Many of us prepare chicken several nights a week, so we’re always on the lookout for new ways to prepare chicken and change up the menu. Luckily chicken is available in a variety of forms and we can be very creative in preparing fresh chicken dishes. Chicken can be on the table in minutes, with little fuss, or with some extra time and effort, transformed into something elegant and complex.
Chicken is incredibly versatile, amazingly economical, and simple to prepare. Chicken can be prepared in a variety of ways including poaching, baking, sautéing, grilling, stir-frying, and roasting. Chicken presents the home cook a wide range of delicious chicken dishes, from culinary classics like fried chicken, chicken Alfredo, and chicken pot pie. You can make a small amount of chicken go a long way by including it in dishes such as casseroles, salads, and stir-fries.
Chicken is a great selection when cooking on the grill. Here again, you can cook it whole, cut it up into pieces, or grill boneless, white meat pieces for fajitas. If you are having a backyard barbecue, it makes an ideal addition to the menu simply because it is so versatile and affordable. You can serve chicken to a large group of people without spending a lot of money.
Perhaps one of the greatest advantages of cooking with chicken is that it keeps well for leftovers. You can make chicken sandwiches or tacos with leftover chicken and they will taste as good as if you had made them the day before. Add chicken to soups, stews, or pizza to stretch the next day’s meal. Whenever you are cooking with chicken, you can make a meal that everyone will like.
Roasting a whole chicken or cooking chicken on a grill can be intimidating the first few times, but it is not difficult to achieve consistent results with practice, the right instruction and technique. Enjoy chicken recipes inspired from cuisines around the world plus techniques for cutting, storing, and safe preparation.
Chicken is probably the most affordable meat on the market today. Even if you only buy the white meat, you can still prepare a meal for an average size family for just a few dollars. Whether you purchase a whole chicken or certain pieces, it is an affordable start to numerous types of meals. Chicken is inexpensive and easily accessible. It is always available at your local supermarket or butcher shop. Chicken is enjoyed by millions several times a week.
Chicken is healthy, especially the white meat. Chicken is a wonderful source of protein, minerals, and B vitamins. Also, it has no carbohydrates and is low in fat. When you grill chicken or cook it without any added fat, it can be the start of a balanced meal that many health conscious individuals eat. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are easy to cook, affordable, and healthy.
Chickens neutral flavor can be enhanced with herbs and spices, garlic, citrus, and many other wonderful ingredients. By brining, marinating, saucing, or simply seasoning, chicken can be exciting to cook with every day. Chicken pairs well with nuts, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables. AS the showcase ingredient or a subtle component, chicken affords a wide range of culinary creativity.
Whole chickens are a great way to serve a meal and then have extra for other dishes including salads and soup stocks. Whole chickens come in several classifications including Cornish game hens, broilers, fryers, rooster, stewing hens, and capon. Size of the chicken is one of the key characteristic differences. Not all of these whole chicken varieties will be available to you where you shop.
Parts of a Chicken
The individual parts of the chicken are packaged in small numbers for purchase. Readily available chicken can be found in most supermarkets and specialty meat stores.
The chicken breast and chicken wing are categorized as white meat for their whiter color. The legs and thighs are darker in color and considered dark meat. Most other meat found on chickens falls in the dark meat category. Dark meat cooks slower than white meat and is found more often in stews and dishes that require long cooking times.
Chicken breasts are available in several varieties including halved with bone and skin on, or boned and skinned, and in fillets. Each variety has its merits. Chicken breasts are high in protein, and low in fat. They are an excellent choice for cooks wanting to be creative, as the breast is very neutral in flavor, can be prepared in an infinite number of ways, and when prepared properly are juicy, tender, and delicious.
More often considered an appetizer selection that a main course, chicken wings enjoy immense popularity throughout the year. Wings can be purchased whole, or cut into smaller drumettes, and flats. While wings can be prepared using many cooking methods, they are most often grilled, baked, or fried. Once cooked, chicken wings are often tossed in sauce to add an extra layer of flavor.
Chicken legs or drumsticks are fun to cook and easy to eat. The less expensive chicken legs and thighs are more flavorful than chicken breasts. The darker meat tends to stay moister when cooked than white meat, and takes longer to cook in some recipes. Chicken legs are kid favorites, and can be in the oven or on the grill in minutes.
Chicken thighs are available with bone and with the bone and skin removed. Both varieties make for enjoyable cooking. The flesh of the thigh is a bit fattier than other parts of the chicken, and considerably more flavorful. Chicken thighs are often sold with extra fat attached, with some careful preparation much of the fat can be removed before cooking. Long braising is popular with chicken thighs, as it breaks down fat and connective tissue.
The leg and thigh together.
Bones, Feet, and Neck
Unused pieces of the chicken can be used in different ways. The neck and back, together with celery, thyme, parsley, leeks, and spices, can be boiled and turned into basic stock. This can be used as base for soup and sauces.
Ground chicken, like ground beef, can be ground from various cuts of the animal. The amount of fat found can vary considerably, but most ground chicken is properly labeled to inform the consumer. Higher fat in the product means the ground chicken will be juicier and have more natural flavor. Lower fat is a healthier choice. Ground chicken is fairly inexpensive, freezes well, and is an excellent choice for burgers, tacos, soups, stews, and casseroles.
Chicken Shopping Choices
When planning a meal that will include chicken, it is best to know what to look for when purchasing and handling raw chicken.
In the supermarket today there are more choices in the selection of meat and poultry than ever before. Over the past few years the care of animals and how they are raised for food consumption has become quite important. The quest for this knowledge has resulted in a change in the labeling and processing of meat. In regards to chicken, there are several kinds to consider other than just organic. Below is information on what the labeling terms such as free range, natural, and air-chilled mean when it comes to poultry.
Organic chicken is chicken that is fed no artificial ingredients, hormones, antibiotics, or preservatives. Inspections are conducted to ensure that chicken farmers are truly raising organic chickens. Most often, organic chickens are also free range chickens. The standards are strict so consumers can rest assured, but it is still good to buy from local farmers.
There is often confusion about the labels organic and free range in chicken. Free range is supposed to mean that the chickens have plenty of room to run outside of cages and pens. They are supposedly leaner because they can run around. Since there is really no one regulating claims, it is best to either buy from a very reputable producer of chicken, or buy from a local chicken farmer.
For poultry to be classified as free range, it must pass certain quality standards. Industrial chicken production is a very fast paced business, and many consumers aren’t aware of how crowded the facilities are. To sell to those with concerns about how chickens spend their life, supermarkets purchase from suppliers who allow their chickens to roam. There isn’t an official definition of free range; however producers or farmers must demonstrate to agencies that the chickens have some type of access to an outside area.
Some find this term to be misleading because it is not entirely true that all food can be called natural. When chicken is labeled natural it does not have anything to do with how the animal was raised. Natural means that upon being processed there is no additional brine, flavoring, or coloring applied to the poultry. The U.S.D.A requires supermarkets to be specific about what natural means for their poultry when they advertise.
Currently the U.S.D.A allows some poultry companies to label their poultry as natural even though it may have added water, sodium, or other ingredients. It is best to thoroughly inspect the label and ask the manager of the meat department about what is or is not in the chicken.
Jewish dietary laws govern the production and slaughter of kosher chicken. The methods spelled out in these centuries old religious texts must be adhered to in order for the chicken to be considered kosher. Kosher chicken is an opportunity for consumers to support farmers who promote animal rights, health and safety.