There is an older post (and yes, I need to retake the pictures) on How to Roast a Chicken here on Home-Ec 101. Over the weekend, a commenter asked, “What kind of chicken should I buy?”
To be very clear, we’re talking about different kinds of chicken for cooking, not other types of chickens for raising. If you want to know about raising chickens, my good friend Angela is all over that (and is currently writing a book on Backyard Farming). Here on Home-Ec 101, we focus on eating chicken.
In the past, choosing the proper chicken for the cooking method mattered more. Now with commercial farming being the way it is -insert a reminder to consider buying chickens that are raised locally and humanely- it’s important to remember that chickens are raised to produce meat as quickly and efficiently as possible, so even your larger roasting / stewing hens are not “tough old birds” like they used to be, in supermarkets, at least.
Now there is a caveat, those bargain bags of leg quarters can be from retired laying hens, and they may not be as tender as your fryer chickens. While I’m perfectly happy using leg quarters for frying -I think they have great flavor. Some people may prefer to use these bargain cuts in recipes for stewing and braising. My personal favorites are Stewed Chicken and Chicken Bog.
If you buy your chickens from somewhere other than a supermarket, the type of chicken may matter.
Buy broilers and fryers (small, younger chickens) for your quick cooking methods. Know that young chicken has less chicken-y flavor than older chicken and should probably be seasoned more heavily (this does not mean salt, I mean with herbs and spices).
Stewing chickens should be cooked with a slower, preferably wet cook. These are perfect for your crockpot / slow cooker recipes, by default, use the braising cooking method.
I hope this helps you feel more confident when navigating your poultry purchases.
You may also find this post, A Guide to Cooking and Using chicken helpful
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5 thoughts on “What Kind of Chicken Should I Buy?”
Speaking of chicken…I have to tell someone who will understand what a big deal this is: A week or so ago I cut up a whole chicken. By myself (well, not entirely true…with a great set of instructions from a cook book). And I didn’t make a mess of it. In fact, it looked just like the picture. In all my years of supposedly being an adult, I have never been able to do that. Woohoo! Cheaper chicken, here I come!!
I’ve found that supermarket chickens (pieces or whole that I cut up) are too large for frying, especially the breasts. By the time the meat is done the chicken is too dry for my taste. I always try to use the fryers for fried chicken.
Just an FYI – if you ever happen to buy a chicken internationally make sure it is a GRAIN FED CHICKEN. Other countries (in my experience Britian & Singapore but there may be others) sell both grain fed and fish fed chickens. If you buy a fish fed chicken it will taste like fish which will affect the taste of your dish.
My mom found this out the hard way when we moved to London in ’96.
I have three words ~ Costco Rotisserie Chicken.
They are 4.99, cooked, taste amazing, and wonderfully serves all purposes from mexican to italian to soups salads and casseroles to just plain munching. For the amount of meals I can get from each one it is just worth it to me. The container says they don’t have hormones, preservatives or steriods…)I buy 3 or 4 at a time and then go home and debone them, eat my fill, and process the rest into recipe portions and freeze. Yummers 😉 For every one I buy, hubby gets two leg/thighs for his lunches.
I found this post about chickens to be very timely. I just found chicken leg quarters for 37 cents a pound at a store that has a real butcher and the meat has been very good from there. I bought 2 ten pound bags, brought them home and put my 35 yr old single son to work, cutting them in half. I boiled most of the thighs and will cool them, debone and deskin them and use them in various casseroles, burritos, etc. The drumsticks are now in the oven having been doused with a variety of seasonings. Once they are cooked and cooled, they will be put in freezer bags to be available for a quick snack. I will be making some awesome gravy from the chicken broth from the boiling. After the drumsticks are out of the baking pans, I pour the chicken broth in there and get all the little crunchies off the bottom and after the broth is boiling good, i make the gravy which turns out just a wonderful brown color and so flavorful. I use some and freeze some. Like Thanksgiving in March. Why not?