Selecting the proper chicken to cook with is important. You might think chicken is chicken, right? Not so I am afraid. So what is the best chicken to buy?
Different Types of Chickens
There are different types of store bought chickens. Knowing which is the best is important for a tender and juicy entrée.
- Capon – A Capon is a young male, weighing between 6 and 8 lbs. They have generous amounts of light and very tender meat. They are typically roasted.
- Broiler/fryer – Broilers and fryers are young tender chickens between 2.5 and 3.5 pounds. They can be cooked in a variety of ways.
- Roaster – A Roaster usually weighs 3.3 – 5 pounds and offers more meat than a frying chicken. These are typically roasted whole, such as in a “Beer Can Chicken” recipe.
- Stewing/baking hen – A stewing or baking hen is a mature hen, usually no longer laying eggs, and the meat is less tender. These are best used in long cooking stews.
- Cock or Rooster – The Cock or Rooster is a mature male, with course skin and tougher less tender meat. To enjoy this bird requires long and moist slow cooking.
- Cornish Hen – The Cornish hen is the smallest weighing on average 1 to 2 pounds. They are usually stuffed and oven baked whole.
Check out thekitchn.com for more information about the differences between chickens.
Tips For Selecting All Cuts Of Chicken
When choosing your chicken it is not so important to examine the “sell by” date, unless of course the date has passed. Then, of course you don’t want that package of chicken. In reality it is more important to make sure the chicken itself has no odor and the cellophane encasing the chicken does not appear milky.
Check to make sure the cellophane plastic is securely wrapped around the package. Leave any package that has a loose wrapping, which could indicate the package has been handled by numerous people. This would mean it has been on the shelf far longer than is optimal for freshness. It may have also allowed germs and bacteria to taint the meat.
You’ll want to also check that there is not a lot of excess fluid in the package. The chicken should appear white with a slight pinkish tint with no bruising in appearance. Veer away if the flesh appears gray, that’s a sure sign the chicken has been laying on the shelf for some time. That appearance could also indicate the chicken has been frozen and defrosted numerous times, definitely not fresh chicken.
In the interest of freshness, feel the package of chicken to determine its freshness. Chicken that is fresh should spring back when you press against it firmly. Visually examine the package to see if the chicken appears plump and full. Then feel the chicken in the package, if it feels bloated, it may be a sign the chicken has been injected to appear heavier than it is to consumers.
Chicken Handling Safety
According to the USDA, ( United States Department of Agriculture) there are numerous contaminants that can cause bacterial outbreaks in chickens. Some of the more common contaminants are: Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, Campylobacter jejuni, Listeria monocytogenes, and Escherichia Coli. You can easily find information about poultry bacteria contaminants and safe handling at http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/types/chicken/index.html, but here are the basics:
- Salmonella is often associated with fowl animals and eggs.
- Staphylococcus is carried on human hands and is often associated with hand made foods that are then improperly refrigerated.
- Campylobacter is one of the most common causes for diarrheal illness in humans and is caused by cross contamination. Listeria causes food born illnesses but is destroyed by cooking. Unfortunately a cooked product can be contaminated by Listeria through improper handling and food storage.
- Escherichia (E. Coli) is a bacteria found in both animal and human.
Unfortunately, animals can become contaminated during the slaughtering process for fresh meat. In Chicken it can be found in the feathers as well as in the dust in the chicken house or slaughtering area. Is it any wonder why you should be examining the chicken you plan on purchasing for your family meal tonight? With that being said there is no reason to ward off of eating fresh chicken.