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Chickens, Chickens Chickens

I was raised on a small family farm in Mantua, Ohio so I’m well acquainted with chickens.  One of my parent’s favorite stories is about the first time they sent my little sister and me up to “get a chicken for dinner.”  We were 5 and 6 years old.  We took the hatchet and, hand-in-hand, walked up to the chicken coop (not knowing that our parents were creeping up behind us with video camera in hand).  Catching a chicken went pretty well, but the chopping part was a bit more of a challenge.  But we did it and proudly carried a chicken home between us.

 

Buying, Prepping, & Storing

Fresh chicken should feel firm, have no detectable odor and the surface should not feel slick. It should be purchased on or before the “sell by” date. You should then prepare or freeze it by that date, preferably as soon as possible.

It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days and frozen for up to two years without any noticeable change in texture or flavor. Prior to cooking, always wash the chicken thoroughly in cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Chicken is considered cooked when it is no longer pink inside, the juices run clear, and the temperature has reached 165º F or 74º C.

Cooking Tips:

-When possible, leave the skin on the chicken while it cooks to help hold in juices and increase tenderness.

-Allow roast chicken to “rest” for up to 15 minutes before carving. This helps the juices redistribute throughout the meat.

-For low-fat cooking, broil, grill or roast it on a rack to allow fat to drip away.

-While grilling, broiling, frying or sautéing chicken, remove pieces as they get done to avoid overcooking, which toughens the meat, while the other pieces finish.

-Avoid overcrowding chicken pieces in the pan so that they will cook evenly.

-A very sharp knife will make the job of cutting or carving chicken much easier.

Roasting

Remove any fat from the body cavity. Rinse the bird inside and out with water, then part dry with paper towels. Season the cavity generously with salt and pepper and add stuffing, herbs, or lemon if desired. Spread the breast of the chicken with softened butter or oil. Set on a rack in a roasting pan or shallow over proof dish. Roast the bird, basting two or three times with the pan juices during roasting. If the chicken is browning too quickly, cover it with foil. Test for done by using a meat thermometer or insert the point of knife into the thickest part of the thigh. If the chicken is cooked, the juice will run clear with no track of pink. Put the bird on a carving board and let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. Make a sauce or gravy from the juices left in the roasting pan.

Broiling

The intense heat of the broiler quickly seals the succulent flesh beneath a crisp, golden exterior. Place the chicken about 4 to 6 inches away from a moderate heat source. If the chicken seems to be browning too quickly, reduce the heat slightly. If the chicken is boiled at too high temperature too near to the heat, the outside will burn before the inside is cooked through. If it is cooked for too long under a low heat, it will dry out. Divide the chicken into cuts to ensure even cooking. Breast meat, if cooked in one piece, can be rather dry, so it is best to cut it into chunks. Chicken wings are best for speedy broiling.

Frying

Frying is suitable for small thighs, drumsticks and cuts. Dry the chicken pieces with paper towels so that they brown properly and to prevent spitting during cooking. The chicken can be coated in seasoned flour, egg and bread crumbs or a batter. Heat oil or a mixture of oil and butter in a heavy-based skillet. When the oil is very hot, add the chicken pieces, and skin side down, fry until deep golden brown all over, turning the pieces frequently during cooking. Drain well on paper towels before serving.

Sautéing

This is ideal for small pieces or small birds, such as baby chickens. Heat a little oil or a mixture of oil and butter in a heavy-based skillet. Add the chicken and fry over moderate heat until golden brown, turning frequently. Add stock or other liquid, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat. Cooking gently until the chicken is cooked through.

Stir-Frying

Skinless, boneless chicken is cut into small pieces of equal size to ensure that the meat cooks evenly and stays succulent. Pre-heat a wok or saucepan before adding a small amount of oil. When the oil starts to smoke, add the chicken and stir-fry with your chosen flavorings for 3 to 4 minutes, until cooked through. Other ingredients can be cooked at the same time, or the chicken can be cooked by you stir-fry the remaining ingredients. Return the chicken to the wok once the other ingredients are cooked.

Slow-Cooker

Slow-cooking is a gentle cooking method like braising that produces tender chicken and a stock that can be used to make a sauce to serve with the chicken. Put a whole chicken, a carrot, 2 stalks of celery, and an onion in your slow cooker. Cover with water, season and turn to high. Cover and simmer for 2 hours, and then turn to low and cook for another 2 hours until the chicken is tender. Lift the chicken out, discard the bones and use the stock to make a sauce. The vegetables can be blended to thicken the stock and served with the chicken.

Pressure Cooker

Rinse chicken & pat dry. Season with salt & pepper. Heat oil in uncovered pressure cooker; brown chicken on all sides in hot oil. Remove chicken; place rack in pressure cooker and place browned chicken in rack. Add water/broth around chicken. Place lid on cooker, seal, and bring up to pressure. Cook for 25 minutes. Release pressure by quick release method. Remove chicken to platter, pour accumulated juice into bowl & serve with chicken.

Check out my recipes for more ideas and tips!

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