Friday, August 22, 2014

Chicken 101

The chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) is a domesticated fowl. History records that today’s chickens are the descendants of wild fowl that roamed the dense jungles of primeval Asia. Surprisingly before World World II, chicken was not a reasonably priced meat but a luxury afforded the affluent. This has all changed and chickens are one of the most common and widespread domestic animals, with a population of more than 24 billion in 2003, there are more chickens in the world than any other species of bird. Humans keep chickens primarily as a source of food, consuming both their meat and their eggs. Chicken is available in markets throughout the year either fresh or frozen, and whole or cut into parts. Choose a meaty, full-breasted chicken with plump, short legs. The skin—which can range from cream-colored to yellow, depending on the breed and the chicken's diet—should be smooth and soft. Avoid chickens with an off odor or with skin that's bruised or torn. Click here to read more about Chicken. 

To Store

The neck and giblets (liver, gizzard and heart) are either packaged separately and placed in a whole bird's body cavity, or sold individually. Refrigerate raw chicken up to two days in the coldest part of the refrigerator, cooked chicken up to three days. For maximum flavor, freeze raw chicken no longer than two months, cooked chicken up to a month. 

To Nourish

Chicken is an excellent source of Protein, and a good to fair source of Niacin and Iron. White meat and chicken without skin have fewer calories. Click here to learn more about the health benefits of chicken. It is hard to navigate all the labels on chicken such as free-range, organic, hormone free, anti-biotic free. To understand all these terms and how differentiate one chicken from the next, click here to read Eating Wells buyings guide to chicken. Also, to understand the benefits of buying and organic chicken click here

To Prepare

To avoid any chance of bacterial contamination, it's important to handle raw chicken with care. Salmonella bacteria are present on most poultry (though only about 4 percent of salmonella poisonings are chicken-related). Before working with chicken wash hands completely. After cutting or working with raw chicken, thoroughly wash utensils, cutting tools, cutting board and your hands. If possible, stock separate cutting boards to use for cutting meat, poultry, fish and vegetables and fruits. 

To learn to cut up a whole chicken as prepared by the Culinary Institute of American watch these video demos on how to slice a cooked whole chicken (raw and cooked) as well as a turkey and for an illustrated version click here

To de-bone a chicken watch to this video from our friends at Williams-Sonoma.  Boning chicken will shorten any cooking time but will also slightly diminish the flavor. 

The versatile chicken can be prepared in almost any way imaginable, including baking, broiling, boiling, roasting, frying, braising, barbecuing and stewing. 
The first rule is never to eat chicken in its raw state. Cooking poultry to that perfect state of “just right” is not as elusive as it sounds. While judging doneness by look and feel is an uncertain art at best, it is actually pretty easy to get great results all the time when you use an instant-read thermometer. A thermometer is the only reliable way to measure internal temperature. Factor in carryover cooking, which happens when meat keeps cooking for a few minutes after you remove it from the heat source. The safe minimal internal temperature for chicken 165 F and the juices run clear. Please refer to the USDA Safe Internal Temperature Chart for future reference

Don't let any raw juice come in contact with cooked chicken. Cut chicken on a clean cutting board. 

To Try 

Chicken Noodle Soup 
Honey Brined Chicken with Lemon and Sage 
Maple Thyme Roasted Chicken 
Jerk Chicken 
Bayou Chicken Pasta 
Chicken Cacciatore with Fresh Tomatoes
Chicken Fricassee with Tarragon

To Use

Equipped with stainless-steel serrated blades, these top-quality Wüsthof Classic Poultry Shears cut easily through meat and bones without tearing the delicate meat. The shears' notched blade can be used for cracking bones. Click here to watch how to cut up a chicken using these shears.  ($79.95, Williams-Sonoma)