Chicken is often seen as the ultimate white meat. It has plus points – it is versatile, cooks easily and quickly, and is one of the most popular meats in existence. It’s lower in saturated fat than most meats, especially if the skin is removed, and has a high level of good quality protein, as well as B vitamins, iron, copper and selenium.
The pale flesh has a close texture and a mild flavor that pairs beautifully with many different ingredients. But did you know about all the types of chicken available to you? Let’s take a look at them today.
As is the case with all meat, buy your chicken from a source that you trust – a good supermarket, local butcher, farmers’ market or shop. There are even website mail order companies. You can tell a reliable source by how much they can tell you about the product – where it comes from, how it was raised, what type it is, and what you can expect of the product. The more traceability available gives you assurance about the quality of your purchase and any ethical concerns you may have about the treatment of the animals.
Organic chicken is the most expensive, as the most stringent farming standards should have been adhered to at all stages of the animal’s life, including being allowed to roam outside during the day and being fed a mainly organic diet. Since they are allowed to mature slowly (up to 14 weeks) their flesh is typically firm and flavorful. If the birds were allowed to have had lots of exercise during their lives, they may be less plump than indoor-reared birds, or perhaps a little tougher.
Free-range chicken should have had some access to the open air and they are cheaper than organic.
Corn-fed chicken often have a bright yellow skin, a result of having been fed corn. The color looks good, but fades on cooking, and doesn’t make much difference to flavor.
Battery or factory reared chicken, sometimes called broilers, are the most commonly available kind. They are often not labeled as “broilers” or “factory reared”, but nearly always are available at a much lower price point. Typically, they go from hatched to butchered in about 6 weeks. Typically they are raised in close quarters and produce a less flavorful and fattier meat.
Various breeds are available as well.
- There are slow-growing British breeds with firm, flavorful meat such as Oakham White, Cotswold White or Gold and Devonshire Gold or Red.
- French breeds include poulet de bresse, poulet d’or, poulet noir and poulet anglais are also very good, with succulent, strongly flavored flesh.
How you are planning on preparing the chicken should have some impact on the cut you choose. Most cuts come with the option of with or without skin and bone.
- Whole birds are good choices for roasting or barbecuing.
- Breasts are great for fry, sauté, grilling, or barbecue
- Drumsticks – fry, grill or barbecue
- Thighs – barbecue or use in casseroles and stirfries
- Wings – fry, barbecue or roast
Whichever breed, type or cut of chicken you choose, look for birds or cuts that have clear, soft skin, without bruising, blemishing or tears.
Store in the fridge or freezer according to package directions. When ready to prepare, remove all wrappings and wipe it all over with kitchen paper. If it has come with giblets (the neck, gizzard, heart and liver) these should be removed and kept in a covered bowl in the fridge. Put the chicken on a tray or a plate wide and deep enough to contain any juice that may seep out. Cover loosely with foil or plastic wrap and make sure any raw chicken doesn’t touch any food that’s to be eaten raw, or already cooked meat.
Now that you’ve gotten your perfect bird, have fun preparing according to your preference!
*NOTE: Like any other raw meat, be sure to always cook chicken to a safe temperature (165 degrees Fahrenheit) before eating. Always wash your hands, utensils, dishes, and any other surface that has touched the raw chicken with soap and hot water to ensure no bacteria have been allowed to go astray.