free-range birds has made the farmers sell the chicken from such stock higher than other birds raised in indoor coops and cages.